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In the stagnant air the stench of blood lay in a heavy pall over the field.
Warhorses lunged into the fray on the command of their riders. Screams of both
horse and human echoed across the field as another rain of arrows fell from the
"Cease fire! Allow our knights to wield their swords in our defense."
battle-hardened warrior surveyed the archers from his place atop the outer wall
of the stone Keep. At times he believed these women fighting by their husband's
side were more ruthless than his own seasoned warriors. They were archers and
wore the same light armor as the men. These women were trained to help defend
what was theirs.
His gaze fell upon the young lady who fought by his side. Dressed in light
armor she, too, carried a quiver of arrows. "Well done, my Lady. You will
stand your future husband in good stead."
"Father and my brother were been excellent teachers. And from you, Branyon,
have learned a thing or two." The wind coming off the sea behind them plucked
her hair from her braided crown. She tried once more to tuck the errant locks
behind her ears.
"Never did I wish to see you inherit Falcon's Nest in such a manner, cousin."
The castellan looked with fondness at the young woman who was now the sole
survivor of the family he had served since earning his spurs. She tried
valiantly to put on a brave face and not let the tears show, but they were
there, just beneath the surface.
"Sir Branyon! The King's banner yet flies high! The traitor has not defeated
"Of course not, Sir Miles. I have every confidence our Liege will assist
defeating this accursed 'Ghost Knight.' The traitor shall not breach the walls
of Falcon's Nest. Indeed, who has seen the traitor since our Liege appeared on
"Indeed, 'twould seem the dog has run away and left his mercenaries to fight his
battle for him."
"The man is a traitor *and* a coward."
@}--- @}--- @}---
Cloaked in the darkness of the forest a figure watches the battle from afar.
gust of wind blows his dark hair into his eyes. He stands as still as the
ancient oak sheltering him.
For days now he has been walking, wandering, trusting the Force to guide him.
The Force had led him here to a battlefield where men hack each other to pieces
with little protection from their primitive weapons. Metal swords against light
metal armor could be just as deadly as blasters against cheap durasteel armor.
With eyes closed the observer watched the battle with an inward focus. The
Force is not present in these people as it should be; yet, he could sense it in
his surroundings. A stray thought here and there, and an old mind trick learned
long ago helped him learn much about this primitive world. These people had low
levels of midi-chlorians; some even lower than others. And some, he suspected,
had none at all.
A few days ago he was vacationing on his home world. He sought to understand
the troubling dreams and feelings plaguing him. A strong feeling of warmth
would spread through his chest and dreams, but were forgotten on the edge of
Walking through his favorite oasis he felt a disturbance. Tracing it to an
ancient, scared grove guarded by tall, sandstone monoliths, he saw the clouds
above him blacken and rapidly swirl into a vortex. A clap of thunder deafened
him as a burst of lightening blinded him and robbed him of conscious thought.
When he regained his senses, he found himself fighting for his very breath as he
struggled to find his way through the cold blackness that surrounded him. As
the bright moonlight guided him upward he broke through the surface of a swiftly
running river. Reaching the bank he collapsed. The honking of waterfowl woke
him the next morning and he began his search in a strange world.
As he watched the battle before him a vision of the future slammed into his
head. [An arm raised, posed to strike a killing blow into the back before
him... A pair of aqua-teal eyes widened in terror as berry-red lips open to
scream... A stabbing pain ripping through his belly... A cold laugh.]
The would-be assassin had only thoughts of rich rewards if he could only get
close enough to strike and then escape in the confusion of the battle itself.
Murder -- the intentional killing of another person. This went against the Code
he was raised to believe and uphold. Yes, sometimes killing was necessary,
only in the defense of those who could not defend themselves and only as a last
His vision may have warned him of a possible outcome, but not who was behind the
A hundred yards away his sharp eyes caught sight of the assassin's target.
arm raised a sword high. His hand went to his waist to grasp a weapon that was
no longer there. The cold, river currents swept it away as he struggled to keep
With a burst of speed, he rushed onto the battlefield. Dodging and swerving,
across the field he snatched a weapon from the hand of a dead knight. Pivoting,
he brought the weapon up to block the descending blade. Skillfully, he
maneuvered the assassin away from his intended victim. Warriors around him
pressed ever closer until they, too, were within striking range.
A sharp blow to his head told him he was now surrounded and out numbered. The
assassin had allies near by to cover his escape. Recalling the countless
training sessions of his youth, he plucked his attackers off one-by-one with a
flick of his wrist. Again, they attacked en masse. Without full aid of the
Force he had no alternative but to meet them steel-to-steel and blow-for-blow.
When it was over, six mercenaries lay dead as he stood over them.
A cheer began at one end of the field and swept across on the wind. Knights and
their squires each gave their battle cry and beat upon their shields as the
invaders took off running for their lives. The few that were not swift enough
were captured and led off in various directions depending on who caught them.
A handful of men, each wearing a different surcoat over their armor, gathered
around the intended victim.
"My Liege! Are thou well? I saw those traitors gather around thee, but
too far afield to offer aid, your Majesty." The young man bearing a black
stallion rampant upon a yellow field pulled off his helmet and bowed. He stood
of average height and had fair skin with black hair plastered to his forehead.
"Aye, Sir Paul, thou findeth me in good health. We have this young monk
thank for that." The King turned his eyes toward the man who saved his life.
He stood taller than most and had filled out well in his youth. His tall boots
were caked with mud, hiding the black leather. More mud clung to the hem of the
brown robe he wore. Beneath the rough spun robe was a beige tunic secured with
a brown belt. Dark eyes seemingly bored into the King's soul from under dark
"Who are thou that comes to save the life of a sovereign?" the King
he continued to assess the man before him. "From what order are thou which
teaches its monks such prowess upon the field?"
The young monk solemnly raised himself to full height and tucked his bloodied
hands into the sleeves of his robe. He bowed to the leader of these men. "I am
Jedi Knight Talon Savon of Coruscant. It is an honor to be of service, your
"Rise Sir Knight, that I may better gaze upon the man I shall reward."
"I need no reward, your Majesty." He felt the knights surrounding
him. Their thoughts were easy to pick up -- they were they were tired and
relieved the siege was over. Many were thinking of the families they would soon
return to. They were pleased justice had been wrought. These were men of
honor. And one...? One held dark thoughts in his mind, thoughts that he dare
not give voice to. But, which one harbored foul ideas? He couldn't tell from
whom the blackness came, only that one of them was not all he appeared to be.
A young man brought the King's destrier and held it still as his Leige leaped
into the saddle and took the reins. Slowly, the other knights mounted their
steeds. "Sir Talon, have you no steed?"
"No, your Majesty. I seem to be without."
The King looked to one of his retainers and shouted. A fine stallion was
brought to him. The King looked to young knight and handed him the reins.
"Accept the first of thy treasures, Sir Talon. To the victor go the spoils."
Spinning his own charger around the King said, "Come, let us see what we have
won this day. I, for one, am looking forward to a hot bath and a victory feast.
As well, the wounded must be tended to and the prisoners ransomed."
Winding their way toward a tall stone Keep perched on the edge of a seacliff,
the King turned to study the man who saved his life. "Where is this Coruscant
"I fear it's a lifetime and countless days journey from here, your Majesty."
"Hast thou been here before, mayhap?"
"No. I don't even know where 'here' is, your Majesty." He gingerly
knot along his hairline and brought his fingers back coated with blood.
"Well, 'tis no matter. Thou must be weary from thy long journey. Now,
time to rest and celebrate our victory. That traitorous Ghost Knight shall not
be seen again in a long time. He has learned well this day that he can not take
what is not his, even though he tries."
Riding under the heavy portcullis, Talon felt a strange warmth fill his chest.
It was a feeling he was becoming accustomed to, even though he was uncertain of
what it meant. Yet, he sensed there was someone here, nearby that would change
As they rode through the outer bailey, he took in the bustle of activity. Men
and women in wore similar versions of the same mode of dress. All wore chausses
with a long sleeved shirt beneath a tunic. Differing quality of material
denoted their status in this society. All cheered as they rode past. Several
women dressed in finer materials carried bows and quivers of arrows. Many
rushed forward into the arms of knights as they leaped off their mounts. Stable
boys ran forward to capture the reins and lead the horses away to be cared for.
Talon quickly studied the scene before him. The ward was packed with people and
livestock vying for a comfortable place to rest. He understood that the Keep
was often built large enough to hold much of the local population in times of
Squeals of glee could be heard as fathers catapulted their children into the air
and caught with a gentle ease that belied the brute strength of the arms that
held them. Shouted orders could be heard rallying people to their assigned
duties after the battle.
Dismounting, the King looked with pleasure upon the scene. Glancing to the
monk-knight he asked, "Hast thou not a lady-wife to welcome thee with open arms,
A sparkle in the King's eyes spoke of unvoiced plans. Talon could feel the
Force and Fate conspiring together, yet could not decipher the Future.
"My Liege. Welcome to Falcon's Nest. 'Tis good thou are here." A
warrior bowed respectfully and was greeted warmly.
"Sir Branyon. You old war-dog," the King slapped the man on the back.
your quick wits that brought me here. How fares the Nest?"
"Not well, Sire. Lord Falcon is dead."
The King stopped in his tracks. "He shall be missed. He was one of my
men. He ruled Falcon's Nest wisely and made it prosper. Something shall have
to be done to ensure the safety of this land. Where is the Lady Flora?"
"She tends to the wounded in the Hall."
"Sir Branyon, I would like you to meet the man who saved my life this
turned to introduce the man beside him. "This is Sir Talon of Coruscant. Make
him welcome." He cocked an eyebrow to the old warrior.
"As thou wishest, your Majesty." Both men bowed as the King and his
walked toward the hall.
"Come, Sir Talon. I shall see thee taken care of."
@}--- @}--- @}---
The King guided the Keep's mistress to an alcove in the Great Hall. "Lady
Flora, I can not tell you how saddened I am by news of your brother's death.
Pray accept my condolences."
"I thank thee, my Liege. Good fortune favored us, as Sir Branyon was able
word to thee about the siege.
"My brother was in the field organizing the evacuation of the village
was struck down by a grey quilled arrow. The Ghost Knight tried to demoralize
us by killing him with a poisoned arrow. He was too weak when Sir Paul brought
him in. There was nothing I could do..." her voice broke. "Hawkins died in my
arms, my Lord. The assassin was never found," she finished quietly as she
fought her tears. The King gave her the time she needed to compose herself.
"And now the traitor seeks to rob the Nest for himself," she cried softly.
The King put a gentle hand upon her shoulder. "My dear Lady, I shall not
the Nest defenseless. I shall yet see you wed to a strong knight who can guard
you with a strong arm."
Her eyes grew wide and her heart skipped a beat, "Wed, my Liege?"
"Aye. 'Tis clear that I can not leave a valuable piece of land such as Falcon's
Nest unguarded. For as a strong a woman as you are, Lady Flora, I must seat
strong knight here." He titled the chatelaine's chin upward and saw her
distress. "Fear not, little one, I shall give you to a man who shall treat you
with all the respect due to your station. You have my word on it."
"Thank thee, my Liege. I know thou are a man of honor and that thy word
bond." Striking a new chord, the lady changed the subject, "I shall see to thy
bath at once."
The King reached for her arm to stop her. " 'Twill not be necessary. There
another whom I wish you to tend after. Sir Branyon is seeing to the man who
saved my life this day. 'Tis to him you must attend. I shall be tended to by
my squire in my usual chamber... This is my wish," he concluded sternly as she
was about to protest.
"Thy wish shall be done, your Majesty." Not daring to question, she
and left to see to this brave knight. 'Twas custom that the Lady of the Keep
tend to the King herself when he came visiting. This must be a knight with
extraordinary strength and skill upon the field of battle that the King would
instruct her to attend to.
@}--- @}--- @}---
Lady Flora found Sir Branyon instructing a laundry maid to wash with care the
muddied garments he placed in her arms. Speaking softly, they stepped aside to
allow pages to enter the largest bed chamber with buckets of steaming water.
A lanky lad came last, struggling with a large bucket almost too heavy to carry;
indeed, most of the water had sloshed out leaving a wet trail behind him. As he
neared the copper tub that had been brought in, the lad tripped over the rug
placed before the hearth. Steaming water soaked into the rug. The young boy
cried out as his hand touched the fire. The knight came to him and gently
plucked him up. With a quiet word and a gentle manner he calmed the young boy's
hurt as he cradled the burn on his hand. A moment passed in silence as the
knight held the injured hand between his. A moment later the lad looked up in
wonder. A bright light shone in his eyes. Soft words where exchanged and the
lad ran off to complete his assigned chores.
Straightening up, the knight tightened the sash on his borrowed robe as his gaze
came to rest upon a noble-bred Lady.
She stepped into the chamber, "I bid thee welcome to Falcon's Nest, Sir
I am Countess Flora, Chatelaine and Mistress of Falcon's Nest by the Sea."
With a slight start, Talon recognized the Lady's eyes. They were the same aqua-
teal eyes he has seen in his vision. Recovering quickly, he bowed to her, "I
thank you for your hospitality, my Lady. I am Jedi Knight Talon Savon of
Coruscant. I'm at your service."
"I have come to tend to thy injuries, Sir Talon. Pray, allow me." She motioned
to a low stool by the fire as she settled her basket of herbs and simples on the
As he lowered himself before her, Talon felt his body responding to her
nearness. In his chest, the warmth began anew. He centered himself as he
sought comprehension. His blood raced and the feeling grew all the more with
every touch as she examined his forehead for a mark that was no longer there.
Was this the feeling his parents spoke of when they recounted how they met?
This was a peculiar feeling that spread through his lungs, nearly stealing away
his very breath. It burned through his very blood as his heart raced. The
quick manner in which his body responded to her presence seemingly confirmed the
tale. At last, he understood the strange feelings and dreams. Somehow, the
Force had guided him to this woman.
After a quick examination, Flora pronounced him whole. Adding oil from a small
bottle, she swished the bathwater about to mix. "Sir Talon, thy bath feels just
right, but cools quickly." Still, he did not move from his seat. Remembering
the robes he wore as he rode in, she suddenly realized his customs might forbid
her from his bath. "Oh...pray forgive me, Sir Talon. I will leave if thy order
forbids thee from accepting my assistance." Color ran high in her creamy cheeks
as she blushed. To avoid his eyes she instead made a study of the sea sponge
and small container of spiced soap.
Understanding it was customary for the Lady of the Keep to bathe an honored
guest, Talon quickly responded. "No, my lady, I would not be offended if you
were to assist me." As she spread the drying cloths before the fire to warm he
shed the borrowed robe and quickly eased himself into the warm water.
As she neared, the rose scented oil she used to keep her skin soft wafted
towards him. Neither spoke, as Flora's hands seemed to linger over his well-
muscled frame. His scalp tingled as she massaged the spice-scented soap into a
thick lather. Unbidden, a haunting melody sang softly to his soul. Carefully,
she shielded his eyes as she poured clean rise water to reveal his dark hair.
As he breathed, her scent stirred to life a memory of dreams and visions that
have long haunted his nights and his soul and most of all, his heart.
Her fingers began to tingle as she continued his bath. She continued much too
slowly as was proper, yet for her, 'twas not slow enough. In her stomach and
even lower, butterflies began to torment her with their fluttery wings. Never
before had she responded to a man in such a manner. She was ashamed to admit
that she was enjoying being to close to this knight. Almost -- although she
would never give voice to those silent butterflies.
He leaned forward to allow her access to his sculptured back. The trace of
spine caught a rivulet of foam as it slid down into the water.
Unknowingly, each began to breathe in time with the other. Their hearts began
to beat together. The warmth that was in his soul began to spread into hers.
Flora came from behind him to begin anew. When she reached into the murky
waters to pull his leg up, the jolt from her touch brought him back to ground.
"Perhaps, I should continue from here, my lady." He had no intention of
revealing how his body was reacting to her touch. He slowly plucked the sponge
from her small hands.
The trace of his finger along the side of her hand as he grabbed the sponge
brought Flora back to reality. She swallowed hard a couple of times to regain
her voice. "Of...Of course. If thou wishest."
A knock at the door broke the spell. Talon sunk lower into the water as the
door opened the door to reveal the laundry maid. She came in and began laying
out several garments on the large bed. Turning to her mistress she informed
both, "Sir knight's clothing shall be dried and ready after dinner, my Lady."
"Thank you, Crissy. That will be all for now."
"Aye, my Lady." The young girl curtseyed and left after sneaking
a quick peak
at the man everyone downstairs was talking about.
@}--- @}--- @}---
Roughly an hour later, Talon was meditating before the fire as a timid knock
rapped on the door. Casting out, he knew who it would be as he gave the summons
The young page slowly entered. His green eyes were wide as he looked at the
knight seated on the rug.
"Hello again. Come closer and tell me your name, lad."
The lad drew himself up to his full height and puffed out his chest. In an
important voice he declared, "I am Garret of Winnshire, my Lord. I am at thy
service." He finished with a bow.
Talon stood before the lad and introduced himself, "And I, am Jedi Knight
Savon of Coruscant. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, young Garret."
He likewise bowed to the young lad, thus putting him more at ease. Kneeling, he
asked the shy boy, "How does your hand fare? Does it hurt?"
"Nay! Nay, Sir Talon, truly it does not! See?" He thrust out his
this man, this magician, who healed his burned hand with but a touch.
"I'm well pleased, Garret," he smiled and waited for the lad to speak again.
"I am to escort thee to the Great Hall for dinner. If thou findest thyself
need of anything, anything at all, thou hast but to ask and I shall provide
"Thank you, Garret. Perhaps you can tell me a little about Falcon's Nest
proceed to dinner."
Garret turned to look at him. Brushing his light brown hair out of his eyes, he
studied the tall man next to him. "Everyone in the land knows the Nest
best fields, the best crops and orchards, and the best herds of sheep and cattle
anywhere. Are thou not from this land?"
"No, my young friend, I come from a land a lifetime away." A hint
tinged his voice.
As they entered the hall many eyes raked over him. The knights studied him
they would a possible foe on the field of battle -- assessing him. The serving
wenches eyed him with a gleam in their eyes -- their thoughts broadcast their
hunger for something more than food.
As Garret led Talon to the dias at the far end of the Hall, a dark thought
pierced his mind. Malice was directed toward him. It was a potent mix of
hunger and envy, greed and hatred. Yet, as before, Talon could not focus on the
origin of these dark thoughts.
A silence swept through the crowd as those near the entrance bowed before their
King. He was clearly a leader of men. Taller than his own men and barrel-
chested, an aura of charisma surrounded him; it drew men to him. A crown of
gold set with large gems caught the sunlight streaming in from the clear glass
windows. His shoulder length hair caught the sun and turned to burnished
bronze. His eyes were the color of new spring leaves.
Dressed in red velvet bearing a winged lion embroidered in gold, his smile alone
could bring light to a darkened hall. Throughout the room, feelings of
friendship radiated. This sovereign was well liked by all he ruled over. All
Despite the cheer this man held, it was not the King whose life he had saved
that captured Talon's attention. It was the beauty he was escorting.
The Mistress of the Keep wore her tresses loose as a cloud of white haloing
face. The aqua-teal eyes were countered by a long, velvet dress of deep sea-
blue. As with all the ladies present, gone were the chausses they wore during
battle for freedom of movement. A thin belt of silver links draped her small
waist. Berry-red lips matched the blush creeping across her sun-kissed cheeks.
"Sir Talon, I trust you have rested some," the King's deep voice
echoed off the
stone walls to bring him back to the present.
Bowing, he answered, "Yes, your Majesty, I have."
"Splendid." The King held the chair to his left as Flora seated herself.
Settling into the seat at the head of the table, the King motioned to Talon to
take the seat to his right -- the seat of honor. With some discomfort, he
complied with the sovereign's wishes.
A feast of several courses was served immediately with young Garret serving upon
the man seated at the King's right hand. During the lengthy meal, the King
questioned Talon, seeking to know more about man who saved his life.
