Sarmatian Knights

Chapter 2

 

Helena woke early the next morning before dawn. It was still dark outside when she headed to the stable to saddle her horse after dressing. When she got there she found her father had already saddled her horse and was waiting for her.

 

‘Father it is early you didn’t need to saddle my horse for me’.

 

‘I know but I didn’t want you to leave till I could say goodbye’.

 

‘Father I’ll not be gone too long. I promise you whether Vanora comes back or not I will return’.

 

‘I hope that will be. Have you food for the journey?’

 

‘Yes mother packed a satchel for me for the journey’.

 

‘Good make sure you have your sword handy like I taught you in case you’re attacked’.

 

‘Yes I do I even have my bow close at hand as well’.

 

‘Good I have taught you well’.

 

‘Father you don’t think I would be attacked?’

 

‘I hope not. You are Sarmatian and trained as a warrior like myself and your mother you will do well if it comes to it’.

 

‘Thank you father your faith in me makes me happy’.

 

‘The time has come Helena. The sun is starting to rise you need to be off’.

 

‘Yes father’.

 

Matthias lead Helena’s horse out of the stable and she followed. The sun was just starting to ascend into the sky and it looked like to be another good day. The air was crisp and the smell of the new day was wonderful. Helena always liked to rise early and head out hunting on days like this but unfortunately it would be some time before she would be able to do that again. When they reached the front of the house Helena found that her father was not the only one who had risen early this morning. Both her mother Siwan and her brother Tuomas were waiting to farewell her.

 

‘Mother you didn’t have to see me off’ she said.

 

‘I know but I wanted too as it will be some time before I see you again’.

 

‘I promise I will be back before you even miss me’.

 

‘I love you daughter take care’ she said and hugged Helena tightly releasing her with a kiss on the cheek.

 

Tears started to well up in Helena’s eyes just as they did in her mother’s. It was the first time she had to go off alone for so long a time. Next she turned to her brother and before Helena could say anything he hugged her tightly whispering in her ear ‘I love you sister and will miss you’.

 

‘I love you brother and will also miss you too’ she whispered back.

 

Stepping away from her brother Helena went to her horse and took the reins from her father.

 

‘Know that I love you daughter and will miss you’.

 

‘I love you too father and I will miss you’.

 

Matthais hugged his daughter and kissed her on the cheek. But before he let her mount her horse he had one last thing to give her and say.

 

‘Helena this is a letter I wrote last night, it is addressed to the commander of the fortArthur Castus. He is the Sarmatian Knight’s commander and a good man for a Roman, I have heard. He will see you have protection while at the fort. You will also need to find work as well; I’ve asked if he might help you with that just in case Vanora doesn’t’.

 

‘I’m sure Vanora will’.

 

‘Still take this letter to him and only give it to him and no one else’.

 

‘Yes father I promise I will’.

 

‘Good now it’s time you were gone. It’s more than half a day’s ride to the fort and I want you to be there before dark’.

 

‘Yes father I promise you I will be’.

 

Helena mounted her horse and looked once more on her family before riding off. She rode fast for the first hour and then slowed down to give her horse a break. She wasn’t in a hurry, even though her father had told her to be. She was nervous to be on the way to the fort alone as she was afraid she could be attacked by the Britons or Woads, as they were commonly known as. They would sometimes venture south of the wall and even though they were her people, though her mother, that didn’t stop them from attacking their own people.  As she rode on she kept looking around her, she kept speeding up and slowing down and believed she was making good time. As the sun shone thought the leaves of the forest she was currently riding through she could see that it was about the middle of the day heading towards the afternoon. Feeling hungry she decided to stop by the stream she had found so she could eat and rest her horse.

 

After dismounting she gave her horse an apple while she had one herself. But before she did that she got her dagger out of her bag and put it in the side of her right boot, just as a safety precaution which she knew her parents would approve of. She led her horse to the stream so they could both have a drink after the apples they had eaten before they continued on to the fort once again. As Helena’s horse drank she thought she heard a trig snap, taking no chances she reached down and retrieved her dagger. Waiting she heard nothing else except the normal noises of the forest and her horse, now finished drinking, come up beside her. Realising it was more than likely a creature of the forest she mounted her horse and continued on now more nervous than she had been before. She only hoped to be out of the forest and in the open soon to relieve the nervousness she felt.

 

Soon after leaving the stream she exited the forest much to her relief. Helena wasn’t one to be afraid in a forest, as she hunted in the one back home, but she was a lot further from home than she had ever been before in country she was not familiar with. The sun was still out and there was hardly a cloud in the sky, and for Britain that was unusual. The sun was usually covered by clouds threatening to rain. Helena decided to speed up and enjoy the sun on her face and the wind in her hair.

 

After about another couple of hours of riding she sighted the wall and beside it the fort she was headed for. Even though she was still a distance from it the sight of the wall and fort beside it looked very impressive indeed. Looking down from the hill she was on she also noticed the village that the fort protected close by as well. Helena slowed down now realising she had finally come to the end of her journey. As she got closer to the fort she could see people out around in the fields that surrounded it. From what she had been told by her father, the fort offered protection to the village beside it by the Roman soldiers who were stationed there. The fort also housed the Sarmatian Knights; her father had been one of them before he had married her mother.

