The friends find a tavern for the night. While Astrid is currying Revanth, Alton and Velda talk about their relationship. He tells her that he wants to marry her.
Alton fingers traced her slender throat. “Now, I see a couple who can’t be together, no matter what they want. Revanth loves Astrid, and cannot show her the joys between a man and woman. I can—and have—far more than I should. I have belittled our love, my sweet. I don’t wish to do that anymore. I want to marry you, Velda. If you’ll have me.”
“Is that your idea of a proposal?” She pursed her lips, raising her chin.
“It’s the best I’ve got. I love you. I want to be yours alone. Will you?”
“There is nothing in this life that I want more.”
They kissed a long time. A light tapping on the door forced them apart. It was Astrid.
“Revanth is settled for the night. Did you want to come down for dinner? The mistress of the house has a veritable feast spread.”
“Yes, thank you. We’ll be right down,” Velda said.
Velda’s cheeks flushed, her blue eyes dancing merrily. Astrid didn’t miss the energy between her friends.
“Something has happened,” she said, smiling.
“I asked her to marry me,” Alton declared, proudly. “She said yes!”
Astrid squealed, dancing around as she clapped her hands. She hugged them both, and dragged them downstairs.
“A bottle of the best wine is in order,” she said.
They drank a toast, ate their meal and retired to their rooms. Alton made sure that Astrid had bolted her door before he joined Velda in their chamber. She lay in bed, blue hair cascading around her like a splash of water. Undressing quickly, Alton joined her. Her soft, warm hands explored his lean, hairless body eagerly. Smiling, she pulled him to her.
“I love how sleek and soft you are.”
“Not soft everywhere,” he teased, rubbing against her.
“No. If you were, what fun would we have?”
“None whatever, my love. How soon will you marry me, Velda? How soon can I make you mine?”
“When we settle this thing with Eleion.”
“You know why we cannot.”
Alton kissed her deeply, holding her close. They made love long into the night, sharing their love with one another. It was after midnight before they settled down to sleep. Alton lay on his back with Velda’s head on his chest, his arm around her. He couldn’t sleep, though he lay with his eyes closed.
How he wanted to forget about the one thing that kept them apart. It would have to be resolved before they could wed. Frustrated, he curled his fingers in the blankets, twisting his fist in silent anger. It was his own wild ways that had them in this fix. He would have to get them out of it. As soon as Astrid and Revanth were squared away, he could turn his attention to the other. Right now, their quest took precedence.
The next morning, they slept in, getting a lazy start to the day. Astrid picked at her food, anxious to leave. Velda and Alton, who were unused to staying on any kind of schedule, tended to drag their feet even at the best of times. After a late night making love, they were disinclined to move quickly, but made an effort for their friend. While the women packed, Alton went out to the stable to saddle Revanth.
He checked the stall where the black stallion had bedded down the night before. Saddle and bridle were where he’d left them, but Revanth was gone.
“Where’s my horse?” Alton demanded. “I left him here, in your care, last night. Where is he?”
“What sort of horse, good sir?” The groom appeared somewhat touched in the head. His speech was slow and deliberate.
Alton wasn’t sure the man understood him, but he described Revanth in detail.
The groom shook his head. “Warn’t narry sech horse here when I come to work dis mornin’. I check ’em all. I’d o’ remembered a horse that sleek—all black, you say? And a stallion? Rare, that is.”
“Very rare, hence my irritation that my—horse—is—gone! See here, this is his bridle and saddle.”
“Likely run off,” the groom said, scratching his stubbly chin.
“He wouldn’t do that.”
“Why not? All animals like freedom, like us folk.”
“Not Revanth. Who’s the law around here?”
“You don’t need the law, young master….”
“The name is Sir Alton of Lyndon Mead. Not young master. I want the sheriff or constable—whoever the authority is here.”
“You be wanting Tom Joyce, t’ Magistrate.”
“That will do. Where is he?”
“Out back. He owns the tavern.”
Alton barely thanked him. He went behind the tavern, and found a stout, balding man. His homespun pants and shirt were grubby from hard work. He was trying to fix a wagon wheel without much success.
When Alton approached, the tavern keeper turned toward him, touching his forehead in respect. “What can I do for ye, milord?”
“My horse is missing from your stable. I saw him put up last evening. My traveling companion curried him before bed. His tack is where I left it, but my horse is not.”
Tom Joyce pulled on his forelock. “Well, then. It appears we’ve a problem.”
“Do you think so?” Alton said, surprise in his voice.
The chubby man had enough intelligence to know he was being chastised. He frowned. “No need to be like that.”
© 2019 Dellani Oakes