"I come from an Order of Knights trained to guard the peace and bring
We train to fight in the defense of those who can not do so for themselves. We
fight only as a last resort when all else has failed and there can be no peace."
"Where is this Coruscant of yours?"
Talon shook his head, "I fear I can't tell you, your Majesty. I don't
which direction it lies from here. Nor how far."
Remembering the blood on his temple, many came to the conclusion the knock
the head had robbed him of his memory. He was relieved he did not have cause to
deceive these people by voicing an untruth. A Jedi always spoke true; even this
small deception on his part by not fully explaining himself didn't sit well with
him, yet he followed the guidance of the Force in this matter. And so, he
allowed the crowd to believe what they wished.
Eventually, the talk turned to politics and the battle itself was discussed.
"This Ghost Knight has been plaguing Falcon's Nest off and on for a year
and still no one has the slightest idea who this traitor might be." Sir
Branyon, sitting on the other side of the Lady Flora stated. "Time and again,
he strikes hard and disappears into the night. He has set our harvest to the
torch, driven off our herds and troubled travelers. And this past month, he has
pinned us in so our farmers can not plant their crops."
"Never before has he stuck so close to the Nest, my Liege," Flora
said with a
sad note in her voice and in her eyes. "Never has he out-rightly come to harm
anyone apurpose. He killed my brother; the only family left to me, save
Branyon. Then he sends his mercenaries to attack us..."
The King placed his hand over hers in a fatherly gesture. "I promise you,
Flora, I shall not see you abandoned. With your brother's death, you inherit
the Nest. Even though I believe you to be capable, prudence demands I must seat
a strong arm here.
"I have thought deeply about this and have come to a rightful conclusion."
The very air inside the Hall shifted with anticipation. Many knights below
salt leaned forward to hear well what their sovereign would say next.
The King rose and commanded everyone's attention.
"This day has seen much sadness here at Falcon's Nest. It has also seen
bravery and skill and honor upon the field of battle. I am a man who believes
in paying his debts and rewarding where reward is warranted.
"Sir Talon of Coruscant, come kneel before me!"
Talon stared in disbelief and couldn't move until young Garret poked him in
back. "Your Majesty?"
Trusting in the Force, Talon did as commanded and kneeled before the King.
"Thou hast done me a great service this day, Sir Talon. Thou hast single
handedly defeated not one, but six assassins who would have robbed me of my
life," he recounted for all those present. "For that, thou shall be rewarded.
"By virtue of thy bravery and thy actions, Sir Talon of Coruscant, I,
Steven, two days hence shall name thee Earl of Falcon's Nest, and reward thee
with all that goes with it."
A lone voice rose to object. "My Liege, I must object! We know not from whence
this man comes. We know not if he is even a true knight, or an impostor as
those who would strike thee down this very day. He could be in league with the
"SILENCE, Sir Paul! Darest thou to question thy King?" he thundered.
still; not even the fire in the large fireplaces at each end of the hall dared
make a sound.
"Nay, my Lord. I beg thy forgiveness," he bowed low and awaited the
"I shall over look this trespass as the lingering heat of battle. Do not
that mistake again," the King warned.
"Arise, Sir Talon. In two days, thou shalt accept thine accolades and
guardianship of Falcon's Nest."
Talon came to his feet and was warmly embraced by the King. Sir Branyon led the
crowd in saluting the soon-to-be Earl with three loud cheers. Flora's heart
raced as the implications began to sink in.
After the cheering ended and the toast was made, the King had yet another
" 'Tis good that Friar Givens is here with us." He indicated the
seated at the end of the head table. A gentle soul with thinning grey hair and
dark eyes gave his attention to the King. "In two days hence, Friar, thou shalt
have a wedding to perform as I shall give Lady Flora's hand into the new
A soft gasp escaped Flora's lips. Talon's shock was evident as well. Their
eyes, wide with surprise, sought out each other and held their gaze.
The King's hearty laugh bounced off the stone walls. He clapped the Earl-to-be
on the back, "Come now, Sir Talon, when I said 'all that goes with it,' I meant
the Flower of Falcon's Nest as well." He turned to the speechless Flora. "Fear
not, my Lady. I believe he shall guard well the Nest. I have seen him in
battle. I believe he is man of honor and strength. I believe this man worthy
of you, Lady Flora."
"A toast! To the new Lord of Falcon's Nest!" someone from below shouted.
Again, the cheering held for several minutes. Minutes in which Flora remembered
to breathe again. Minutes in which Talon reached out into the Force for an
explanation of this startling turn of events.
As Garret placed a goblet of sweet wine into his hand, Talon shook his head. "I
don't know what to say, your Majesty."
The sovereign looked him squarely in the eyes and told him what he expected.
"Just say that thou wilt take good care of the Nest, Sir Talon. In all its
Placing his hands inside the sleeves of the borrowed tunic he wore, Talon bowed.
"I give you my word, I shall."
"And you, Lady Falcon, I expect you to guard well your husband's back
"I shall, your Majesty," she replied from a deep curtsey. "I
am honored by thy
"I trust two days shall be sufficient for your seamstresses to ply their needles
and thread to outfit their new lord with a suitable wardrobe."
"Aye," she nodded. "It shall be done."
"Splendid! I bid ye a pleasant night." With that the King left the
signaling an end to the night's feast.
Soon afterward, Flora rose and bid her husband-to-be a pleasant night. Her maid
followed close behind.
Talon was trapped by Sir Branyon, the Keep's castellain and soon to be his
second in command. The wine flowed freely as they chatted as one man to another
to get to know each other. A dark whisper was heard in the Force. Somewhere in
the crowd was one who was not at all pleased with the night's announcements.
Men everywhere were steadily declining deep into their cups and, as was usual,
the occasional fist-fight broke out to help relive the lingering pressure from
Finally, unwilling to use a Jedi mind trick, Talon pleaded fatigue and silently
climbed the stairs to his chamber. Outside his door, Garret had fallen asleep
on the stone floor. Gathering the boy, who would be an Initiate on his own
world, into his arms Talon eased open his door and deposited the lad on the rug
before the hearth. The large copper tub had been removed during the evening
meal, and his own clothing was folded neatly upon a huge wooden chest near the
Pulling out an extra blanket he knew was in the chest he placed it over the
and ruffled his locks. Silently whispering a prayer his mother said over him
when he visited as a lad, he wished the boy a pleasant sleep, and banked the
fire for the night.
He turned to open the shutters over the window. Earlier, after dressing in
lush velvets the nobles here wore, he had gazed into the distance. In the
golden moonlight, he could see the waves crest below the seacliff that helped
secure the rear of Falcon's Nest.
As he turned his gaze upward, he admired the crescent moon with three bright
stars shining near by. With a start, he recognized the configuration. His
people called this the "Wizard's Moon." It was considered an omen of great
fortune to marry under such a rare celestial occurrence.
Opening the window he closed his eyes and felt the Force ebb and flow on the
beach far below as the surf advanced and retreated. The breeze carried to his
lips the salty tang of the ocean. The sound of the waves crashing against the
seacliffs echoed faintly.
A soft murmur behind him reminded him of another's presence. Reluctantly, he
closed the window so as not to chill the small figure sleeping by the low fire.
Removing the borrowed surcoat and tunic, Talon settled down facing the window.
Watching the solitary moon suspended in the night sky, he turned his thoughts
inward to contemplate the strange twist of Fate the Force led him to. 'In the
Force, a Jedi must trust,' the revered Master Yoda often said to the Initiates
in his class.
Settling down into a meditative posture, he examined this strange turn of events
and his innermost feelings. He meditated on every nuance from every angle.
The warmth he felt was a feeling everyone yearns to feel deep inside the heart.
Often it would start without the blessed person even being fully aware of its
presence. When recognized, it becomes an all-powerful force of nature that can
not be denied without severe consequences. It was the all-consuming force of
love. The love for someone not yet met, but whom you could not survive without.
To deny this love was impossible, for it lay deep within his people. Once
recognized, to live without it brought certain madness that could not be
survived. This was the rarest of loves. This was the love of more than a life-
mate or a soul-mate; it was the love of a heart-mate.
As countless times in the near-past, a vision came to him as he meditated.
haunted him each time he tried to meditate. Each night he would wake, bathed in
a sweat with an ache in his blood that denied him the rest he needed. The
dream-vision sang to him. The appointed time was fast approaching. Time was
running through his hand. An ancient melody began to sing to him. This time he
was ready for it. This time, he understood the meaning behind the imagery of
I dream of rain.
[Rain -- a blessing from the gods.]
I dream of gardens in the desert sand.
[A garden in the deserts of his home world are a rare and scared thing.]
I wake in pain.
I dream of love as time runs through my hands.
[He watches sand flow through his fingers.]
I dream of fire.
[He shields his eyes against the eternal brightness of the sun.]
These dreams are tied to a horse that will never tire.
[A love that will ever be noble and loyal and endless, symbolized as a tireless
desert steed racing across the dunes.]
And in the flames,
Her shadows play in shape of a man's desire.
[He watches a woman's shadow play across the heavy canvas of a desert tent
she dances for him alone.]
This desert rose,
Each of her veils, a secret promise.
[A woman's head comes up, draped in sky blue veils that reveal only her aqua-
teal eyes. Within their depths, a promise glows.]
This desert flower,
No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this.
[The scent of the rare desert rose invades his senses.]
And as she turns
[The woman's hand reaches out toward him with palm up. She is his, should he
accept her promise.]
This way she moved in the logic of all my dreams.
This fire burns.
I realized that nothing's as it seems.
I dream of rain.
I dream of gardens in the desert sand.
I wake in pain.
[The heartache of a love as yet unrealized.]
I dream of love as time runs through my hands.
I dream of rain.
I lift my gaze to empty skies above.
I close my eyes, this rare perfume
Is the sweet intoxication of (the soul.)
[The love of a heart-mate becomes a drug to the very soul -- it can not be
I dream of rain.
I dream of gardens in the desert sand.
I wake in pain.
I dream of love as time runs through my hands.
[As the sand of time flows away, the appointed time draws near.]
Sweet desert rose,
Each of her veils, a secret promise.
This desert flower,
No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this.
[Without the life of a heart-mate, with a pain felt deep within his very soul,
he would surely go mad.]
Sweet desert rose.
This memory of Eden haunts us all.
[The vision-song haunts him until it is realized.]
This desert flower, this rare perfume,
Is the sweet intoxication of (the soul).
As countless times in the near-past, Talon snapped out of his vision bathed
sweat and struggling to breathe. His heart raced as a steed that had run all
day under the heat of the sun in the desert regions of his homeworld.
"Sir Talon?...Sir? Are thou all right?" A young voice not far before him asked
Wiping both hands across his face Talon looked at the page. "Don't worry,
Garret. I'm fine. It was just a dream that woke me."
Garret left and momentarily returned with a rag soaked with cool water. This he
handed to his soon-to-be Lord.
"Thank you." Cleansing his face, his brow and his neck, Talon looked
lad. The youngster was worrying his lower lip betwixt his small teeth. A
question was clearly writ across his brow. "You may ask what's on your mind,"
Talon said quietly.
Garret's eyes went wide. "How didst thou know I had a question?"
"It's written across your face." Talon fought hard not to laugh as
started vigorously rubbing his cheeks and forehead. Instead, he pulled the
small hands into his own. "What I meant, Garret, is that the expression on your
face showed clearly that you wished to ask a question. You may ask whatever you
wish to, my young friend."
The lad hesitated at first, but with a nod, was encouraged. "I was wondering...
What wert thou doing? It looked to me like thou were asleep sitting up here
Talon grinned at the youngster. "I was meditating."
"What is that?"
"It's how those of my Order find our inner peace and strengths. It's how
seek answers that can not be found with our eyes and ears. Often, a vision -- a
dream will come to us to guide us to what we seek."
"A vision." Garret thought about this for a moment. "Sorcerers have visions...
Are thou a sorcerer?" His small voice held a tremble as he spoke.
"No, Garret. I am but a man. I'm no sorcerer." He raised the lad's
meet his eyes. "But, were I to be one, I give you my vow, I would be a good
sorcerer -- not an evil one. A Jedi's word is his bond and can not be broken.
A Jedi speaks ever true -- we never lie. To lie is forbidden."
"Thou wouldst be a white sorcerer?"
"Yes," he nodded. "I would not be a Darksider."
The small boy studied him again. "I believe thee," he stated emphatically
the trust only the young can so easily give.
Talon smiled. "I'm sorry if I woke you. A young lad like you must get
of sleep and exercise if you're to grow big and strong. Come now, back to sleep
my young friend, the night is yet long."
"Aye, my lord." Garret settled back onto the rug before the hearth.
"You can't sleep there," Talon objected.
A puzzled look flew across Garret's face. "Aye, my lord, I can and I shall.
bed is no place for a page. My place is here. In truth, until this eve, a thin
pallet, or the stables have been where I slept... Thou truly comest from a
far away if thou are not accustomed to this. As I have been assigned to assist
thee in all things, my place is here at the foot of thy bed, or by thy door.
'Tis the manner of things here."
"That's true, I come from a land that is a lifetime away..." He shook
and climbed into the large bed. The heavy drapes he left open. "Good night,
young Garret, and pleasant dreams to you."
"And to thee, Sir Talon."
"Never be afraid to ask questions. Never be afraid to observe. These are
two single best tools you'll ever have by which to learn. You may speak what is
on your mind when with me -- I won't be offended."
"Aye, Sir. I shall remember."
@}--- @}--- @}---
+ ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ +
Evidently a light sleeper, Garret rose when his soon-to-be new Lord did and
would not be dissuaded from following him.
Donning another set of borrowed tunics and trousers beneath his robe, Talon
wandered over to a clear area within the Keep's walls. The inner ward was now
empty. Once the threat was over, the people who had taken refuge behind the
thick, stone walls had departed quickly for their own homes.
The sun's light was just beginning to touch the horizon and there was still
sharp nip in the air. A few servants were already up and about to prepare the
morning meal. Up on the parapet, a few scattered guards greeted their
Finding a spot near an area strewn with rubble, Talon removed his robe. Folding
it neatly, he placed it upon a wooden bench and began running through a series
of warm-up exercises, then began his katas.
Fighting an imaginary opponent, Talon moved swiftly in unarmed combat to defeat
his foes. Jumping into a back flip, he landed neatly atop the rubble piled
behind him. With more leaps and somersaults, he progressed along the rubble-
strewn circuit with ease and grace.
As he finished his light workout, Talon felt many pairs of eyes upon him. He
looked up to see many of the knights and older lads in the bailey watching him
with great interest. From Garret, he felt an emotion echoed by others present.
The young lad was in awe and could hardly believe any man could move as he
Talon shrugged it off. This was but a light routine with which to get his blood
flowing. Later, he promised himself, he would have to find a place where he
could seriously practice.
Returning to his chambers, Garret asked a question, "My lord?"
"What wert thou doing? It looked like you were fighting a ghost."
Talon tried not to chuckle. "Well, not a ghost, but an imaginary enemy.
learn and practice these moves so we can use them in battle against a real enemy
of flesh and bone. We also learn to do so with a sabre. We're trained in this
from a very early age. Since before your age, I've be trained."
"Where is thy sword, Sir Talon?"
Talon drew a breath as he reached his chamber door. "I seem to have lost
somewhere along the way. Can you tell me how I might obtain another?"
Garret looked at him for a moment, "I am sure the King will present thee
one worthy of thee... Along with other rewards suitable to thy new title."
"Hmmm... So I am to become a nobleman here?"
"An *Earl*, no less," the boy said with pride in his voice and in
his eyes. He
studied this strange man who seemed so unfamiliar with the way of things.
As the Earl-to-be tossed aside the rag he rinsed himself off with, he turned his
thoughts to the Code by which he lived. <Never in all my days did I ever
of becoming a true noble,> he thought. <I'm not sure what the Code would say
about this. I don't believe there is any way home for me. I don't even know
how I got here. Wherever 'Here' is. After tomorrow, there will be no turning
back, no leaving. With my heart-mate here...I can never leave,> he realized as
he tied his on empty 'sabre belt.
@}--- @}--- @}---
"Sir Talon, thou dresseth as a monk." The King observed as Garret
lead him to
the head table to break his fast.
Talon smiled, "Yes, your Majesty, I've often been accused of such."
Motioning him to the empty seat next to him, the King commanded, "We shall
to see about that, young man. I will not have someone of your standing coming
to court dressed as a monk."
"With your indulgence, Sire, this is how I prefer. I'm unused to finery such as
yours. I wouldn't be comfortable," he shook his head.
"Hmmm, no doubt has to do with a vow of property, I assume?"
Talon smiled weakly, "Something like that, your Majesty."
In a soft voice the King leaned in closer. "I hope thou wilt heed well
advice I now impart to thee..."
Talon awaited these words of wisdom.
"Try the cheese. The goats and sheep here at the Nest help produce the
cheeses anywhere," he said with a twinkle in his eye as he tore off another
piece of fresh bread and added a chunk of cheese.
'Twas a leisurely meal of fresh bread hot from the ovens and cheese. Also set
upon the tables were ripe fruits, and pots of buttered honey and fruit jam.
From the King, Talon learned he was expected to keep the peace at Falcon's
by the Sea, and ensure it prospered. The land, he already observed, was very
fertile -- the fruit and livestock held evidence to this. From the forest he
took shelter in, the Force gave him notice that it was haven to many game
Talon's eyes wandered the hall, searching out someone.
The King had been observing this and again leaned closer to him. "If 'tis
Lady Flora thine eyes seek, she is busy this morn choosing the materials from
which thy new wardrobe shall meet the seamstresses's needle. After all, I can
not allow thee to met thy future dressed...as a monk," he grinned.
After the King dismissed himself, Garret tugged on Talon's sleeve. "Lady
wishes thee to come for a few moments, Sir Talon."
Following the lad to the solar on the next floor, he greeted the Lady of the
Nest. Scattered about the room were bolts of material of every color. Fine
silks and velvets, as well as linens, cottons and wools were being examined with
a critical eye by those present.
"A good morrow to thee, Sir Talon. I hope thee had a pleasant night?"
"Yes, my Lady, I slept very well," he bowed.
"This is Maggie, our senior seamstress and her daughters," Flora
gray-haired matron with sharp eyes. Her three daughters looked just like her.
"Good morrow t'thee, Sir Talon." Talon returned the greeting with
bow. This formal recognition brought forth a slight blush from the matron. "If
thou would just rise yer arms, I can get the measurements we need to begin
new wardrobe." Talon stood still as the matron took his measurements with a
piece of knotted string and called out the lengths for her youngest to record.
Once finished, Flora ordered a page standing outside the door to bring the
seamstresses food and wine. The women each turned silently to their tasks as
cloths were flattened out and marked for cutting.
Guiding her husband-to-be out the door, Flora felt a peculiar fluttering in
pit of her stomach and a strange warmth begin to pool someplace lower. Her
heart beat a little faster and her breath came in time with his. She could
smell the spiced soap lingering on his skin. He presented his arm to her. As
she placed her hand upon his elbow as a spark stung them both.
"Sometimes, if the weather is just right, a spark will fly," she
hide her blush in the darkened hallway. Somehow, she was certain he could see
the rosy stain creep across her cheeks. Again, the odd quiver fluttered inside
her whenever he came near, or she found her thoughts drifting his way. She
remembered how her body reacted as she felt his well-muscled back beneath her
hands during the bath the day before. She was at a loss to explain this.
Talon felt her heart beating in time with his, as did her breath. Only those
who were heart-mates would fall into synch so quickly when together. Last
night, he finally came to understand the haunting visions that plagued his sleep
and meditation. Working through some strange twist of Fate, the Force had
brought him to the one destined to be his.
Flora caught Sir Branyon's attention as they entered the Great Hall. "Cousin, I
would like you to give my husband-to-be a tour of the Falcon's Nest."
"Aye, my Lady," Branyon nodded. "If thou wouldst follow me,
Sir Talon, I shall
acquaint thee with all that shalt soon be thine."
Talon bowed to his soon-to-be wife as she excused herself saying she had much to
oversee for the wedding feast.
The castellan lead Talon along the outer parapets. From there only a small
portion of the land that would soon be his responsibility could be seen. Out in
the distance, several stone cottages and farms were seen. Tiny dots of white
sheep and grey goats could be seen scattered across the fields off to one side.
In the opposite direction, orchards and vineyards could be seen. To the fore,
several kilometers away stood the dark foliage of the forest. Behind the Keep
was a seacliff standing sentry tens of meters above the crashing waves of the
crystal-blue ocean. The salty tang of the seaspray scented the air as the surf
called out an invitation. The ever-present seabirds cried out their reply. A
pair of sea-falcons slowly made their way out to sea.
Shaped into a rectangle paralleling the sea, the walls of the Keep were deep,
and tall enough to view well off into the distance. Made of greyed stone, the
thick walls would well withstand any direct assault. The land that could be
seen from where they stood was relatively flat. Gently rolling hills rose on
the horizon. All in all, Talon saw this fortress was well designed for defense.
The inner wards were large enough to hold most, if not all the families loyal to
the Falcon's banner. On one side, the stables were large and filled with fine
horseflesh. The chicken coops stood next to a large pen for geese and ducks.
In the inner-most ward, the kitchen and bakery were settled near the Great Hall,
so the food was always delivered hot. The pile of rubble where he practiced his
katas this morning was near the bake house. Sir Branyon said the ovens were
need of being rebuilt and so the rubble was placed near by to be on hand when
needed for construction.
In the outer ward was a practice field. Currently, there were a few boys, not
much older than Garret, practicing with blunted swords. These lads, Talon
noticed, were old enough to be chosen as Padawans. When asked who these lads
were Branyon explained they were Squires -- "Knights-in-training."
Indeed, Talon recalled seeing a several of these young men on the battlefield
yesterday fighting side-by-side some of the older knights.
"Thou truly dost come not from this land, do thee? I can tell by thy lack
such knowledge and by thy manner of speech."
"You're correct, Sir Branyon. I come from a land a lifetime away."
The two men studied one another for a quiet moment, until finally, Branyon
their attention to the stables. "The men prepare for the hunt for us to feast
upon," he nodded below. "Dost thou hunt?"
"I can hunt if I must."
"Splendid! Then let us hurry to join them, for the day is yet young and
hunt is long." As they made their way to ground level, Branyon offered a little
friendly advice, "Even though this be a competition of sorts to see who
down the largest stag, 'tis always best to allow the King to bring it down." He
winked at Talon to drive the point home.
"I understand," Talon nodded.
As they reached the stables a stable boy led out two horses. The reins of one
he handed to Sir Branyon, the other to Talon.
"Well, 'tis 'bout time you fetched him to us, Sir Branyon," a loud
bellowed. The King was already on his mount and turned the animal in a tight
circle. "Come, we have a feast to hunt!" The King touched his spurs to his
destrier and bounded through the gate as everyone else tried to keep pace with
"Come, Sir Talon, we must stay by his side for now."
With a nod from Branyon, Garret was there to hand up a dagger, a full quiver
arrows and a bow, and a spear. "Accept these weapons by which to hunt. Thou
mayst have need of them. Thou mayst return them after the hunt."
Together, Banyon and Talon raced their steeds across the fields to catch up with
Talon's steed gracefully jumped over an old tree trunk. As they came down,
steed let out a cry and stumbled. Talon flipped out of the saddle and landed
easily on his feet beside the injured animal. Talking gently and with a little
Force-reassurance, he was able to calm the beast.
The horse stamped and snorted, his eyes were wide. Talon could feel the horse's
pain. Sending a message of trust, he found he could communicate with the
animal. Bending below the beast, he began undoing the straps that secured the
"What are you doing?" a voice behind him asked.
"There is a burr under the saddle that's biting into his back," he
he carefully turned over the blanket. Indeed, there was a patch of skin that
was blistered. Talon found a prickly burr stuck to the weave of the cloth.
Sir Paul leaned closer from atop his horse to view the burr. It had thorns
fine as a spider's web and shining. "That looks like a silver burr. Those are
the devil's own burs. Once it gets on you, 'tis nigh impossible to be rid of,"
Branyon held his anger. "When I discover which lazy stable boy allowed
happen, he will be taken to task."
Carefully, with a small Force assist, Talon pulled at the offending particle and
flicked it off his fingers.
"How did you know the burr was there?" Sir Paul inquired.
Rubbing the horse's back with a gentle hand, Talon replied simply, "He told me."
"Thou talkest to horses?" scoffed another in the group.
"You'd be amazed what animals and nature can tell you, if you only know
listen. For example, I believe you'll find a small herd of deer near a clearing
to the right of the brook on this side of the center of the forest."
"And how would you know this?" The distrust in Sir Paul's voice was
Talon knew he couldn't tell these men the truth - that he could sense this.
They would never believe him. Not liking his only other choice, he bent the
truth a little. "Before we met, I took shelter in these woods. I happened to
notice the deer liked that spot and would frequent it often."
He turned to the King. "I'll catch up with you once I've taken care of
"Aye, I believe that shall suffice," the King nodded. "I hope
thy mount feels
better soon, Sir Talon, or there will be naught left for thee to hunt this day."
Without another word, the King turned his mount and headed into the forest.
As the party left, Talon placed his hand over the blister and concentrated.
Soon he removed his hand to reveal smooth skin. There were enough midi-
chlorians on this primitive world for him to manipulate in some measure through
the Force. He consulted with his mount to discover how the burr got there, but
the horse could not reveal any useful information; only that a large human with
a dark mane had saddled him. The horse nudged Talon in the shoulder and
wickered to thank him for removing the burr and healing him.
<An adult with dark hair. That could be nearly anyone here,> Talon thought
he re-saddled his horse and went to find the others.
@}--- @}--- @}---
The hunt had been a successful one. Just out of curiosity, the King has taken
Talon's advice, and had brought down the largest buck in the small herd they
found by the brook. In addition to deer, wild boars were also killed. Talon
had the honor of shooting the only turkey-hen to be brought in. He did so in
one shot sent through heavy underbrush. His skill impressed the party and word
Again, Garret helped fill the copper tub with steaming water and laid out the
drying cloths and soap. "Lady Flora sends her regrets, Sir Talon," he announced
as the last page left. "She was called to an emergency of some sort or
other..." Gathering his courage, the lad puffed out his chest to continue and
spoke a little too loudly, hoping the others would hear what he hoped they
would. "If thou wishest, Sir. I could assist thee with thy bath."
Talon knew the boy was trying to jockey for a higher position in the page-
pecking order. <The boy has chutzpah, I'll say that for him,> he grinned.
"Very well, Garret, you may stay." He spoke loud enough for the lads lingering
outside to hear.
As the door closed, Garret was careful to let only the other pages see his
He wiped off his smile before he turned back.
Standing before the lad, Talon issued a gentle reprimand, "A knight is
prideful, Garret. Or as a wise, old knight I know is forever saying, 'There is
no Pride, only Humility.' " He gave the best stern look he could muster until
the lad before him dropped his head.
"Aye Sir," he responded in a small voice. Picking up the sponge,
closer. "Shall I scrub thy back, Sir?"
Taking the sponge, Talon shook his head. "I'll do that. However, perhaps
can keep me company by telling me more about yourself and Falcon's Nest while I
clean up." Hiding a small grin, he finished undressing and settled into the
As Talon enjoyed a leisurely scrub, he listened to the information he was
receiving from his new friend. The boy told him the way of this world, and of
his hopes to one day be knighted and making his family proud. Talon learned
Garret would very soon be thirteen summers old -- old enough to soon be chosen
as a squire. Silently he promised to take the boy as his Padawan. <No, as my
Squire,> he corrected himself.
Again, at dinner, the King took the high chair with Lady Flora and Talon on
either side of him. After the King left, Flora likewise retired. That odd
quiver had again settled in her stomach. 'Twas a feeling she was not used to,
nor could explain. Seeking counsel, she sought out her old nurse. The old
woman smiled as she patted Flora's cheeks and began to cry saying only, "My
little rosebud is growing up."
@}--- @}--- @}---
After breaking their, fast Garret once more escorted Talon to the solar. He was
fitted with some of the new garments the seamstresses were fashioning for him.
When the final measurements and adjustments were recorded, he was quickly
ushered out. The head seamstress explained it just would not do for the
bridegroom to see his bride's dress before the actual wedding itself -- 'twould
surely bring about ill fortune for the couple.
As he was politely shoved out the door, he managed to request a few new sets
tunics in his usual tan coloring. The head seamstress was protesting that an
earl does not wear such earthy colors when her mistress arrived for her fitting.
"If that be what the Falcon Lord would wish for, let that be as it may, Maggie."
"Aye, mistress. It shall be so." She bobbed a curtsy and turned back
work. Before Talon could speak to his fiancée, the door was soundly shut and
barred. Chuckling softly to himself, Talon again found that warm, fuzzy feeling
enveloping his heart.
Branyon escorted him to the tilling field and asked if he would like to practice
for a few hours. Talon readily took up the challenge. Knight by knight, each
took their turn against the man who would be the Lord of Falcon's Nest. Each
tried to best him, whether in hand-to-hand mock combat, archery, or with a
sword. Together, they had made a silent pact to put this stranger through his
paces; to test his mettle -- to see if he was physically worthy of being
followed. At the end of several hours, many knights were worn out, yet this
stranger who had single-handedly saved the King's life was ready for more.
Silently, the knights of Falcon's Nest agreed -- they would give him their
pledge on the morrow.
Talon sensed early on they were testing him and so did not disappoint them.
each took their best shot at him, Talon ran a covert Force-scan to get to know
his opponents better. He found the vast majority of these primitive knights to
be men of honor. He likewise confirmed something else he had sensed since
arriving on this barbaric world. While the levels of midi-chlorians were low,
some people had even lower levels. There were even a few with such a low count
that he could barely detect them at all. It was as though he faced a ghost.
This, he found, was rather unnerving.
As the mock combat-testing continued, the King stood above them upon the wall
walk and studied his new soon-to-be Earl. He nodded in satisfaction -- this was
a man worthy of the Nest and all its responsibilities. This man would not
disappoint him. This man would draw out the Ghost Knight that so plagued this
area and unmask the man who would so threaten the peace.
Accompanying Branyon to the common bathhouse, Talon kept turning his gaze
upward, hoping for a glimpse of the Flower of Falcon's Nest. This did not go
unnoticed. "Looking for someone, Sir Talon? If it be thy bride thine eyes
seek, waste not thy time. For thou shall not see her again until ye be wedded
on the morrow."
"I was rather hoping to spend some time with her to get to know her a
before the wedding, Sir Branyon."
" 'Tis a fortunate man thou are. For more times than not, the bride and
do not meet for the first time until they stand before the altar. How is it
from whence thou com'st?"
Talon smiled at the thought of the few weddings he attended over the years.
"It's always by mutual agreement that the happy couple wed. First, they meet
and become friends. Eventually, they fall in love and decide to spend the rest
of their lives together, and they marry."
Branyon looked at him with a far away look buried deep within his eyes. "Ah, to
marry for love... 'Tis everyone's dream. But, alas, in this land, 'tis not
always a love match from the start. Aye, often the match will find love
together. But many times, 'tis not so and the man seeks the company of others
once an heir has been birthed."
"That's not the way of my people, Branyon. Among those of my blood, a
is forever, unto death and sometimes beyond. To stray is unthinkable and not
tolerated. It shall never be for me." In his heart, Talon knew this was true -
- he could never survive without his heart-mate. He would never stray.
In the afternoon, Talon stood watching squires train with their Masters...
<Knights,> he corrected himself. He saw the older pages also practicing in a
group. With wooden swords, they went through several warm-up exercises before
being paired off against one another.
Garret was there as well. Talon moved in for a closer look. Several times he
noticed the lad's footing was throwing him off-balance. He was lucky only
wooden swords were being used, otherwise this would have proven to be a fatal
mistake. He frowned and shook his head. The knight watching over the boys
noticed this and came over to him.
"Seest thou something thou dost not like, Sir Talon?"
"Yes, Sir Gates. It seems Garret's footwork is placing him off-balance."
"Indeed, 'tis true," he nodded. "Many times I have tried to
correct him, yet
many times he does not correct the mis-step. I fear the lad may never be taken
on as a squire for this. Or if he is, he will not live long enough to earn his
spurs." The trainer studied Talon before hesitantly asking, "Mayhap...thou
might offer some advice the lad will listen too?"
"Perhaps. You wouldn't mind?"
"Nay, I would not. Pray show the lad." Gates called to Garret who
running. "Garret, Sir Talon has offered to help you. Since I can not help you
with your feet, perhaps you will do better with him. Listen well to him,
Garret, for what he tells you may one day save your life in battle."
"Aye, Master Gates, I shall listen." The boy bowed to the master
trainer as he
left to two of them alone on the sidelines.
"Garret, do you know what your problem is?"
"Aye, sir," he looked down and shuffled his feet. "Master Gates
says my feet
know not what they ought be doing."
"He's correct. Perhaps I can offer a new direction to help." With
began training the boy anew. Starting from the most basic footwork and going
from there. Every so often, Talon would tell him to not move while he reached
around to reposition the angle of his leg or foot, or his shield arm, or his
sword. Together, they lost track of time until another page had been sent to
fetch them to ready for the evening meal.
As they walked off the empty field, both had a feeling of accomplishment.
Indeed, Garret's problem had seemingly vanished.
<Perhaps, all he needed was a new voice to listen to,> Talon thought.
Looking up to capture Talon's gaze, Garret held a question in his eyes. Seeing
this, Talon gently reminded him that he need not keep his silence. In an
uncertain voice, Garret spoke his mind. "I would like to thank thee for thy
help this day, Sir Talon. I feel better now that my feet have finally agreed to
listen and do as they are bid."
"You're quite welcome my young friend," Talon smiled. "I find
helping you learn. Once you learn to listen to your body and hear what it has
to tell you, you'll learn quickly. Just keep practicing what you have learned
today and you'll be ready for more."
"I was watching thee this morning, practicing with the other knights.
soundly defeated every last one. I heard even the King was impressed! And he
is not called 'Steven Strongarm' for no reason! Not once hast he ever been
defeated!" He stopped and looked up to the man he secretly hoped would be his
mentor. "If I practice *real* hard everyday, will I ever become as good as
Talon stopped to look into hopeful eyes. He listened to what the Force had
say about this young lad. Even though he was too old to begin training as a
Jedi, he still had a great potential. His light within the Force was strong.
"Garret, I will never lie to you. Yes, I feel you have the potential to do much
good in this world. But, the road will not be easy. It never is. Only through
hard work and dedication can you achieve what is right. Do not be tempted to
take the easy way. Into Darkness, the easy way will lead you. Once the first
step down that path is taken, forever rule your life it will."
"What is the 'Darkness'?"
A small shudder rippled through the boy as the point found its way home.
"Come, we've dallied too long already. We must hurry if we wish not to
the King or Lady Flora by being late to dinner. I'll race you up the stairs!"
Playfully, the two bounded up the steep stone steps to the top floor and to
door of his chambers. There, they tagged the heavy door together ending the
race in a tie.
Dinner was a disappointment for Talon. He quickly learned why it was customary
for the bride-to-be to not be in attendance for the evening meal before the
wedding. The meal was nothing short of a lewd bachelor's party. The ale and
wine flowed freely and so, too, did many tongues. Many serving wenches boldly
offered themselves to the bridegroom, but to no avail.
Aware of the custom not to leave until the King had taken his leave, Talon
quietly worked his way into the sovereign's mind. With a gentle Force-
suggestion, the King decided to turn in earlier than usual. Less than a minute
later, Talon went upstairs to meditate and sleep alone in his chambers.
@}--- @}--- @}---
+ ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ +
"Good morrow, Sir Talon! I hope thou slept well." Garret's cheery
through the chamber as he directed the younger pages to place the light morning
repast upon the small table next to the wall. All the lads were dressed in
their finest garments and had even combed their hair. Not one looked like the
ruffians they appeared while training the day before. They all looked like a
freshly minted coin. "A fine morn for a wedding, is it not?"
"Yes, it is, Garret," Talon replied as he turned from the open window.
seabreeze feathered across his skin as he breathed in the salty air.
Following custom, Talon had a light breakfast in his chambers as his new
clothing was delivered and draped across the foot of the bed. Several other
newly sewn garments were deposited in the huge wardrobe that once belonged to
Flora's brother -- the previous Earl of Falcon's Nest. He looked around the
room with a new eye. This chamber is where he would spend the rest of his life
with his heart-mate.
<Heart-mate.> He let the word silently roll over his tongue. His spirit
calmed once he realized what the vision-song meant. <Heart-mate... Flora.>
The warm feeling again, as always, settled around his heart. He was content to
follow where the Force had led him -- to his heart's mate, the other half of his
own heart. <I wonder what would Master Yoda have to say about a Jedi Knight
becoming a noble, and getting a wife as a part of the package. 'The ways of the
Force, mysterious they can be.' Or something, undoubtedly, along those lines,>
he thought with a small smile.
Finally, Garret helped him don his wedding clothes. Chausses of finely spun,
light blue linen were belted with a wide, black leather belt. His own boots had
been polished to a high gloss after Garret had snuck in to remove them during
the middle of the night. The chausses were neatly tucked into the boots. An
under shirt and tunic of white were left uncovered by any surcoat.
Garret opened the door to admit Sir Branyon. A sparkle in his eye showed he was
fully recovered from all the wine he put away the evening before. "Ready
receive thine accolades and my cousin's hand in marriage, Sir Talon?"
Talon drew a breath, "Yes. I'm ready."
"Then let us come." Sir Branyon escorted him to the stables. Along
hallways, servants stood side-by-side in their best clothing.
The early morning sun shone upon them as they mounted their horses for the
to the chapel in the village nearby. The day promised to be a pleasant one as
the sun hid behind the few puffy clouds that drifted before it. Since the King
was already at the chapel, Talon and Sir Branyon took the lead. Knights of the
Nest, and their Ladies, rode behind them. The horses looked splendid in their
colored robes. Each carried the colors and emblem of those who rode them.
Talon's destrier was left bare.
Along the way, the villagers raced beside them, cheering and waving. At the
large, stone chapel, other knights lined up on either side of the steps to greet
Talon. As he reached the steps and dismounted, Talon could feel the presence of
Flora's Force signature. She was inside, kept well away from his view. She
would see him granted title-ship of the Nest. Then, only after he was of equal
rank, could she be wed to him.
As Talon stopped at the foot of the chapel steps, a hush descended over the
crowd gathered in the village square. The King and his personal entourage stood
in front of the closed chapel doors.
The King's voice rang out. "Sir Talon of Coruscant, I bid thee come forth
receive thy rightful accolades."
As Talon walked up the flagstones, a dark flutter skittered along his senses.
Somewhere in the crowd jammed into this small square was a Darksider. Whoever
it was kept his thoughts tightly guarded.
As was custom for this ceremony, Talon came before the King and bowed, then
dropped to both knees before him.
Unseen from the crowd below, a bowstring was pulled back and released. A dark
ripple in the Force warned Talon of the danger. He swung around on his knees
and caught, in his hand, the arrow meant for his heart.
A gasp rose from the crowd gathered. In response to a small gesture from Sir
Branyon, several men spread out to search for the assailant.
Talon already knew what they would find. The would-be assassin would not be
found -- he had already fled into the crowd and "disappeared." Many in the
crowd wondered how any man could have caught an arrow with his hand when no
warning was shouted. This was an image none would forget. Talon nodded to the
King and the ceremony continued.
The King stood over him. "Sir Talon, in return for preserving my life,
Steven, raise thee, Sir Talon Savon of Coruscant to the noble rank of Earl. I
entrust to thee, the safety and guardianship of the demesne known as Falcon's
Nest by the Sea and *all* that goes with it. Dost thou accept this charge?"
Raising his head to look the King in the eyes, Talon responded strongly, "I
"Sir Talon of Coruscant, receive now the symbols of thy duty."
The King took a finely crafted sword and held it aloft for all to see in the
morning sunlight. "With this sword, wilt thou guard Falcon's Nest by the Sea
and its gentle folk?"
Garret assisted the King's own squire in securing the sword belt and scabbard
about Talon's waist.
Next, the King took a jeweled dagger and held it up. "With this dagger,
thou protect thy family and heirs?"
The King handed over the dagger and Talon placed it and its scabbard into his
A breastplate of light armor was placed in the King's hands. "With this
wilt thou defend against the enemies of the land?"
The armor was strapped across Talon's chest.
The King held aloft a shield bearing the Falcon in Flight. "With this
wilt thou defend all that I entrust to thee?"
The shield was handed over and secured on his shield arm.
"Dost thou accept me as thy rightful and only Liege-Lord and vow thine
allegiance to me as thy sovereign?"
"I hereby give thee the rightful and hereditary rank of 'Earl.' "
slapped his hand down as hard as he could upon the nape of the man keeling
before him. Much to his surprise, the new Earl did not budge. 'Twas like
hitting a stone wall. "Arise, Sir Talon, Earl and Lord of Falcon's Nest by the
Before he rose, Garret and the King's squire draped a surcoat of sky-blue over
him. Embroidered in black, on both front and back, was a falcon swooping down
upon its prey. 'Twas the emblem of Falcon's Nest by the Sea.
A wave of cheers echoed across the square as the crowd hailed the new Earl.
"Three cheers for the new Falcon Lord! Hurrah!... Hurrah!... Hurrah!"
Garret beamed with pride at his new Lord and gave him a deep bow.
A high pitched screech high overhead brought Talon's attention to a pair of
falcons. Mated for life, they circled lazily above the chapel.
Following local custom, it was now Talon's turn to ask fidelity from the
knight's garrisoned at the Nest. One by one, each knight knelt before the new
Earl. Placing their hands within his, each gave his word to be loyal to the new
At last, the doors to the chapel opened to allow the nobles entrance after
friar and King. Sir Branyon led Talon off to one side to give time for everyone
to take their place. Now that he was of equal rank to the Mistress of Falcon's
Nest, he could claim her for his bride.
Talon took this respite to find his center and his calm. His heart leaped at
the thought of claiming his heart-mate. By her unique Force signature, he knew
exactly where she was. Her Force signature out-shone the sun and would soon
meld with his. Together they would be complete. One without the other would
descend into madness; such was the way of his people.
He took a deep, slow breath and looked at the chapel. On either side of the
altar stood candle trees crafted of silver. In their branches stood tall, white
tapers made of costly wax. Entwined within the branches were fragrant white
roses. Draped across the altar was a swath of white silk.
Finally, the crowd hushed as everyone who could squeeze in came to a stand
Sir Branyon stepped close to his new lord and whispered, "Are thou ready to meet
thy destiny, Lord Falcon?"
<...meet your destiny.> As the words echoed into his heart, his very
Talon realized just how prophetic they were. "Yes," he nodded.
"Then, may I have thy shield." Branyon took Talon's shield and placed it before
the altar beside a shield identical to Talon's own. The second shield was
smaller; small enough for a woman to easily carry.
As Talon walked down the center aisle, he could hardly contain the joy he felt.
He was near to losing his Jedi composure.
Friar Givens remained stoic, but a sparkle in his kindly eyes gave away his
emotions. "People of Falcon's Nest by the Sea," he began in a voice that
carried to the entrance. "We are here today to celebrate the bonds of marriage
between Sir Talon, Earl of Falcon's Nest and Lady Flora, Countess of Falcon's
"Bring forth the bride."
Branyon appeared from a small room tucked into a corner way in back. On his
arm, he led his cousin.
Dressed in a flowing gown of snow-white silk, Flora's hair was braided into
white crown about her head. White rose buds peeked out through the thick plait.
Small pearls entwined in her hair glittered in the sunlight streaming in through
the glass windows that faced the east. Crystal beads sewn onto her dress created
tiny rainbows as she walked down the aisle. Talon's breath hitched in his
throat at the vision before him. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of his sub-
conscience, a new melody began its soft song.
A gentle squeeze on her hand brought Flora back to the present. She had nearly
outpaced her cousin. She felt something drawing her to this man, pulling her
forward. A warm glow enveloped her heart and, somehow, she knew this marriage
was meant to be. Their union would be truly blessed by the Great Spirit,
Creator of All.
"Breathe, Flora," Branyon whispered to her. Together, they stopped
away. Indeed, she had not realized she held her breath, for before her stood
her husband-to-be. The sunlight touching his dark brown hair caught the bronze
highlights, setting them afire.
"Who gives this woman into the care of this man?" Friar Givens inquired.
"I, Sir Branyon, give my cousin, Countess Flora, into the care of the
Falcon's Nest, Sir Talon." With these words, he presented her hand in marriage
Talon stepped forward and gently took her fingers in his. He bowed deeply over
her hand, then led her to stand before the altar.
"Lord Falcon, dost thou vow to protect this woman as thy Lady-wife? To
her with thy sword and to keep her safe from all harm? And to love her with all
thy soul and heart?"
Talon blinked. These words were virtually identical to the wedding vows his
parents had exchanged at their bonding. "I do so swear, upon my life, my soul
and my heart," he repeated the traditional response from his home world.
Friar Givens turned to Flora. "Lady Flora, dost thou vow to protect this man as
thy Lord-husband? To support and protect him from all harm? And to love him
with all thy soul and heart?"
"I do so swear," she turned to look at the man beside her. "Upon
my life, my
soul and my heart," she added.
With palms together, they presented their wrists to the friar who wound a silver
cloth about them. Dipping a small bundle of green branches into a silver water
urn, he blessed them. "May the Great Spirit bless ye with his kindness
Turning to also sprinkle water over the silk sheet draped across the altar,
friar continued the blessing, "May the Great Spirit bless this union and grant
ye many children."
Turning to bless the shields he continued, "May the Great Spirit give
strength to guard each other and keep ye safe."
Once more facing the couple standing before him he raised his hands above them
and shouted for all to hear, "By the Great Spirit, Creator of All, I pronounce
ye husband and wife." An attendant presented each with their shields. "Thou
mayst kiss thy bride," the old friar encouraged with a twinkle in his eyes.
Talon drew his wife towards him and shielded her from view as he gently pressed
his lips to hers in a chaste kiss. A spark flew between them as their lips met.
The crowd inside the chapel cheered as the knights banged on their shields to
show their support.
Advancing to the entrance, Talon could not keep his eyes off his flower. He
knew he was grinning like a fool but didn't care if even the Jedi Council saw
it. Just outside, they stopped to face the people.
Behind them, Friar Givens shouted for all the hear, "Good people of Falcon's
Nest... I give ye the Lord and Lady Falcon!"
The crowd erupted into a roar of good cheer as Talon raised high his shield.
Simultaneously, Flora raised her shield to show they were united as husband and
In this world, a knight's horse, his sword and his armor were regarded as his
treasures. Yet, Talon knew that the woman by his side was the greatest treasure
he could ever have.
Flora blinked hard as she heard her Lord-husband say, "In all my journeys,
never seen a more beautiful flower." But did he speak to her, or was it in her
head where she heard the words? She was not certain, but she would have sworn
she never saw his lips move.
Together, their horses were brought forward. Flora's white palfrey was dressed
in the sky-blue of Falcon's Nest. Talon's black charger, the very one the King
had given him on the battlefield, was now likewise dressed. Each horse's robe
carried the emblem of a black falcon in flight, ready to strike its enemies from
above. Tall, pale blue and white feathers festooned the tops of the horse's
heads. Talon placed his hands on either side of Flora's waist and deftly helped
her sit astride the saddle. As he did so, a vision appeared in his mind.
[Flora looked up at him, her face was bathed in sweat. Snow-white tendrils
framed her face. Pride and a great joy shone brightly in her aqua-teal eyes.
In her arms their babe lay wrapped in a soft blanket.] He waited by her side
until she was done arranging her skirts. His smile beamed up at her as she
nodded to him.
Mounting his charger, his heart beat a rapid tattoo as he understood the vision.
This was where the Force led him. This was where he was destined to be. Here,
on this ordinary world where Jedi did not exist, he would continue to live by
the Code and protect these people to the best of his Jedi training and
abilities. <I wonder what words of wisdom Master Yoda would have to impart.>
"Come my Lord-husband. 'Tis time to meet the people of Falcon's Nest by
"Lead on my Lady-wife."
Flora led by his side as she gave her husband the grand tour of their demesne.
Everywhere, the people turned out to greet their new Lord. Flora showed him the
As Flora introduced him to her people, she found her eyes wandering more and
more to the man at her side. Her heart spoke to her, telling her this was the
man Destiny had long since chosen for her. Yet, she knew nothing about him.
She would do what was expected of her -- she would keep her vow and protect her
husband's back in battle if need be. For in her world, noble daughters were
expected to protect the Keep beside their husbands. Still, she mentally
shrugged; she was fortunate to have met him before the actual wedding ceremony.
As was so common in her world, noble daughters were often wedded off to gain
alliance. Seldom 'twas a love-match among nobility, but her heart knew this
would be a match to last across all boundaries.
The tour started from the water fountain in the village nearest the Keep and
made its way farther and farther into the countryside.
The demesne itself was laid out much like many pre-industrial societies Talon
had the opportunity to visit as a padawan. Yet, there was a division of labor
rarely seen in agrarian cultures.
The Central Business District was the heart of the community. The main village,
not far from the Keep, served this role as the center of commerce for the
demesne. Here, laborers would come each day to ply their trade and return each
evening to their homes in the surrounding areas. Already, only two days after
the siege ended, people were busy making a living as if nothing happened. All
appeared to be back to normal.
Along the central plaza were several large buildings devoted to one type of
cottage industry or another. In one building, locals would bring their wool and
cotton to be carded and spun. In another, the yarn would be dyed and hung out
to dry. Indeed, Talon could see a rainbow drying in the sun, waving in the
breeze like colorful pennants. In yet another cottage, the yarn was woven and
finished into the fine cloths Falcon's Nest was known for, among other things.
The alehouse and the bakery stood near the only tavern that doubled as an inn
for weary travelers.
The village had its own smithy to make or repair whatever metal objects the
villagers were in need of. From copper and iron cooking pots to harnesses and
scythes, the burly man built like a bear could do it all. By his side stood his
two sons and a young grandson; all knew the trade.
The village mill stood at the opposite side of the smithy. The great millstone
had to be pulled by draft animals. The inner workings were broken and the
millstone stood still for many weeks now. A rut had been worn deep into the
ground by the aged horse that stood by, ready to continue the only life he knew.
Here, in the central business district, people would share not only in the work,
but also in being a thriving community. They would talk, gossip, spread the
latest news, and share their ideas and dreams.
Surrounding the heart of the community was the agricultural sector. Here, the
farmers and their families lived and tended to their fields. They were proud of
the crops of wheat and barley, and fruit orchards and vegetables.
Farther out, lay the green pastures where herds of cattle and sheep peacefully
Off in the distance, past the grazing fields, was the only place the local
fishermen could safely put out to sea. Here, the steep cliffs came down to meet
the sea. Only here was the shoreline free of the jagged rocks that guarded
Nest so fiercely against attack from the sea.
Several cottages stood against the seabreeze. Nets waved in greeting to the
party as they rode in. In the distance, white sails could be seen bobbing in
the gentle surf. From here, the day's first catch would be rushed to the huge,
stone Keep that stood above all.
As the wedding party rode out among the people, everyone would stop what they
were doing and rush to meet their new Lord. In every community, villagers would
appear with a small offering of food, or something cool to drink. At each stop,
Flora would introduce her people to her husband. Mothers would show off their
babe, or admonish their daughters to behave and not drool as they went ga-ga
over their handsome, new Lord.
In staying with custom, the Falcon and his Lady distributed a gift wrapped in an
aqua colored square of cloth. Inside, was the gift of a small gold coin.
Small, perhaps to some nobles, but large in the caring it represented and in its
At each cottage, Talon would ask a few questions to get to know the family
inside. With his genuine concern, the people came to take him to heart. Talon
found the feeling was mutual.
Everywhere Flora took him, Talon saw people who were happy with their lot in
life. He saw people who were content and well cared for, and lacked for little.
These were gentle folk who took pride in a hard day's work. This was reflected
by they manner in which they lived. In return for their labor, the Lord and
Lady of the Nest made certain no family was ever left in need. From the grain
mill, to the cloth mill and dye house, to the butcher -- goods were distributed
to each family as needed.
He also saw how much hard work these people had ahead of them. The month long
siege by the Ghost Knight and his mercenaries had put the spring planting season
in jeopardy. If the crops were not planted quickly, the whole of the demesne
could likely go hungry during winter.
After such a siege, Talon expected to see a lot more damage. Yet, the damage he
had seen was relatively minimal. It seemed almost as though destruction was not
the Ghost Knight's intent. Instead, he succeeded in running off the livestock
and delaying the spring planting season by keeping the population pinned behind
the thick walls of the Keep.
<Why?> Talon wondered. <What would he have to gain by delaying the
The question was answered as soon as it was asked. To delay the planting now
would endanger the winter harvest. If the spring crops did not come up on time,
the winter harvest would be put in serious danger. This would demoralize the
people and make them easier prey to subdue later.
The sun was setting well into the early evening when they finally made their way
back to the village square. The central plaza had been transformed into a
festival. Multicolored pennants, really nothing more than scraps of cloth too
small to use for anything, were strung up on twine between the buildings.
Lanterns with candles inside were likewise strung overhead. Torches burned high
above the crowd to add their glow to the oncoming night.
Scarred worktables stood in the street as each family brought something to
either eat or drink. Tonight, as the nobility celebrated the wedding, these
common folk would likewise celebrate in their own way.
Flora looked to her husband, almost afraid to ask the question foremost in
mind at the moment.
Talon saw this and leaned closer to her. "As I told Garrent, so now I tell you,
my wife -- you may ask me anything you wish. I would not be offended if you
were to ask me a question. I will always answer true. I will never lie to you,
"How did thee know I have a question to ask, my lord?"
"It's written all over your face." He tried not to chuckle as she,
too, ran a
hand across her face to wipe off what was not there. "What I meant was, the
expression on your face showed clearly that you wished to ask a question. You
may ask me anything, anything at all."
Flora once more worried her bottom lip. With a nod from Talon, she was
encouraged to speak, "What thinkest thou of the people of Falcon's Nest, my
Talon's face broke out into a wide grin. "I like them, my Lady-wife,"
nodded. "In fact, I like them a lot! These are good people. I think I'm going
to like it here." He took her hand in his and raised it to his lips. The ember
in his blood stoked to a flame as he placed a lingering kiss upon her knuckles.
Flora saw the flame grow in his dark eyes. The small spark she held within her
answered his call and grew in her eyes as well.
"So, there is naught thou wouldst change, my Lord?" she asked hesitantly.
"Well, there are a few things that could stand some improvement. But overall,
it appears everything is running smoothly. However, I *am* concerned about the
"Aye, my Lord," she nodded. " 'Twas found mysteriously broken
before the siege
began." The tone of her voice said clearly she believed there was some
connection there. "It *must* be repaired quickly. The village granary is
empty. What grain and flour the village had stored was tossed into the street
and ruined by the Ghost Knight and his men.
"We have shared what we can, but we are quickly running out. The wheat
Keep's granary will soon spoil. The mill at the Keep can not possibly produce
enough flour for the entire demesne. Without the mill, there can be no flour.
With no flour, there can be no bread... Thank the Creator we had a good harvest
and still had enough to last for a while yet."
Talon silently nodded. "I'd like to talk to the men repairing it. I have
idea that may help it run more effectively."
"If we can re-design the working mechanism, we can get the wind to move
stone, instead of having to rely on draft animals. This way, we can produce a
greater output with less effort."
"As thou sayst, my Lord." Talon's words spun around in her head,
was not clear to her. But, the enthusiasm in his voice made it clear that this
was a Lord who would not sit carelessly by as his demesne fell to pieces about
him. Her heart was gladdened that this earl would carry on the caring tradition
her father and brother started when they sat as the Falcon Lord.
@}--- @}--- @}---
Garret and Sir Branyon escorted the Falcon Lord back to his chambers, as Flora's
maids escorted her to her old chambers for the last time. As final preparations
were being made for the wedding feast, the newly wedded couple was being
prepared for the evening to come.
Talon scrubbed away the dust and grime of the day. Then lying before the fire,
allowed Garret to give him a rub down with almond oil. As the lad's hands
worked the oil into his skin, Talon asked him as question he was not prepared to
"Aye, my lord?"
"Am I correct to understand that you'll soon be old enough to be taken
Garret's hands stopped moving. Talon could feel a slight tremble in his
fingertips as he continued his task of preparing the Lord of the Keep for his
wedding feast. "Aye, my lord. Thou are correct."
"How does this work? How exactly does one become a squire? Is there a ceremony
to make it official?"
"Nay. There is no ceremony. The knight goes to the lord in whose house
page lives, and from that lord requests the right to train the lad. If agreed
upon, and 'tis always, the lad would be called and presented to the knight as
his squire. That is the way of it, my lord."
"I see. So if someone were to chose you for their squire, he would have
request my approval."
"That is correct, my lord."
"But, if I were chose someone from Falcon's Nest?"
"Since thou be Lord here, thy word is Law. Thou would simply tell the lad. And
of course, thou wouldst also wishest to write the lad's parents, just to let
"Of course. They would want to know."
"Thou wouldst then be responsible for all thy squire's needs. Whatever they may
"Ah, yes. I remember the days before I became a Knight. My Master was
responsible for my upbringing. From making sure I learned my lessons well, and
helping when I had difficulty, to training me to defend."
"Learning how to fight!" Garret said excitedly.
Turning over on the floor before the low fire, Talon sat up and clasped Garret's
hands in his own. "Garret. It's even more important to know how *not*
fight. It's more important to know how to *defend* than to fight. Anyone can
pick up a sword and strike you down. But of even greater importance is to know
how to avoid the fight if a peaceful solution can be found that will benefit all
parties involved. Fight only when all other options are closed to you; then
fight to win with as few casualties as possible. If a peaceful solution can be
found to the argument, *everyone* wins. If you must fight, many innocent people
may well be harmed.
"That is not to say I will refuse to fight; quite the contrary. I *will*
to protect and defend what I am responsible for. That includes not only my
life, but also my wife, you, Sir Branyon, every single person, and every single
other living soul in Falcon's Nest from my large charger to the smallest church
mouse. They all have their place in the Living Force and all have a right to
"Sometimes, the best way to win a battle is to not fight. But, indeed,
sometimes you have no other choice."
Garret kept his eyes locked onto his toes. "Not fight? 'Tis a strange thing to
hear from a knight."
"This is a way of thinking that those of my Order have followed for a great many
generations. We live to *defend*, not fight. We live to *serve*, not be
served. In time, Garret, you'll understand." He could sense the boy's
skepticism, but knew this was a new philosophy for him. It was one that did not
fit well into this world.
@}--- @}--- @}---
+ ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ +
A discreet knock at her chamber door told Flora 'twas time to join her husband
for the wedding feast. Her old nurse cradled her cheeks and kissed her forehead
as she had done countless times in the past. Then she dabbed away the tears
her eyes and blew her nose with a smile on her aged face.
A young maid waited for the signal to open the door. Slowly, she opened heavy
wooden door and dropped a curtsey, as did all the women in the room.
Talon entered the candlelit room that smelled of the finest rose oil. "My
Lord," Flora greeted from her curtsey. Rising up, she felt her breath catch on
His black boots were again polished to a high gloss; chausses of fine, dark blue
linen were tucked into them. A tunic of blue was secured with a black belt.
sky-blue surcoat with the black Falcon rested over that. His dagger was nestled
secure under his belt, and his sword hung by his side. His dark brown eyes
matched perfectly his dark hair. His well-muscled frame filled the doorway.
A flutter of warmth began in Flora's stomach as she remembered the feel of
muscles that sculpted his back. The warmth spread upward into her heart. She
found it hard to breathe properly. The heat moved farther up to stain her
cheeks with a rosy blush. The warmth also spread downward, to a place that
tingled with each passing thought and glimpse of this man.
He brought her fingers up to grace them with a kiss. <Breathe, my desert
Breathe.> The gentle reminder echoed in her thoughts.
"Shall we grace the Nest with our presence, my Lady-wife?"
"Ah... Aye, of course. 'Twould not do to make the King wait." Flora
regain her composure as her husband placed her hand into the crook of his arm
and led her out.
Again, Talon found her pulse and breathing pattern match his.
As they entered the main hall, Flora realized that without trying, she had
matched her steps to his. Her body was becoming attuned with his.
The crowd of nobles parted for them as they slowly made their way to the head
table. Again, as was custom, the Lord's chair was occupied by the most senior
rank in attendance. The King stood up as they approached and bowed to him.
"Lord and Lady Falcon, I bid ye rise and take thy place at table this
With the graciousness that endeared him to his subjects, the King presented the
Lord's chair to his newest Earl. "We are here to celebrate thy wedding, come
take thy rightful place as leader of the Nest." With that, he took the seat
next to Talon. "Ye realize, of course, a wedding is the *only* event for which
I would ever give up the head seat," spoke loudly enough for everyone to hear.
Just to remind them.
At the King's signal, the feast began. This night saw a bounty larger than
night before. A page ran up to the King and sliced off a generous portion of
bread to be used as a trencher for the first course. Talon was sliced an
equally thick portion, which he was to share with his wife.
As the first course came out, Talon struggled with his emotions. It had taken
all of his Jedi training to maintain his composure when the maid opened the door
to reveal his bride.
Unbound, her hair floated like a cloud of purest white about her face. Small
tendrils curled softly to frame her face. The light from the many candles
reflected in her aqua-teal eyes. Her gown of finely spun silk was molded to her
every lush curve. The gown's color was what nearly made Talon loose his
composure. It was the very shade of sky blue as the veils the woman wore in his
vision-song. Beyond doubt, this woman was to be his through eternity. Again,
his heart and his senses confirmed what his vision-song had told him.
Flora knew the evening would be a very long ordeal. The feast turned out to
a true test of endurance for both of them. As the dinner progressed from one
fine course to the next, the nobles seemingly lost their manners. As the night
wore on the jokes became more and more raunchy, and even more lewd than the
Flora lost her appetite and began to pick at her food. What tiny morsel she did
bring to her lips, she had a difficult time swallowing. She kept her head
bowed; her white mane covered her eternal blush that had painted itself upon her
fair cheeks. A nervous flock of butterflies began to prick their tiny wings
against her stomach. Thinking of the next social event of the evening, Flora
began to tremble.
Sitting beside his Lady-wife, Talon could feel her unease roiling off her in
waves. Below the table, he quietly took her trembling hand in his and gently
caressed her knuckles with his thumb. He sent her a wave a comfort and
reassurance. Their eyes met as she unknowingly responded to this. He whispered
to her, "Do not be afraid of me, my Rose. I would never do anything to harm you
in any way. Just bear with me for just a little while longer and I promise
we'll finally be rid of this crowd."
Talon's face was set in stone as he sought to rid himself of his anger. He
tried not to listen to the graphic suggestions coming from those noble knights
who had so bravely fought to free the Nest from the Ghost Knight's mercenaries.
He was surprised to hear some of the crudest remarks come from the noble women.
In truth, he felt like pulling his lightsabre and challenging them, one and all,
to defend his wife's honor. Instead, he found himself biting his tongue.
At long last, Flora's maid slipped up behind them. Talon could feel her heart
beating wildly at what was to come next. He promised he would do all in his
power to shield her from it.
Trying not to bring attention to herself, Flora slowly rose to follow her maid.
She did not get more than a dozen steps before a loud roar rose to the rafters.
Catcalls, whistles and more lewd comments chased after her as she set her face
to stone and quickened her step to the stairs. She nearly ran down the hallway
to escape. Flora winced as the heavy wooden door to the master's chamber
slammed shut behind her. At last, she was alone for a few minutes while her
maid went to bring some of the residing noble women to assist her.
Stumbling to the small writing desk near the fireplace, she fell to her knees
and tried not to cry. She prayed to the Great Spirit to give her strength to
endure as she eyed the white silk sheet draped over the mattress of the large
bed that loomed before her.
Below, Talon debated whether or not it would be better for Flora if he were
stall for more time. He was familiar with the idea of the bedding ceremony and
had absolutely no stomach for what was essentially a publicly witnessed rape of
a virgin bride.
In many societies, the bride was stripped bare in front of her husband and other
male witnesses to be "inspected" for any markings or deformities. Any birthmark
or blemish could, at this point, be used by the groom to reject the woman.
could keep the dowry, but the woman would be publicly disgraced for having been
rejected through no fault of her own.
In reality, this was nothing more than the opportunity for a lot of drunken
to ogle, and in some cultures, fondle a very frightened young woman who may be
no more than a child. Add to this the fact that the men would stay to watch the
arranged marriage consummated and it was little wonder the bride would forever
remain a terrified block of ice in bed. The entire concept nearly made Talon
lose his dinner. By the Force, he swore, he *would not* allow this public
humiliation to occur.
Before he could decide if stalling would help any the matter was taken out
his hands. The King rose up and shouted, "Come, we have a bedding to witness!"
He clapped Talon hard on the shoulder and signaled to those around him. Several
pairs of strong hands took hold of Talon and carried him up the steep, narrow
stairs. Thrice the drunken revelers nearly dropped him. It was only his
connection to the Force that allowed him to feel the slip about to happen and
shift his weight accordingly to counter.
The door to his chamber bounced back from the wall as the men entered and
"accidentally" dropped him at his wife's feet.
As he picked himself up her eyes locked with his. She could see the anger
burning there. A slight nod from him brought her some tiny measure of comfort.
She now understood that he disliked this as much as she did. She thanked the
Great Spirit for allowing her a husband who seemed to be so understanding of her
fears this night.
As his heart-mate was shoved forward by an older noble-bred "Lady,"
feel a darkness flood the room. The intensity of it made him shiver. He turned
to look well at each man behind him. The look burning in their eyes confirmed
what he felt. Lust emanated from the crowd. Many were just plain drunk, but
several looked at his wife with undisguised lust. Because of the varying levels
of midi-chlorians from one individual to the next, it was impossible for him
judge who was potentially the biggest threat at the moment.
"Come on! Take it off! Take it off!" Sir Paul began the cheer as
he leered at
the Lady Falcon.
As the women who came to attend her stepped forward to disrobe her, silent tears
of fear and humiliation slipped down Flora's pale cheeks.
Taking a step closer, Talon spun on his heel to glare at the leering crowd.
Again, Paul's voice rang over the cheering, "Look, he can not wait for
package to be unwrapped! He wants to do it himself!" More catcalls and
laughter filled the room as Flora's face became even paler than before.
Talon took his place in front of his wife to shield her from the many prying
eyes. Taking her small hand in his, he could feel her trembling and her pulse
race. Raising his free hand and waving toward the lecherous assembly he spoke
in a soft voice. "You have seen what you came for. You are satisfied with what
you have seen. There is no reason to stay. You will leave us."
"Come, we are satisfied with what we have seen," the King announced.
leave the happy couple to get to know each other better."
Several others echoed the King's sentiment and turned to leave. The rest of the
crowd followed the King's move.
As the last person exited the chamber Talon angrily threw the iron rod across
the door to bar the entrance and at last give them peace.
Leaning his back against the door, Talon drew several deep breaths as he looked
at his wife from beneath lowered lashes. "You have nothing to fear, my dear
wife. I can assure you we will not be disturbed until tomorrow." He noted her
eyes were still wide with fear and slowly stepped closer. "Flora?... Look at
me," he requested softly.
After unconsciously accepting another wave of reassurance, Flora raised her eyes
to his. She took note of the worried crease in his forehead and the deep
concern in his dark eyes.
He raised one hand to her chin and lightly caressed her bottom lip with his
thumb. "You look like you have a question on your lips... Do you?"
Slowly she nodded.
"You may ask me any question, my Lady-wife, and I shall always answer
reminded her. "You may ask anything of me and I shall grant it... Now tell me
what you wish to know," he smiled.
Flora hesitated and bit her lower lip. With a questioning glance at the door
and back to her husband, she found her voice. "What happened? How didst thou
do that -- my Lord? How didst thou get them all to leave us alone?"
Talon shrugged his shoulders, "It's a small trick I learned a very long
"So Garret is right? Thou are a sorcerer," she said in a small voice.
He shook his head, "No, my dear, I can assure you, I am *not* a sorcerer.
Although, there are many who would claim so, those of my Order are not
sorcerers. I am but a man as any other." A thought came quickly to mind as he
looked down at her hand in his. "Right now, I'm a man who would very much like
to finally get to know more about his wife.
"Perhaps we should make ourselves more comfortable," he gestured
to the padded
chairs set by the fireplace.
Turning to be seated, they both took a look around the chamber. All of Flora's
furnishings, except her own bed, had been moved into the room. His chamber was
now hers as well.
Still sensing Flora's unease, he slowly walked over to the window and opened
He breathed in deeply the smell of the sea. The crash of the gentle surf as it
broke upon the cliffs far below sounded as music in his ears.
The night was clear; there were no clouds to obscure his view of the skies.
Smiling gently, he turned to, "Come here and see how beautiful the moon is
tonight, Flora." He held out his hand to her as she slowly came forward, still
wary of this man she was now tied to.
Stepping aside to let her slip in front of him, Talon smelled the rose oil still
lingering on her skin. He stood slightly off to her side so as not to frighten
her any more than she already was.
Flora turned her gaze toward the faint swath of white reaching from horizon
horizon. "I have always marveled at the Milky Way," she said softly. "There
are some nights when it glows so brightly. And the stars themselves; I have
always wondered if there is anything beyond the stars."
Talon carefully put his hands on her shoulders and spoke softly. "There's
whole galaxy out there. The Universe is such a huge place. Anything we can
imagine is out there...somewhere." Slowly, he began massaging the tension out
of her shoulders.
"Do you see the moon?" he asked. Flora nodded feeling the tension
evening's events slowly recede from her. "In the land of my people, a crescent
moon with three stars beside it is considered to be a great omen. It's thought
to of be good fortune to marry under such an occurrence. Such a celestial event
is exceedingly rare, indeed. It's believed that the gods bless lovers who meet
and marry under such a moon."
A wave of warmth slid through her. Flora felt her tension melt away under his
magic touch as she leaned back against him. "I have naught heard tell of any
such a thing, my Lord... But, tis very beautiful."
A slight tremble rippled through her as she felt his lips press against her
temple. "No where near as beautiful as you, my rare, desert flower." A wave
washed over her and through her as a fluttering of butterflies stirred within
her. The flock of butterflies started in her breast, moved into her stomach and
migrated farther south to settle briefly under her skirts. Then they migrated
back north to take refuge in her heart.
Talon Force-felt this sensation washing through her and marveled at it. "Have
you ever been kissed, Flora?" he inquired softly.
Her breath caught in her throat as again, he pressed his warm lips to her hair.
Slowly she answered, "Nay...I know naught of kissing. But, I have heard tell it
could be very pleasing...with the right man."
"Or woman." He turned her around to face him. Flora's aqua-teal eyes were dark
with something she was not fully aware of, even though deep down on a primal
level her body understood. Her heart beat in time with his, so too, did her
breathing matched his.
Flora saw a darkness in his deep brown eyes, but was not afraid of that strange,
new feeling she could not name. Anticipation flooded through her as her eyes
wandered down to his full lips. Lips she thought were very beautiful for a man.
<Sensual,> the thought came to mind. Never before did she understand the
meaning of the word, but now she understood. Deep down, on an unconscious
level, her body began to yearn for something. His voice brought her wandering
mind back to the present.
"Would you permit me to teach you the art of kissing, my Lady-wife?"
she nodded. He smiled and led her to the bed. As they both sat at the foot, he
cupped her chin in his fingers and slowly brought his lips to hers. "There
many different kinds and types of kisses, my rose. Each must be learned well if
you are to enjoy it to its fullest."
With a feather-light touch he brushed his lips over hers. A spark of excitement
burst through them. Through the night, Talon slowly introduced his heart-mate
to the fine art of kissing, making certain she learned well one lesson before
moving on to the next.
As the night slowly gave way to the early dawn, Talon gently stroked Flora's
bare back as she lay draped across his chest. Her head was placed over his
heart as one leg lay nestled over his hips. He marveled how perfectly their
bodies fit together.
He slid her sea-foam hair through his fingers and found it much like the finest
spun silk found anywhere in the Republic. Her skin was as soft as a cloud.
It had been a long night, but it was well worth it. His skittish bride, it
seemed, was a fast learner and found she very much enjoyed his lessons. But,
most importantly, she was starting to feel more comfortable with him. In his
soul a new melody was quietly beginning as he felt his heart stir with her by
his side. He was falling in love with this courageous woman who stood atop the
battlements to help give covering fire to those who had come to aid the Falcon's
He feigned sleep as he felt her gradually waking up from a deep slumber. She
was tired from the recent events of loosing her brother, her home being
threatened by a renegade, and suddenly finding herself married to a man she knew
nothing about. That, he determined, would be remedied within the coming days as
he made certain to know more about this woman Fate had gifted him and his heart
Waking with a jerk, Flora nervously glanced around the chamber. This was her
brother's chamber and before that, it belonged to her parents. Bringing the
bedclothes over her with both hands she looked down at the man asleep beside
her. She found she was well pleased with this man and thanked the Great Spirit
for being so kind to her.
This man, no, she corrected herself, her husband, it seemed, was a kind and
gentle man. He did not force himself upon her as so often happened when a man
found a woman he wished to bed. Indeed, he somehow got everyone, even the King,
to leave before the bedding ceremony could truly start. The thought of that
humiliation shook her to the very core.
She drifted her eyes over him, inspecting him, studying him. Her gaze traced
his face. The straight nose and high brow indicated a great intelligence. The
strong chin spoke of noble blood. The dimples that hid until he smiled took her
breath away. But, then, so too did his kisses. His muscles, well defined,
showed great strength. The memory of his arms around her as he laid her across
the bed reminded her of the gentleness he was capable of. She pushed aside a
lock of dark brown hair that had fallen across his forehead. She smiled. She
found him pleasing.
She realized she knew nothing more than his name. She resolved to remedy that
over the next few days as she helped him come to know the people of Falcon's
Nest by the Sea. She knew he would be a good Lord over her people and the Nest.
As a yawn escaped her, her husband stirred. "Good morn, my Lord-husband."
Stretching, he looked at her under half-closed lids and smiled, giving her
glance of the dimples she liked. "Good morning. I hope you slept well?" he
asked rising into a sitting position and pulling the covers closer around him.
A blush brought out the roses in her cheeks. "Aye, my Lord, I did."
"Good," he clasped her fingers and brought her hand up to place a
kiss on the
inside of her wrist. Her breath snagged in her throat as his tongue swept
across the pulse point hidden there. "I apologize for keeping you up so late
and depriving you of sleep, my wife."
"Nay. 'Twas not all thy doing this night past, my Lord. I had much to
from thee." She lowered her head to study the silk sheet wrapped around them as
her blush deepened. "I hope thou find'st I learnt thy lessons well, my
husband," she said in a small voice. A part of her was afraid he was not
pleased with her and would cast her aside to find another to warm his bed at
"Yes, you did please me." He lifted her chin and looked into her
don't see how you could ever not. Fate has decreed that you be my chosen wife.
I will never allow anyone or anything to harm you... I swear as a Jedi Knight.
Please believe me."
She looked deep into his eyes and into herself before answering. "I do
thee, my Lord. I do." In her heart, she found she did. Her hand stroked the
side of his face as she promised, "And I make the same promise to thee. I will
never allow anyone or anything to harm thee."
With a kiss, they sealed the promise their hearts made to each other.
"Is there aught I may get thee, or do for thee, my Lord?" she asked
"There is one thing..."
"You can start calling me by my name," he suggested. "After last night, I think
it's safe to say we can be on a first name basis with each other."
She slowly nodded an agreement as a blush crept up her cheeks, "Ah...aye,
would think thou are correct, husba -- Talon."
"That's better -- Flora." He embraced her and fell back against the pillows for
some more quiet time together.
After a while, a rowdy clamor echoed through the Keep. As the ruckus came
closer, Talon frowned and sat up. A curse in an unfamiliar tongue escaped his
lips. <I should have sensed them long before now!>
"What is wrong?"
"Sounds like the wedding guests don't know when to leave well enough alone."
"Oh no. Oh no!" Flora cried.
She began to panic. "They come for the sheet! They come for the bloodied sheet
to prove that we are now truly husband and wife! There is no blood!"
Reaching out to calm her, Talon tried to reassure her. "We still have
time before they start knocking, Flora. All will be well." A look of panic and
pain glowed in her eyes. "Trust me, Flora. If it's blood they wish to
then that's what they will see. Now get up and cover yourself, quickly!"
Before Flora could jump for her dressing robe, Talon had his dagger in hand.
Tying the sash about her, she questioned him with her eyes. "Did I not vow to
'protect my family and heirs' with this dagger?" With a quick stroke, he cut
deeply into his arm and allowed his blood to drip onto the white, silk sheet
that had been blessed to grant them many children.
With a small squeal, Flora grabbed a small cloth and rushed to his side to
stanch the bleeding. As she grabbed his arm, she watched in amazement as the
gash closed and healed itself.
"Don't be concerned about such a small cut, Flora. It'll take *a lot* more than
this to cause me worry," he smiled at her from under hooded lids. "I
fast," he shrugged.
After smudging the bloodstain with his fingers, Talon cleaned off his fingers
with the cloth and thanked her for it. Flora had the presence of mind to stuff
the cloth into a trunk, out of sight.
"GOOD MORROW TO YE INSIDE!" A fierce pounding on the door rattled
the iron bar
that kept the intruders at bay. Sir Branyon shouted as loudly as he could to
make certain the newlyweds were awake for their assault. "Open up! I have come
to see how my cousin fares, Lord Falcon! Hand over the sheet so that all of the
Nest may witness this marriage is true!" Again the heavy pounding rattled
Taking a few deep breaths to center himself, Talon replied, "If we surrender the
sheet will you leave us in peace?"
"Aye, we will leave you lovebirds in peace to create an heir for the Nest,"
King's voice sounded over the din.
Talon ripped the silk sheet off the bed and wadded it up. With a reassuring
glance to his Lady-wife, he unbarred the door and tossed the bundle out, not
caring in whose face it hit. Moving faster than anyone to follow, he threw the
bar back into place. All this took less than the time to blink. "You have what
you came for, now go away!" Noticing Flora's disheveled appearance he
back to the heavy wooden door. "And send up some food and drink."
Turning away from the intruders, Talon embraced his wife and tried to shield her
ears from the comments outside. The men in the hallway began again with the
lewd remarks as their voices faded away. Sir Paul's voice was loudest and
raunchiest of all.
"I'm sorry you had to hear all that, my Rose. Perhaps something to eat will put
us both in a better mood."
A short time later, a timid knock at the door brought them back to reality
they enjoyed the feel of their embrace. Moving to the door, Talon secured his
brown robe about him. Quickly and silently, several young pages came in to
place trays loaded with a small feast and a couple of jugs of wine to warm by
the low fire. Flora stood facing the open window as she watched the seabirds
aloft in the distance. As the lads finished, Garret ushered then out the door.
Casting a quick glance at his Lady, he then gave his Lord a quick wink and
cheeky grin as he left. At last the bar was slid into place again and they were
left alone in peace.
"My Lady-wife, Flora, will you do me the honor of joining me for breakfast?"
As they enjoyed their light repast, Talon asked more questions about his role as
Lord of Falcon's Nest. Flora enthusiastically informed him of his new role
protector and guardian. She told him of the monthly court he would sit upon as
judge to hear complaints and squabbles brought before him to settle. She
described the repairs that needed to be made to several buildings. By the end
of breakfast, they had agreed, Flora would not be silent in his stewardship, but
rather an equal partner and would be free to offer her advice in any matter.
Planning a more leisurely tour of the demesne, they dress for an outing. Both
pull on chausses and tuck them into their boots. A long sleeved shirt was
tucked into the chausses. Over this, a short tunic for the men, and a long one,
falling to the knees, for the women. Each tucked their personal dagger into
their belts, and Talon secured his new sword.
Seated before a mirror, Flora began braiding her long mane. She jumped slightly
as she felt another set of hands complete the task for her. She saw a smile
contentment on her husband's face as her white silk flowed easily through his
"Thank you -- Talon. But thou need not act as a Lady's maid, 'tis not a job for
the Lord of the Keep."
"I don't mind. Besides, I enjoy it. Would you deny your husband's happiness by
depriving him of such a simple task?" An exaggerated frown told her he
teasing her, and despite herself, she found herself chuckling.
@}--- @}--- @}---
+ ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ +
As Talon and Flora spent a long, leisurely tour of the land, they discovered
they shared many likes and dislikes, and held similar thoughts on various
subjects. They asked many questions and learned more about each other as the
Returning to the stables before nightfall, Talon noticed Garret was there ready
to take care of his horse, as a squire should, even though he was still only a
page. Talon could feel the hope the lad harbored within him.
At Lady Falcon's orders, another page ran into the Keep to see that a bath
prepared for them before dinner. Wishing to slip past the Great Hall and its
rowdy inhabitants, Flora led the way up to their chambers by the servant's
As they got closer to the master's chambers, Talon felt a great unease build
Her thoughts centered again on the bedding ceremony. She was afraid that
somehow, someone had discovered the truth -- that she was yet a virgin. Lands
and titles were lost over such deceptions and she feared for the worst. She was
afraid their marriage would be called null and void, and she would be given over
to some other knight. The thought of being given over to one such as Sir Paul
of Shelton sent a chill down her spine. Never could she tolerate the man. Even
as youngsters growing up on neighboring demesnes, Flora never felt comfortable
around him. He looked and reminded her of a greasy weasel that could never be
"Are you all right, Flora?"
"Aye, 'tis just a chill, my Lord-husband."
Since they still didn't know each other yet, Talon decided to let the matter
A large copper tub awaited them as they entered their chamber. Steam rose from
the water, inviting them in for a long soak. As much as she enjoyed bathing,
suddenly, Flora was very shy about it.
Sensing this, and his own sudden physical unease, Talon made the decision to
meditate. "Why don't you bathe first, Flora. I need to mediate for a while, so
take your time." He left the window open, but built up the fire to chase
the chill. He dropped down in front of the window and settled into a meditative
trance as Flora quickly slipped into the steamy waters.
As Flora settled down into the steamy water, she watched her husband settle down
facing the window. He sat on the rug with his ankles crossed and his back
straight as an arrow. His hands rested on his knees and his breathing slowed to
sleep-like rhythm. His facial muscles eased and he suddenly looked like a young
squire. A small grin graced his full lips and Flora's body tingled with
pleasure as she recalled the first "lesson" this man gave her last night. A
liquid warmth gelled in her stomach, and lower as she raised a hand to lightly
touch her lips. He had promised her more lessons, 'Whenever you feel you need
to practice more,' he teased. Suddenly, she shook herself and quickly continued
her bath. She did not want to stay too long, leaving the water cold for her
Talon spent this time contemplating the interconnection of the Force with life
here in this ordinary world. He knew the Council would relish the idea of
studying this planet.
For a moment a sharp pain sliced through his heart as he thought of the world he
grew up in. <Will I ever see the Temple again? Will I ever return to my
homeworld to show off my bride to my clan?> he asked himself. He sent his query
into the Force to see what the answer would be. A confused answer came back
him. 'Yes,' the Force told him, only not in the way he expected.
Seeking a clarification, he slipped further into his meditation, but the answers
he sought were blocked from his view. 'Come to you, the answers will, in their
own time,' Master Yoda would say in a situation like this.
The sound of water falling into the tub brought Talon out of his meditation. He
waited until he knew Flora was hidden from his view, wrapped within the safety
of her dressing gown. He felt his body harden at the memory of her soft form
melting in his arms as he taught her some of what he knew about the fine art of
kissing. He promised her more "lessons," and, clearly, his body was looking
forward to it. There was much more to teach her about the pleasures of the
human body, but he knew it was best to go slowly, at her pace. He was looking
forward to releasing her passions. He smiled at the thought that *he* would be
the one to teach her; that no other man would ever touch her as he would, nor
taste her as he would -- no man but he alone. With a start, he realized what
this intense emotion was. His soul had immediately recognized his heart-mate.
He realized he was already in love with this woman.
As he accepted the truth, a fire swept through his blood. A soft melody began to
whisper to him, but he could not yet make it out.
"Talon?" A soft hand on his shoulder brought his focus back into
chamber. "I have left you some warm water. I shall lay your clothes by the
fire to warm as you bathe."
"Thank you, Flora. I guess it would be best if I hurry. We wouldn't want
keep the King waiting again, would we?" He got up and secured the window
against the chill of the night.
"Nay. Seeing as how we eluded him and our other guests all day, 'twould
a good idea."
Flora laid out his clothing and dressing gown by the fire. Sitting behind him
near the fire, she unwrapped her hair and began the long task of drying her
waist-length mane. After a while she sat back and enjoyed the view of the
muscles playing in her husband's back as he scrubbed away the dust of the day.
His bath was over all too quickly, she determined as he reached for a drying
cloth. She had laid it a little too far for his reach, yet it seemed to jump to
his fingers. She was taken aback by this and completely missed him rising from
the tub. When she found her presence of mind again, he was walking to her,
securing his dressing gown about him.
With her favorite jeweled comb in his hand, he settled on his knees behind
and began slowly combing out her long hair.
A soft knock at the door caused Flora to jump. "My Lady, shall I assist thee in
dressing for dinner?" Janet, her maid, asked from the hall.
"Tell her there'll be no need. All is taken care of," Talon stated.
looked at him with a question in her eyes. "I shall take care of you from now
on, my Lady-wife. It's my duty, and my pleasure to assist you in all things."
He lightly brushed his lips over hers.
"My Lady?" Another soft rap on the door called Flora's attention.
"Nay, Janet. 'Twill not be needed. Go down and enjoy yourself this eventide."
Hesitantly, the young maid replied, "Aye, my Lady."
"My Lord, I can not simply dismiss Janet. She has been my maid for five
"Perhaps there is someone willing to take her on?"
Flora thought for a moment as a sparkle lit her aqua-teal eyes. "Well,
seen the King casting a glance or twain her way. Mayhap she could join the
King's court. I am sure His Majesty could persuade the Queen to accept her into
the court in some capacity. 'Twould be the chance of a lifetime to enter into
service of the Royal court. Naturally, I shall give her the best letter of
recommendation I can. I am of a mind the King will accept."
"Then consider it done. We will, of course, give her a generous payment for her
years of faithful service."
"I shall speak to the King tonight," Flora nodded.
"Good. Now that that's settled and I officially become a Lady's maid let
finish your hair so we can go for dinner."
As Talon enjoyed the feel of white silk flowing through his fingers, Flora tried
to concentrate on the letter she wrote for Janet. The touch of his fingers
massaging her scalp made it difficult, but she finally was able to attach her
symbol to her signature and seal the letter. Digging out a small purse she set
it aside to gift Janet on the morrow. Talon came up beside her and doubled the
gift with another purse. Flora was shocked at his generosity.
Helping each other dress took longer than usual, mainly because each took their
time dressing. A new emotion was building between them.
"If you wouldst braid my hair, I could pin it up and we can go to the
"No," Talon ran her mane through his fingers. "I prefer your hair down so I can
admire its beauty."
"But, my Lord," she protested. "Only maidens wear it loose."
"Then perhaps together we'll start a new fashion trend. Let's start something
new," he grinned.
All thoughts to protest farther flew from her mind as he bent forward to kiss
her. "Aye, something new..."
They compromised as she pulled back a slender braid from either temple.
Quickly, Talon ran a ribbon through both braids to join them together as one
plait down her back.
She caught her breath and gave her Lord-husband a last inspection before they
went down. She was determined to make sure the newest Lord Falcon looked his
best at his first appearance before the King.
Upon entering the Great Hall, they were greeted with cheers and catcalls. The
feast in their honor, it seemed, had started without them as the mead and ale
was brought out early.
The crowd parted for them as they made their way through the gauntlet to the
high table. With one of Talon's arm protectively around Flora, they smiled and
greeted the revelers.
As they reached the far end of the hall, all the color suddenly drained from
Flora's face and her knees nearly buckled. Her gaze was pinned on a sheet of
white silk secured like a banner over the high table. In the center was a red
smear. The sheet hung as a silent witness to the bedding ceremony. Only with
Talon's quiet words of encouragement and his support did she manage to take her
seat. The public humiliation colored her cheeks as white as the silk above her.
Talon sought to keep his emotions under control. Never since he was a young
padawan did he have such difficulty keeping his temper in check. <Anger leads
to the Darkside. Anger leads to the Darkside. Anger lead to the Darkside.
This is a primitive world with primitive customs. I will not get angry,> he
told himself over and over, until he could feel his darker emotions fall away.
Turning his attention to his wife he sent a wave of reassurance and comfort to
her. Grasping her cold hand, he leaned over to her and whispered, "This will be
the last night we must endure this, my Rose. I love you and will always be
there for you. Please, just try to endure this for a few hours more, then it
will be over. I promise."
"Ah, there he is," Paul shouted from below. "Whispering sweet
nothings into her
ear!" The room erupted into laughter as the King signaled for the feast to
As the first course was being served, the King stood up and raised his goblet.
"A toast! To the new Lord and Lady Falcon!" Turning towards to blood stained
banner, he saluted it, "May they fill the Nest with many Hatchlings -- I mean
Throughout the dinner, Talon and Flora suffered many lewd remarks. They barely
touched their food as course after course was brought out, then taken away
Near the end of the feast, Flora was able to catch the King's ear and convince
him to accept Janet into his Royal service. After talking with her between
courses, the young maid was eagerly looking forward to starting a new life.
With a little encouragement from Talon, the King finally stood to take his
leave, announcing his intention to leave at first light. Once more tuning out
the raunchy jokes, Talon gathered his wife into his arms and all but ran to
their chambers and threw the bar.
Before he could catch his breath, Flora reopened the door to call Janet.
Receiving the letter of recommendation, Janet thanked her Lady and promised to
make her proud. The two purses presented her brought tears to the young woman's
eyes as she lost all propriety and hugged tightly both Falcons. The lady's maid
had never before held so much money in her hands that was her own. She was
speechless as she left to pack for her journey into a new life.
Dropping the bar into place once more Talon turned to look at his wife. "Are we
*finally* alone, now?"
"Aye! Thank the Great Spirit! I honestly do not think I can go through another
night like that."
Talon gathered her into his embrace and inhaled the fragrance that was in the
soap she used. "You won't have to. Never again, Flora. That was for their
amusement. From this moment on, we live for our pleasure, and for us." He
captured her soft, berry-red lips with a gentle kiss as his hands stroked her
back. Breaking the kiss, he noticed she was still pale as a snowflower. "I
noticed you could barely ate a bite tonight. If you're hungry, perhaps we could
have some leftovers sent up."
"Nay, that is not needed. As I could not eat then, I do not think I could
now." She stepped closer to the large bed and placed a hand on the closest
post. Turning slightly to look over her shoulder, her eyes became a darker
shade of the sea.
Talon noticed the rosy blush once more gracing her cheeks. He felt his body
respond to her call as she playfully lowered her head to peer up at him through
her lowered lashes.
Hesitantly, she spoke. "My Lord-husband...'twould seem I am a poor student.
feel I have not fully mastered everything you tried to teach me yestereven..."
He played along, allowing her to set the pace. "Hmmm," he stroked his chin in a
thoughtful manner. "Perhaps you need a refresher course. Yes, that's what
we'll do." He shook his head in a serious manner as he stepped before her. "We
must review everything we have gone over until we both feel you have learned
well enough to move on to new material."
"You mean there is more?" she asked breathlessly.
"Oh, yes," he placed several butterfly kisses across her brow. "Much...much
He reviewed with her the soft, butterfly kiss as he slowly began to undress
Falling back unto the mattress his hands skimmed over her every curve,
reinforcing their imprint onto his mind.
As her arms wrapped around him he could hear clearly for the first time the
melody in his soul that told him what his heart knew from the moment they met.
Maybe it's intuition.
Some things you just don't question.
He glided his fingers slowly across her satin skin. A path of light kisses
followed this heated trail.
Like in your eyes
I see my future in an instant.
And there it goes,
I think I've found my best friend.
Instinctively, he knew just how to touch her and where to kiss her to drive
I know that it might sound more than
A little crazy, but I believe.
In his very soul, he felt he had known her for a lifetime; since before she
I knew I loved you before I met you.
I think I dreamed you into life.
I knew I loved you before I met you.
I have been waiting all my life.
In his chest, he felt his heart acknowledge it's other half. He felt content,
There's just no rhyme or reason,
Only a sense of completion.
And in your eyes
I see the missing pieces
I'm searching for.
I think I found my way home.
I know that it might sound more than
A little crazy, but I believe.
Silently, he thanked the gods for granting him the greatest of their gifts. The
gift of that special kind of magic seldom seen, and yet highly wished and always
prayed for. It's the rarest gift of all from the gods. It's the gift of more
than a life-mate, more than a soul-mate. It's the gift of a heart-mate.
I knew I loved you before I met you.
I think I dreamed you into life.
I knew I loved you before I met you.
I have been waiting all my life.
He could not believe the gods would find him worthy of this gift.
A thousand angels dance around you.
I am complete now that I found you.
I knew I loved you before I met you.
I think I dreamed you into life.
A single tear of joy slipped down his cheek; a silent acknowledgment of thanks
for the gift of a rare desert rose.
I knew I loved you before I met you.
I have been waiting all my life...
That night, Talon unleashed Flora's passion. His heart soared as her cries
rapture joined with his.
That night they gave their hearts and souls into the each other's care. The
next morning, the white sheet beneath them would be stained with her virgin
blood and burned in the fireplace before anyone was the wiser.
@}--- @}--- @}---
+ ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ +
Using his knack for design and engineering, Talon offered a great advance to his
people. With the village mill in such a state of disrepair, he designed a true
marvel for them.
He shared many a hard day of back-breaking work to tear down the old mill and
reconstruct, stone by stone, the windmill he designed to take full advantage of
the seabreeze coming off the ocean.
One day, a near tragedy occurred that gave him the reputation of a foreign
sorcerer. As one heavy block was being coaxed into place, one of the ropes in
the block and pulley broke. The huge stone shifted from its place as it was
being set into the wall and knocked several other blocks out of place as it
fell. Several workers would have been crushed had he not used the Force.
Despite the attention the crowd had given to the near tragedy, there were a few
who had seen their new Lord wave his hand toward the men as they leapt to
safety. Several men later swore they felt as if a hand had pushed them.
Not wishing to upset the balance of their lives, Talon continued to covertly use
the Force to make the work go a little easier for everyone. Indeed, many times
the workers, consisting of commoners and the knights of Falcon's Nest, felt
having their new Lord beside them made the long, hard day pass faster and with
more to show for it at the end of the day.
When the new mill was dedicated, it stood tall and proud, facing the sea.
Through the Force, the old mill horse thanked Talon for making the twilight of
his life easier. Now the aged gelding was put out to pasture where he could
spend his time in the fields leisurely enjoying the company of other horses.
@}--- @}--- @}---
While the new Lord of Falcon's Nest worked on the new mill, the farmers banded
to together to plant the crops the demesne would need to survive the next
winter. The siege by the Ghost Knight's men had put the winter harvest in
jeopardy by delaying the spring planting. Even if the crops were planted now,
there was no guarantee they would ripen for harvest before the bite of the
winter storms came to devour them.
Entire families from one part of the demesne came to aid their neighbors in
another part. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters worked well after dark,
often by the light cast by torches held by the youngest children. Many choose
to sleep in the fields so they could begin anew as the first rays of the sun
kissed the horizon.
The people of the Nest worked together for several weeks. Moving from field
field, from crop to crop, at last, the spring planting was complete. Each
family struggled to put one foot in front of the other on their journey home.
Even the sturdy plow horses and oxen dragged their weary feet.
The Nest held its breath as the gentle spring rains came to bless the fields.
Would it be enough? Would the seeds sprout in time this year? Or would they be
too late? Would there be enough foodstuffs to survive the next winter? Would
Falcon's Nest know hunger for the first time in many generations?
Knowing the people would take their cue from him, Talon kept a positive attitude
and assured everyone the crops would, indeed, burst forth on time to guarantee a
bountiful harvest in the fall. He even went so far as to predict the very day
the seeds would break though the soil. Of course, being a Jedi, all he had to
do was listen to nature. He knew, beyond a doubt, that the crops would sprout
Early one morning, a messenger from one of the farmsteads came riding through
the gate with word. Overnight, the seeds had broken through the soil. A cheer
and a great sigh of relief echoed through the Keep.
Riding out with the messenger, Talon surveyed the fields. Indeed, a carpet
fresh green could be seen blanketing the fields. Spirits soared as word came
from across the demesne -- all the crops had sprouted. Falcon's Nest by the Sea
would not feel the bite of hunger.
Together, the people of the Nest called for a celebration to give thanks to
Great Spirit. Many realized their new Lord had correctly predicted the day on
which the crops would sprout and asked the Creator of All to bless him.
His accurate prediction stood to further reinforce the silent reputation Talon
had garnered for being a sorcerer. None, but a few, seemed to care that he may
indeed be such.
Two nights later, everyone celebrated. From across the demesne, farmers and
ranchers and fishermen came to give thanks alongside the knights of the Nest.
In the fields and orchards near the village, families set up tables and invited
their friends and neighbors to share with them.
This night, they would do more than just give thanks, they would celebrate
new life of Spring as well. The sounds of homemade flutes and fiddles floated
through the festivities as the moon rose high.
Following custom, the Lord and Lady of the demesne made the first of the Spring
Offerings. Talon and Flora held a garland made from the first green shoots of
spring betwixt them as they received a blessing from Friar Givens.
Walking around the edge of the clearing, they held aloft the blessed garland for
all to see; so that all would know the Great Spirit, had once again, blessed
them, the people, and the land.
As they completed the circuit, the bonfire was lit. Once it was fully aflame,
the Falcons tossed their offering into the fire. A tremendous cheer carried
through out the gathering as the people gave thanks to their god.
As the celebration continued, Talon felt at ease. In the air, he could feel the
joy and vitality these people felt.
< 'These people,' > he thought to himself as he watched the young children
and play through the crowd. <No. These are *my* people now.>
Flora saw the smile grow on his face to reveal the dimples that always took
breath away. Putting her arms around her husband, she drew him nearer to
whisper into his ear, "What makes you grin so, Talon?"
He turned his dark eyes to gaze onto hers. "I am pleased to see them so happy.
After all that back-breaking work and all those long hours to plant the crops,
they still find cause to celebrate."
Flora drew her head closer and kissed his jaw near his ear. A quick intake
breath confirmed she had, indeed, found a sensitive spot. "We love life. You
will find that we excel in finding reasons to celebrate." She continued to
tease him by placing small kisses up and down his jawline. In the midst of the
celebration, they slowly made their way deeper into the orchard.
Along the way, they teased each other like the young lovers they were. A kiss
and a quick retreat behind a tree was followed time and again by a quick tag to
pull at each other's laces.
When in the springtime of the year
When the trees are crowned with leaves.
When the ash and oak, and the birch and yew
Are dressed in ribbons fair.
The colorful pennants used to celebrate the wedding were now draped from tree to
tree, waving to everyone from their place amongst the new leaves of the orchard.
When owls call the breathless moon
In the blue veil of the night
The shadows of the trees appear
Amidst the lantern light.
Lanterns placed within the boughs of trees twinkled like stars captured within
their lofty embrace.
We've been rambling all the night
And some time of this day.
Now returning back again
We bring a garland gay.
One by one, families from across the demesne came forward to follow the example
of their Lord and Lady. One bye one, the youngest of the families would
approach the blaze with a garland. The new shoots, carefully woven, were a
promise of a bountiful year to come.
The glow from the lanterns dimmed as the Lord and Lady of the Nest retreated.
Who will go down to those shady groves
And summon the shadows there.
Shadows of lovers escaping the festivities in search of their own celebration
danced among the trees.
And tie a ribbon on those sheltering arms
In the springtime of the year.
The songs of birds seem to fill the wood
That when the fiddler plays
All their voices can be heard
Long past their woodland days.
A lone fiddler began to play as Flora and Talon continued to tease each other
farther and farther into the orchard.
We've been rambling all the night
And some time of this day.
Now returning back again
We bring a garland gay.
Around the bonfire the people of the Nest danced. Their voices rose in song
accompany the lone fiddler as lutes, tambourines, drums and flutes joined him.
And so they linked their hands and danced
Round in circles and in rows.
And so the journey of the night descends
When all the shades are gone.
A garland gay we bring you here
And at your door we stand.
It is a sprout well budded out
The work of Our Lord's hand.
A sweet scent filled the air as the garlands of the Spring Offering continued to
burn as a thanks-offering to their god.
Set within the new leaves of the orchard's tree's night blossoms caught the glow
from the full moon and reflected the gentle light onto the lovers below.
We've been rambling all the night
And some time of this day.
Now returning back again
We bring a garland gay...
The people of Falcon's Nest by the Sea continued with the celebration well
the night as their Lord and Lady celebrated in their own way.
As his Lady slipped his grasp yet again, Talon reached upward to give the boughs
a gentle Force-shake. A cascade of white blossoms showered Flora as their
delicate fragrance filled the air betwixt them.
Within their private shelter of the orchard, the Lord and Lady of Falcon's
by the Sea celebrated life in their own manner.
Flora saw the starlight reflecting brightly in Talon's eyes. The bronze
highlights glowed faintly as the moon cast its pale golden light upon his dark
hair. She slipped her fingers through his hair. Already, it was noticeably
longer. She rubbed his nape as he bent his head to meet her lips.
As he broke the kiss, he felt a burning sensation on his chest. He looked down
to realize she had eased a hand beneath his shirt. He growled lightly as she
locked her gaze with his. In answer to her silent request, he allowed her to
pull his shirt and tunic over his head.
Talon stood perfectly still as Flora's fingertips traced over his chest. In the
night, she committed to memory what every light and shadow of his body looked
like in the glow of the moonlight.
The night air became chilled as they moved farther away from the bonfire, but
the heat in their eyes only made their blood hotter.
In the background the fiddler still played, but together, they made their own
@}--- @}--- @}---
As days became weeks, and weeks became months, Talon found himself more and more
a part of these people's lives. He accepted the strange fact that he could
sense some people, but not others through the Force. More and more, he found
his life woven into the tapestry of this ordinary world.
Talon discovered the land was very fertile and with proper care and
understanding would continue to be coveted by their neighbors and seen as a
sparkling example of land in its prime. Falcon's Nest by the Sea had ever been
highly regarded for its rich lands and abundant crops, and with his experience
would continue to be so.
Sir Talon proved himself to be a wise judge and negotiator in the monthly court
he presided over to handle any disputes betwixt neighbors that could not be
settled amongst themselves. The people had long ago taken Lady Flora deep into
their hearts. The same now could be said for their new Lord. In each small
settlement they visited, he knew every person by name. At each birth or
wedding, the Lord and his Lady would share in the joy and celebration.
The people of Falcon's Nest by the Sea were pleased to have this new Lord prove
to be much like their previous one, and his father before him. Sir Talon was
proving himself to be a man of his word, and a Lord who was not above getting
his hands dirty with common work. He asked nothing of his people and his
knights that he was not the first to do himself.
Joining his knights everyday for practice, he also watched them with a critical
eye, making a few friendly suggestions and even taking on several at a time in
mock battle. Flora's heart swelled with more than pride as she watched her
husband take on his challengers and each time emerge the victor.
After speaking at length with Sir Gates, a few changes were made in the training
of the initiates and padawans, or as they were called here, pages and squires.
They, too, came to see a benefit in their physical training in preparation for
the day they would set foot upon the field of battle.
The day of his thirteenth birthday, Garret found himself being summoned to stand
before his new lord at supper. Then according to local custom, Talon took the
lad under his wing as his personal squire. At last, Jedi Knight Talon Savon had
taken on a Padawan. He chuckled to himself, <I wonder what my Master would
think. I hope he would be pleased... I hope I can do a good job of this.>
Every morning before even the kitchen workers arrived to begin their duties, and
every evening before supper, Talon would work with his young padawan/squire.
Time was spent teaching the lad to meditate; as always, that proved to be the
most difficult task of all for a boy on the verge of manhood. During the day,
Talon also helped Sir Gates revamp his training routine. Under Talon's
guidance, lessons in balance and tumbling were incorporated. The younger
students took an almost immediate liking to this part of the new training.
Many of the knights stood on the sidelines and laughed and made fun of the
training. Sir Paul and his cronies were the most vocal in issuing catcalls, and
generally heckling the lads until one would lose his concentration and fall.
A quick lesson with the whole of the garrison and most of the village watching
settled things once and for all. Throwing down a gauntlet before Paul, Talon
told him to meet him at the quarry from whence the Nest got its building
material. The uneven surfaces and many levels were reminiscent of the many
training rooms in the Jedi Temple.
Sir Paul clambered down into one of the lowest levels of the quarry. Waiting
for him was his Liege Lord, wearing his customary tan tunic and brown chausses.
Over this was the light metal armor one would normally wear in battle.
Holding out a strip of cloth, and instructing Paul to blindfold him well, Talon
told him the reason for this demonstration. "I have called ye here to this
friendly challenge, to demonstrate how useful the changes in training could be
to ye one day. 'Tis not enough to merely be able to swing a sword at thine
opponent, 'tis as useful to be able to get out of the way in time should the
need ever arise. 'Tis not enough to know thine opponent, but as well, ye should
be aware of thy surroundings and learn to take full advantage of it should there
be the need. Thou may commence when ready, S--."
Before Talon finished his last sentence, Paul took his cue and began to press
his liege. Each blow echoed through the quarry as their blades met. More often
than not, Paul's sword would bounce off the stone, its echo became a bitter
reminder that this stranger arrived and was bestowed with a noble rank higher
than his own. Each time he swung, Talon would fly over his head in a leap the
pages and young squires were beginning to learn.
The crowd gathered cheered as they came to realize the benefits of the new
training. With each cheer, Paul's hatred grew.
The match ended when Sir Paul lost his balance. As he flapped his arms in a
vain effort to stay on his feet, his sword flew from his grasp. A steely
clatter echoed off the stone walls as he fell headfirst into a deep pool of
water gathered at the lowest level of the quarry. Sputtering, he forced himself
out of the water on his own. Picking up his sword he did the last thing he
could do to save face after being so soundly defeated by a blind man -- he
stiffly bowed to his Liege.
As Paul scrambled up past him, Talon could feel the waves of black fury roiling
beneath the surface. He knew, without a doubt, he had made an enemy within his
@}--- @}--- @}---
Two days later, the Ghost Knight struck, yet again, close to home. The attack
came in the dark of night. 'Twas well after midnight when the rider came to the
gate. A young man, barely more than a boy, slumped over his mount's back.
Covered with soot and mud, and caked with his own blood, he all but fell off as
soon as he passed through.
The lad spoke clearly, but with a visible effort to stay awake long enough
deliver his plea. His small settlement at the far end of the demesne had been
attacked. Rustlers were driving off their livestock as their accomplices set
fire to the fields. As the villagers battled the flames to save their
livelihood, they found their homes, and those they left behind under attack.
Several homes were burned to the ground and many lives were lost. The lad, Josh
by name, had left as soon as he saw what was happening. His sturdy plow horse
made a fast gallop at the lad's capable hands.
Under the Sir Branyon's orders, the knights of Falcon's Nest quickly donned
their light armor and strapped on their weapons. Meanwhile, Garret rushed to
help his Lord likewise prepare.
Sensing a disturbance through the Force, Talon was in the yard before Garret
could turn around. Confident in his abilities, he decided to forsake his own
armor and leapt onto the bare back of his destrier. Grabbing the reins, he
circled his mount around and shouted over his shoulder for his men to meet him
When Talon finally had the settlement in sight, he reached out into the Force to
learn what he could of the situation. What he found was disconcerting. The hay
fields grown in this part of the demesne were still burning.
Turning his focus toward the village, he sensed masked riders atop ash-grey
horses harassing a small collection of stone cottages. Their clothing had also
been covered by ash to give the illusion of a ghost. The youngest children were
huddled together, crying and screaming as they witnessed the rape of their
mothers and older sisters.
A crash of thunder and a flash of lightening over the sea heralded the on-set of
An unfamiliar rage built up swiftly within Talon's chest. It threatened to
overwhelm him as he kicked his horse into a run. Somewhere in the back of his
mind, Talon could hear Master Yoda's voice, "To the Darkside, Anger is a path."
For the first time in his life, Jedi Knight Talon Savon let go of his many years
of training and gave into the rage. His only clear thought was to protect *his*
people from these animals in human guise.
Later, word would spread of this night -- of how Sir Talon swooped down upon the
reivers like the bird of prey that was the Falcon. Of how he brought with him
the rage and fury of a seastorm that aided in putting out the fires and washing
away the soot and blood.
After his men rejoined him, he learned that he had single-handedly killed seven
of the attackers in the village. Some of his men were able to capture a couple
of reivers, but could learn nothing from them; their tongues had been cut out --
the punishment for the most serious crimes. These men were escaped felons who
would be returned to the King's prisons for further punishment. Talon knew he
was sending them to their death, but felt nothing for them -- not the least bit
of pity nor mercy for them.
At midday, as the storm ended, the Lord of the Falcon's Nest, his knights and
local hunters had to finally give up hope of tracking the outlaws. The fury of
the storm had worked both for and against them. It helped put out the fires,
but also washed away any trail they could have followed. They lost any markings
the reivers left behind at the entrance to the forest. None of the livestock
had been retrieved, and all the milk cows had been slaughtered.
As the men returned to the settlement a welcome site greeted them. Flora, as
Mistress of the Nest, had organized a caravan of wagons to help the survivors.
Nestled within mounds of hay were steaming cauldrons of hearty stew and fresh
bread to be handed out. From another wagon, warm blankets and dry clothing were
passed out as needed. Several larger wagons were being relieved of building
supplies as they passed by dwellings that had been destroyed. Already several
men and boys were working together to help rebuild. The local healer was busy
doing what she could to help the victims of the night's violence. Indeed,
within some of the victims, Talon could already sense a new life.
Looking at the damage inflicted upon his people, Talon felt the dark rage again
creep up to feed upon his guilt. He felt guilty that he had not done enough to
protect what and who he was responsible for. He felt guilty that he had given
in to the Darkside as he felt his sword cut down those who had inflicted such
pain on innocents.
To protect those who could not protect themselves, he had given in to the
Darkside. To take the life of anyone, or anything in a fit of rage went against
the Jedi Code he had grown up believing in. Hiding behind a small cottage,
hung his head in guilt and shame. <Am I no longer worthy of being a Jedi?> he
asked himself. <Jedi are the Guardians of Peace and Justice. We protect those
who can not protect themselves. We revere life in all its forms. And what have
I done?... I killed in cold blood. As a Jedi, those men never had a chance
stand against me... Am I no longer worthy of being a Jedi?... Am I?>
A warm, dry blanket settled about his shoulders. Flora knelt in the mud beside
her husband and gently wiped a lock of hair away from his forehead. Sitting
there in the mud with shoulders slumped, he looked like a lost little boy who
knew not what to do. She could almost feel the confusion warring inside his
soul. Wrapping her arms around his shoulders, she drew him nearer to her heart.
"Ease your heart, beloved. Sometimes 'tis necessary to kill so that others may
live. 'Tis sad truth, but a truth just the same in this world... Is it not so
where you come from, Talon?"
"Nay," he replied in a small voice. "The Jedi, my people, work
bloodshed, even as we train to win if we must fight for the good of others."
"Ease thy mind. That is what you have done this day. You had no choice
fight in defense of others who could not fight for themselves. Sometimes the
enemy will give no quarter and so you must fight...and kill. For that is the
way of this world -- those who can not fight for themselves must find someone
who can do it for them or they will surely die. Surely thy people would
understand that you yet stand with them, not against."
Turning his senses inward, Talon felt she had the right of it. The Force of
Light was still strong within him. "You are right, my rose." He put an arm
around her neck and leaned in to capture a long, lazy kiss. A smile spread
across his face as her blush grew.
"Now come, my Lord, enough of that." She stood, tugging on his arms
to get him
to his feet. "There is hot stew and fresh bread awaiting you. We must hurry if
we are to put some in you before 'tis all gone."
A large bowl had been set aside for the Falcon. He picked it up as Flora went
to finish her inventory of supplies that would be needed to make the villagers
comfortable until their homes were rebuilt. A small, dirty face peered at him
from beneath the wagon. Dressed in what were now rags and sporting short hair,
Talon could not decide if this was a boy or a girl; he could only sense the
child's fear and hunger. Hearing someone yell there was no more stew, Talon sat
down next to the wagon and used the Force to ease the child's fear. Soon, 'she'
was settled in his lap wolfing down the hot stew and drinking water from a
chipped, clay mug.
Sir Paul happened by and glared at the sight. "You! What do you think
doing? You get your dirt and filth all over your liege and then to take the
food from his bowl? Away with you, you little dirt-rat! Learn to respect your
betters!" He tried to shoo the frightened girl away, instead she turned to
burrow into the Falcon Lord's chest. Her silent sobs racked her small frame.
In a soft voice, the Falcon Lord comforted the child and gently rocked her
and forth. In the same soft voice he publicly rebuked his knight, "There is no
need to raise your voice Sir Paul. This child has my permission to share what
Paul narrowed his eyes to glare at the child thus making him look even more like
a greasy weasel. He turned on his heel and disappeared.
One of the women from the village came up to her Lord and bowed her head to
Keeping her eyes on the ground she apologized, "I am sorry, my Lord, there is no
food left to offer thee."
Smiling and with a gentle Force-wave of gratitude, he put her at ease. "Your
name is Mildred, is it not?"
"Aye, my Lord. I am aunt to wee Sally here," she answered gesturing to the girl
still in his arms.
"Mildred, 'tis quite all right. I have been trained to go without food or water
for an extended time. Be assured I will not suffer for it. Besides, how could
I, in good conscience, take food from those who need it more than I." Looking
down at a weary Sally, he smiled. "Looks like she will need a warm place to
sleep now that her stomach is full. Where are her parents?"
"She has none, my Lord. Both were taken by illness last year. Now she
with me and my husband and children. She is the daughter I do not have. I have
all boys, but never had a wee lass of my own." Mildred smiled at the bundle
his arms and shook her head, "Try as I might, I just can not seem to keep her
clean. She loves playing with my boys."
Standing up and looking at the cottages Talon asked, "Which one is yours?"
"That one on the far side, my Lord," she pointed to a scorched dwelling
need of repair.
Following Mildred, Talon laid the small child onto a straw mattress and covered
her with a new blanket brought from the Keep. Smoothing the stray locks away,
he said a quick prayer and placed a small kiss on a grimy little cheek.
Returning outside, the Falcon Lord picked up a piece of timber and worked with
the rest of the men to rebuild and repair the destruction caused by the Ghost
Knight and his reivers.
@}--- @}--- @}---
+ ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ + ~ * ~ +
A week later, the Nest was visited by a messenger from the King. It seemed news
of a new invention, the wind-mill, had reached him. The King was requesting Sir
Talon's presence at court to explain and demonstrate a model of this new mill.
Deep in the night before Talon was to leave, he lay replete with his wife's
silken cloud of hair blanketing them. Flora snuggled deeper into his embrace as
the fire burned low. She was still amazed at all the 'lessons' she had so
eagerly learned. For all the negative talk she had heard about the marriage
bed, she was convinced all those sour women could not have possibly been more
wrong. Instead of 'laying back and tolerating it,' as she had heard tell, Flora
discovered that what passed between a man and woman was nothing short of
paradise. Never had she dared dream that her place in her husband's arms could
be so blissful.
Many a morn, she had reluctantly released her husband, only to watch quietly
he sat before the open window to meditate. She understood this act was very
important to him and so tried her best to not disturb him. She always took a
simple enjoyment in just watching him sit motionless. Indeed, she took great
pleasure in watching him help train the young pages and squires, and train with
the knights of the garrison.
She especially found joy in watching his graceful moves, as he sparred with
one in particular, as he ran through his private training in the quarry. On
occasion she would accompany him there by torch light before even the sun was
awake. She did not comprehend how Talon could possibly see where he was leaping
in the dark, yet he never missed his footing.
For a week her bed would be empty and cold without her husband. She wished
the Great Spirit that she could accompany him. Instead, she closed her eyes
tight and said a prayer asking that he be protected on this visit and return
swiftly to her arms.
Above her, Talon echoed her thoughts. "Oh how I wish I could take you
Flora. A week without you will surely be a lesson in patience." He smoothed
her mane away from her forehead and planted a gentle kiss upon her brow.
"I, too, wish to go with you Talon. But, there is still much work to be
There are many acres of wheat that must yet be harvested. And the furthest-most
village must be rebuilt after the attack yestermorn."
The mere thought of the destruction wrought, again by the renegade Ghost Knight
brought harsh feelings to Talon's heart. No amount of meditation could erase
the dark tinge now embedded within his soul. It brought fury to his blood
whenever he heard word of this man's contempt for life and property.
Several times the Ghost had struck, yet each time he slipped away. The Ghost
Knight was but a man; still he remained elusive. Talon found himself wishing he
had the experience and the wisdom of a Jedi Master such as the venerable Master
Yoda to lean upon.
Lessons on the Force taught that some Jedi could routinely decipher mysteries
quickly and with great ease. As strong as he was in the Living Force, Talon was
not one so blessed. Through the Force he could 'feel and read' what the land
and the animals spoke of. Often times he could even listen in and participate
in their conversations.
He knew he could, and would increase the land's potential by listening to it.
Some days he laughed thinking that mayhap he should have been sent to the
AgriCrops, instead of being chosen as a Padawan.
Still, for all his training, Talon could not track down one man. He forced
dark thoughts into a brighter direction as he felt his wife's hand caress his
chest. Picking up her hand he slowly kissed each fingertip with an emotion that
bordered on reverence to this woman the Force had decreed should be his heart-
mate. Countless times in these many months since finding her Talon noticed how
her breathing, her footsteps, and even her heartbeat would fall into synch with
his whenever they came together. Many times they discovered together how their
thoughts followed each other's, and not just in the bedroom either. They were
one being. Should one die, they other would surely go mad with grief and slowly
die of the heartache left by such an emptiness.
Despite the heavy tapestries covering the thick stone walls and the heavy
shutters, an occasional cold draft would skitter through the rooms of the Keep.
Talon felt a slight shiver wash over Flora's shoulder and cradled her closer;
closer to his heart.
Peeping one eye open, Flora's breath caught in her throat at the sight by the
fireplace. Two extra logs were maneuvering themselves onto the dying flames and
the fire seemed to fan itself back to life. Within seconds, the fire was back
to its merrily roaring self.
"Do not be afraid, Flora. Such small tricks are learned by the Jedi at
early age. We are taught and trained to use our powers only to help others,
never to harm." He held his breath as he waited for Flora's response. Would
she accept him, or condemn him as a sorcerer to be reviled?
Leaning up on one elbow, she looked at the fire glowing brightly. Turning to
face the man she married, she looked deep into his eyes. She trusted what her
heart had to say about this man. She accepted him, without reservation for all
that he was, even if she did not fully understand this stranger Fate and her god
had decreed be hers.
Settling back into his embrace she made a soft request, "Tell me about the world
you come from, Talon. I wish to know more about the man I love."
Letting out his breath in a >>whoosh<< he thought about this for
"Where do I begin?"
A light kiss on his lips scrambled his thoughts. "Tell me of the land where you
@}--- @}--- @}---
At Talon's urging, his destrier, Spirit, made the journey back to Falcon's
by the Sea in less time than it took to reach the King's court. Spirit could
feel his master's joy at returning home and so merrily put a little more speed
into his gallop.
Behind him, two of his retainers and Garret struggled to keep up. The meeting
had been a success. He explained the workings of his windmill to the King's
designers and left behind a miniature working model. To hide their ignorance,
many nobles scoffed at the design. A few, wiser men took a keen interest in the
design and spent time examining the model. Those with holdings near the sea
immediately saw the benefit of capturing the wind to do the work for them.
All-in-all, it was a successful campaign. It amused Talon to hear the whispers
behind his back. Some thought him a genius, while others made a hand sign to
ward off evil. Again, it seemed he had garnered a reputation for being a
sorcerer. At first, Talon chuckled at their naiveté; then he reminded himself
that such behavior was not worthy of a Jedi. He should not scoff at them for
Approaching the Keep, Talon reached out to find his wife. He found her unique
signature wandering through the forest. He smiled, knowing exactly where she
was going. Often they would escape their duties to others and hide out for a
few hours in their private sanctuary -- a secluded grove hidden within the
forest near the Keep. 'Twas was the very same grove which gave him shelter the
night before he entered the world of the Falcon's Nest by the Sea.
Turning to his companions, he told them to ride ahead. He would join them all
for dinner later. As he and Spirit stood in the road, watching them disappear
over the hill, Talon felt his blood stir for his desert rose. His heart pounded
with anticipation as he recalled the memory of her white mane swirling about
them as they made love.
Shifting in his saddle to ease the tightness swelling in his chausses, Talon
turned his mount into the forest.
@}--- @}--- @}---
Often times Flora would meet her husband here for a mid-day tryst. She smiled
as she recalled the joy of lying in his arms, listening to the small stream
bubble up in a pool. More than once, after a hard day of either working with
the men on the practice field, or sorting through and managing supplies, they
would meet here in secret. A leisurely dip in the pool to wash away the dust
and grime of the day would leave them both refreshed and invigorated for some
other rigorous activity. Together, they discovered the pleasures of being
outside and enjoying all nature had to offer.
Something niggled inside her brain this day. Ever since waking, Flora had the
odd notion that today Talon would return -- one day early. She instructed the
kitchen staff to make preparations for a small feast tonight. With a curious
look, but without question, they set themselves to the task of preparing several
of their Lord's favorite dishes.
Satisfied that all was in order, Flora escaped into the woods with a picnic
basket and a blanket. Somehow, she just *knew* she would find him there this
day. The thought of his strong arms wrapped around her as they rolled, naked in
the sun within the shelter of *their* grove brought a heated blush to her skin.
A smile crept upon her lips as a shiver of anticipation skipped up her spine.
Songbirds chirped noisily, and a squirrel chattered loudly as more humans
invaded his domain. The pond bubbled its welcome as a small forest creature
quickly rose its head to sniff the air and then bound away into the brush.
Nearby, a twig snapped softly. Knowing her husband liked the way her thick mane
flowed down her back in waves, like the sea, Flora reached behind her to remove
the cap and net that held her locks in place. Her fingers made quick work of
unraveling her braided crown.
Before Flora could turn, a pair of hands yanked her backwards against a hard
chest. One hand clamped tightly across her mouth while another held both her
wrists firmly locked in place across her waist. The stench of a body unwashed
for far too long a time assailed her nostrils. The breath of the harsh voice
rasping in her ear was equally foul.
"Well, well. Look a wot we 'ave 'ere. A tasty 'lil morsel unwappin' 'er
A man dressed in filthy rags stepped before Flora, eyeing her like a hungry
" 'Et's see wot else dis 'ere morsel 'as ta offer a starvin' man." With leaves
and twigs matted into his greasy hair, a second beast licked his chops as he
She was surrounded by three men who looked more beast than human. With sword
and battle axe, they presented a frightening sight. Worse, they each wore a
necklace strung with human ears.
Flora watched in horror as he reached for her with hands black as the dirt
covered his face. She screamed as he touched her breasts, but the sound was
stifled by the hand locking her head into place against the shoulder of the
beast holding her. She tried to squirm away from the hands squeezing her as
though testing the ripeness of a melon.
"Oh...aye," this one grinned. "These melons be ripe. 'Ets see
wot dey look
like, eh, mates?"
Flora screamed again and redoubled her efforts, to no avail. While she and
other women of the Nest could aid in defense of the Keep with bows and arrows,
fighting one-on-one was entirely another matter. She discovered she had not the
strength to effectively fight back. Even pounding all she could onto her
captor's foot did nothing, but make them laugh.
>>Rriiipp<< The sound of her tunic and undershirt being shredded
through the grove. Flora again screamed. Never had she given any thought to
her safety here in this hidden grove -- it was so well hidden even she did not
know about it, even though she and her brother had played many a game of hide-
and-seek in this forest as children.
Now Flora wished her guards would disobey her orders to stay at the entrance
the forest. With the Ghost Knight yet harassing the Nest and without the
Falcon's presence, her cousin had ordered the guards to keep watch over her
during their Lord's absence. Respecting their Lady's wishes for privacy, the
guards kept their distance and allowed her to enter the forest alone. No one
she trusted heard her cries for help.
She gagged when a slimy mouth began sucking hard on her bared breast. Suddenly
the wind was knocked out of her and she saw the sky above her through the
opening in the tree canopy above her.
A new voice reached her ears. "Now, now boys, the master sez 'e wonts
in one piece 'an not be 'armed. 'Ets 'ust do our job so's we kin 'et payed."
"Awww, but you ain't no fun," the first beast said.
The second responded, " 'E never sayed we could no 'ave a wee bit o fun
did 'e? Nay, 'e did not."
As one beast held her ankles in place, again she kicked. He just laughed at her
futile efforts, " 'ay now, dat tickles." With a wicked grin he pinned
ankles together with one huge hand. " 'Wot say I give you a tickle o' me own."
With one hand he reached for the string that held up his dirt encrusted
Biting down as hard as she could, Flora drew blood from the hand that held
her screams. As quickly as the filthy hand was jerked back, she screamed as if
her life depended on it. She was cut short by a hard slap to her cheek.
Above her, the beast glared at her with a malicious spark in his eyes. "Ye
ought not 'ave done dat, me fair bitch!" he hissed. "Now I will 'ave ta 'each
ye a lesson fo dat," He pulled his arm back for another slap.
Flora saw red and felt a hot spray wash over her. A sharp, coppery tang
permeated her sense of smell. A glimpse to the side made her stomach lurch as a
pair of empty eyes stared off into the brush. As a heavy weight fell across her
legs she realized one body was now without a head. The beast who had struck her
had been cut in twain.
The first beast, who still held her down, gurgled in his own blood as a sword
was pulled free from his chest. He lived long enough to witness the Falcon Lord
raise his hand toward the third man and without a word send him crashing
backwards into the trunk of an ancient oak.
@}--- @}--- @}---
At his master's command, Spirit retraced his steps out of the forest and hurried
around to the path leading directly from the Keep into the forest. Pawing the
ground and snorting, he waited.
Shaken by the attack and near rape, Flora found herself wrapped in a brown
The cloth held the familiar scent of her husband. At first, she fought against
being lifted, until her body recognized the feel of the strong arms that held
her. True to her mettle, soon she began protesting to be set down so she could
walk back on her own. Her protests were weak and she quickly gave in as the
rhythm of the destrier's gallop lulled her into a light nap for the short ride
Nearing the gate, Talon began shouting orders. Immediately, several of the
garrison left to retrieve the only survivor. Each felt a burning anger that
anyone would dare threaten their Mistress. The friar was sent after them with a
wagon to collect the guards Talon discovered dead. Their throats had been cut
and each had an ear sliced off as a grisly trophy. The guards would be given an
honorable burial; the attacker's bodies would be dumped over the cliff and
into the ocean on the outgoing tide.
A hot bath was quickly assembled and a hot meal, likewise, sent up to the Falcon
Lord's chamber. The Nest was quiet that evening, all were still in shock that
someone would dare harm their beloved Lady Falcon.
As Talon gently washed the blood and dirt from his Lady-wife's body, her
clothing from that day burned to a fine ash in the fireplace. In the morning
the ash would be cast into the sea, never to taint the land.
As Flora sparingly ate what her Lord-husband offered her, the knights of
Falcon's Nest took turns standing watch over the prisoner. Each made clear his
displeasure of the beast they held below the Nest.
As morning drew near and the guard again changed, a shadow slipped unseen into
the dungeon. Just as silently, it disappeared. As the next guard came to take
his shift, he discovered why the prisoner held his tongue silent.
As the sun rose, and assured that Flora slept deeply, Talon went to interrogate
the prisoner. He was informed the prisoner's throat had been cut. He spoke
with each knight who stood guard that night. He knew that despite his orders to
the contrary, they had beaten the prisoner, yet he felt each spoke true when
they denied having killed the beast.
Knowing they had gone against orders, the knights accepted their punishment
silence. Their Lord ordered they go three days with only a half-ration of bread
and water while continuing their daily activities, and with extra training
thrown in for good measure. Every knight who was present took part in the
punishment, including those who had not stood guard, yet did nothing to prevent
the abuse of the prisoner. Those who were in no way involved were excused.
Investigating the dungeon himself, Talon found only the hidden passageway had
been disturbed. Following the tunnel he made a sorrowful discovery. There had
been a witness to the prisoner's murder. Young Garret would also receive an
honorable burial. As the prisoner, his throat had likewise been slashed.
Talon followed the tunnel to its end-point. It opened behind a wall in the
stable. This was how the killer was able to come in unseen and forever silence
the prisoner. Less than a small handful knew of this secret passage. Someone
had used it to commit a cold-blooded murder to keep the man and the witness
silent. But silent about what? And what, if any, did this have to do with the
Ghost Knight? Was Flora still a target, as she had mentioned when they talked
before she fell asleep? Casting out into the Force, Talon found no immediate
answers. He would meditate on this later when the rage in his blood had cooled.
Later that day, Flora began her routine as usual, insisting to all that she
fully recovered from the attack. After all, she explained, the harvest of
winter wheat had to be completed before the barley harvest could begin.
@}--- @}--- @}---
After dinner, Talon drew Flora aside for a walk along the top-most parapets.
Here, above the Nest, they would watch the sun set and the stars twinkle to
life. They went over what they knew about the attack and the tunnels.
'Twas clear by their manner of dress the men who attacked Flora were not from
the demesne. Flora and Talon took pride in the fact that their people had
enough to eat and good clothing to wear, and knew the importance of good
hygiene. The attackers were the opposite of this and so must have come from
elsewhere. Their indication that they were ordered specifically to abduct her
unharmed also held much import.
Flora saw the importance of learning to defend herself and before he could bring
up the suggestion himself, she asked Talon to teach her. Early the next
morning, she would begin her new lessons that might one day save her life.
Over the next several weeks, Flora took to her lessons with great speed. She
became proficient and Talon was very proud of her. Even after proving her
skill, he made certain she stayed on her guard by sneaking up on her and thus
testing her. If she could subdue him, she won a round in bed with him. If she
did not, he won a tumble with her. Either way, it was a win-win situation.
@}--- @}--- @}---
The nights began to hold a chill as the days grew shorter. Autumn made its
presence known in the colors of the countryside. The fields with different
crops ready for harvest showed off in all their colorful glory. Brilliant
oranges, golden yellows, rich reds and hearty browns were everywhere.
Autumn was not only the time to harvest, but also the time to celebrate the good
fortune the year brought to one and all. As the first crops were ready to be
brought in, people from one corner of the demesne would come to help. Then when
other, later crops were ready, the favor would be cheerfully returned.
Several settlements specialized in a certain crop or herd. Contests were held
to see who could finish picking a row first, or who could round up the cattle
the fastest, or who could catch a greased pig. There were no losers and
everyone had a wonderful time. Often the noisy celebrations would continue
until the sun came up the next morning and the revelers would have to work the
fields with a hangover, swearing never to do such ever again -- until the next
In each case, a small party was held to celebrate the Harvest Offering and
thanks to the Great Spirit. Some of the pick of the crop was burned in
gratitude for a bountiful harvest.
Talon fell in love with his land and his people all over again. He admired
way they worked together as an efficient team to get the work completed. For
the first time, the people of Falcon's Nest by the Sea saw their Lord and Lady
working side-by-side in the field to bring in the plentiful crops.
@}--- @}--- @}---
The fields of barely were the last major crop to be harvested. After several
days of intense labor the Falcon Lord ordered a few days of rest.
Talon took this time to relax with his heart-mate. Even though they had seen
each other everyday and had worked side-by-side, they missed each other's touch
with a desire that was ready to explode.
The day was pleasantly warm and the skies blue when they were at last able
make their escape. Hidden from the rest of the world by the tall shafts of
grain, Talon and Flora enjoyed a peaceful day together. As they fed off each
other's fingertips, one hunger was replaced by a stronger, more passionate one.
The warm sun gently kissed their skin as they made love deep in the fields. The
gentle breeze caressed them as their hands and lips followed its trace. This
would be a glorious day neither would forget. This day became etched within
their memory as they explored, once again, every swell and dip, every angle and
plain of each other's body.
You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley.
You'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold.
Talon's eyes turned a darker shade of brown as he watched his love slowly pull
her shirt over her head and cast it aside.
So she took her love
For to gaze awhile
Upon the fields of barley.
Her aqua-teal eyes grew more teal as she boldly caressed the man reclining
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold.
As Talon reached for her, Flora's cloud of white silk fell to envelop them
she leans to capture his lips with hers.
She captured his head betwixt her hands and asked,
"Will you stay with me will you be my love
Among the fields of barley?
We'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we lie in fields of gold."
Her eyes filled with tears of love and joy, yet Talon sensed a feeling of great
unease growing inside her.
See the west wind move like a lover so
Upon the fields of barley.
He rolled her over and bent to capture her lips. She wrapped her arms across
his bare back to embrace him and pull him closer to her heart.
Feel her body rise when you kiss her mouth
Among the fields of gold.
He felt her passion flowing through her as he stroked her cheek and he told her,
"I never made promises lightly,
And there have been some that I've broken.
But I swear in the days still left
We will walk in fields of gold
We will walk in fields of gold.
"Many years (will pass since these summer days)
Among the fields of barley.
See (our) children run as the sun goes down
Among the fields of gold."
She ran her fingers softly over his brow to push a stray lock away. Looking
deep into his eyes she vowed,
"You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley.
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky
When we walked in fields of gold..."
Slowly tracing lazy figures upon Flora's skin, Talon lay entwined within her
embrace, basking in the afterglow of their ever-present passion for each other.
The air around him chilled as a cloud drifted across the sun. Talon felt the
chill seep into his very soul. Yet, when he looked skyward he saw only clear
skies. A sea-falcon, without its mate made a mournful cry as it circled
He recognized the chill for what it was -- a shift in the Force. A slight echo
of Darkness called to him from over the horizon. 'Twas a warning of something
A splash of wetness burning over his heart drew his attention to his bride.
brought her up with him as he realized she was crying. Cradling her in his arms
he brushed the tears away and turned her chin to look into her eyes.
"What is wrong, Flora? What makes you weep so?"
In his arms, he felt her shudder as her sobs continued to crash through her. He
waited patiently as her tears slowly quieted. Finally, she was able to speak in
a hoarse whisper. She cradled her husband's face betwixt her hands and gazed
directly into his soul and heart. "I do not want to loose you! For I would
surely die without you, my Lord-husband! Do not leave me! Promise you will not
Confused by her plea Talon cradled her closer. "I do not understand. What
makes you think I would ever leave you? You are my wife -- and my life. I
would never leave you. You are my very heart! How can anyone live without a
heart? What makes you think I would ever willingly leave you?"
Flora's eyes yet watered like the ocean at high tide as she fought to gain
breath. "I had a horrible dream, Talon... I dreamt that Fate would tear us
both apart. That we would be ripped apart in time."
This and the darkness he felt looming on the horizon disturbed Talon greatly.
He vowed to fight whatever the future held for them and he would never let her
go. He silently amended that vow -- he would fight even the Council if that be
what it took to keep his beloved by his side.
The rest of the day Talon did all he could to lift her spirit and his own. They
wandered across the demesne in whichever direction the wind took them. Together
they expressed the pride they had in this land.
@}--- @}--- @}---
A week later, standing beside her husband, Flora rested her hands upon the stone
ledge of their rooftop get-away and admired the pounding fury of the storm
building out to sea. Lightening struck the violent waters in a colorful display
of reds, blues, violets, and gold. The booming thunder carried to their ears as
they watched the spectacle from above the Nest. This, or the seacave along
beach, was their favorite place from which to watch the sea. Seaspray was flung
high from the cliff that guarded the Nest's back.
The fine mist brought with it the energizing scent of the seawaves and settled
like tiny pearls in the crown of Flora's white braids. Several tendrils curled
along her temple as the wind continued to pluck more from the security of her
braided crown. Behind her, as a backdrop, the sea rose and fell in the same
aqua-teal color as her eyes. The sea-foam whipped away as the waves crested was
the same soft white as her hair. Talon wished with all his heart that he could
snap a holo-pic of her. Never had she looked more beautiful than this.
Her voice broke the spell she had cast over the moment. "I give thanks
Great Spirit that we were able to bring in the last of the harvest yesterday.
Often times, these winter seastorms can destroy the crops before they can be
brought in. Your idea to enlarge the granaries was a wise move. You seem to
have a great many ideas, Talon," she said smiling up to him.
Talon shrugged, "I am grateful I have the knowledge and skill to be able to help
our people, my love."
The thunder grew louder as the storm came nearer to the Nest. The turbulent
clouds roiled as they blotted out the rest of the sun's warmth. A frisson of
energy snaked across their skin as a bolt of golden lightening struck the sea.
The wind grew stronger. Another bolt of lightening struck behind Falcon's Nest,
closer than the last.
He could feel the storm's energy building in a way he had never experienced
before. Raising his voice above the howl of the wind Talon turned to his Lady-
wife. "Come, Flora, 'tis ti--" A crack of thunder drowned out his words.
Flora tugged her cloak tighter about her as she nodded. She raised her hand
toward her husband's out-stretched palm.
A jolt of energy sliced through them as a golden bolt of lightening struck
betwixt where they stood.
When the storm passed, the people of Falcon's Nest by the Sea slowly crept
outside to survey the damage. Part of the upper-most parapet had been struck by
nature's fury and blown apart. Nowhere could the Lord and Lady of the Nest
found. Nor could their bodies.
'Twas well known that their Lord and Lady would often times stand above all
admire nature's beauty as the sun set into the sea. The people of The Nest
could only surmise the storm they had walked out to admire had struck them down
and burned the bodies to an ash that was then blown away on the wind.
For the entire winter the people mourned the loss of Sir Talon and Lady Flora.
Falcon's Nest by the Sea had lost its heart...
@}--- @}--- @}---
To be continued in: _A Jedi's Heart (Lost Love)Part 2: Coruscant._