 

Moving ever closer to the gate of the fort she noticed she was being watched, both by the villagers outside the fort itself and by the soldiers on the ramparts. This didn’t worry her too much, but some of the looks she was receiving from the soldiers made her nervous again. When she reached the gate she dismounted and walked up to the two soldiers on the gate that seemed to be watching her very closely.

 

‘Excuse me could you help me?’ Helena asked the soldiers.

 

‘With pleasure my dear’ one of the soldiers said to her grinning and leering at her.

 

This made Helena more nervous but she continued ‘I’m looking for my cousin; I was told they live here at the fort’.

 

‘Is he a soldier or servant?’ the soldier asked continuing to leer at her.

 

‘Neither, my parents told me she lived here’.

 

‘Well they got it wrong, only soldiers live in the fort, she probably lives in the village if she’s here, over there’ the soldier said pointing to the village a little ways off.

 

Helena didn’t want to go to the village to search for Vanora knowing that it could take hours if she had to do that. So she decided to keep trying with the Romans hoping maybe they knew of her by name.

 

‘Maybe you could tell me if you may have heard of her?’

 

‘I doubt that. What’s her name then?’

 

‘Her name is Vanora’.

 

When the soldiers heard the name they knew instantly who she was and it meant trouble to them. They looked at each other trying to keep their faces neutral trying not to reveal to the woman in front of them that they did know Vanora and her lover, a Sarmatian Knight, and not one they wanted to cross either or any of the other Knights for that matter. If this woman had anything to do with them they didn’t want to know.

 

‘Never heard of her’ they lied.

 

‘Thank you I guess I’ll go check the village then’ Helena said and started to walk off thinking that maybe her parents and Aunt Aeron were wrong about where Vanora was.

 

She started off towards the village that was a little further along from the wall but quite close to the fort itself. Helena knew the task ahead of her was going to be huge if she was going to find Vanora before night fall, she just hoped someone in the village knew of her cousin.  As she was heading off a deep voice shouted.

 

‘You there wait’ the deep voice said.

 

Turning Helena saw it wasn’t one of the soldiers she had just spoken to but another man who was making his way towards her. The soldiers seeing who it was that called to her went back to their duties not wanting to get involved as he was one of the Sarmatian Knights. But he was not any Knight but the scout, and everyone avoided him at all costs as he was dangerous and would kill anyone who looked at him the wrong way.

 

‘Yes sir’ Helena said watching him approach her.

 

The man was tall like her father and had the same skin colouring. His hair was longer than her fathers, it was brown and shoulder length, and it was also rather messy with it falling in his face covering it and his eyes mostly. It also had a couple of braids on either side of different lengths. On his cheeks from what she could see were tattoos. From the look of him and the way he was dressed she guessed he could have been one of the Sarmatian Knights stationed at the fort. She couldn’t be sure of that as she had never known of any Sarmatian having tattoos, nor had her father ever mentioned it either. She knew her father didn’t have any that she had ever seen. As he approached her she couldn’t help but feel something towards this man as she looked into his brown eyes, what could be seen of them behind his hair, she seemed to be attracted to him, she liked what she saw.

 

‘What do you want?’ he asked as he came up to her.

 

The man had looked the woman over as he approached her and her horse. He had noticed the two Romans talking to her as well as leering at her, and wondered what she might be after. It seemed she was not getting the answer she wanted from the Romans, so he decided he would find out himself. When he had come down from the rampart he was on, when he had first seen the woman, she had started to walk away, so he called out to her to wait. As he approached her he saw she was a young woman in brown breeches that fitted her quite well in all the right places, and the tunic she wore wasn’t exactly loose either, she looked healthy and fit. No wonder the Romans were leering at her he thought. She had long flowing brown hair that looked to go halfway down her back and her skin seemed to be olive coloured, darkened even further by the sun she seemed to spend her time out in. As he looked at her he seemed to be attracted to her for some reason, but he couldn’t work out why that was.

 

‘I’m seeking my cousin who I was told lived here at the fort’ Helena said as she had to the soldiers before.

 

‘What’s his name?’

 

‘Her name is Vanora’.

 

‘Vanora are you sure?’ he asked.

 

‘Yes of course I am’ she said sounding a little angry to be questioned like that.

 

Seeing that the woman in front of him was starting to quickly become angry like her cousin was want to do on many occasions, the man decided to take her to where she wanted to go.  ‘Come’ the man said and turned walking back into the fort.

 

Helena didn’t know what to do. This man didn’t say much and he seemed to have a scowl across his face like he disliked everyone and everything. Even though she felt some attraction to him she didn’t think she should follow him not knowing what might happen if she did, especially after the looks she had already gotten from the soldiers, but if he knew of Vanora maybe she should. Watching him she saw him turn to her again and say the same thing, so she did as he bid.

 

Helena followed the man through the gate and down some streets till they got to a large stable block. Here the man told her to wait and vanished inside the large stable, which looked to be the largest one in the area they were in. The man Helena had followed returned coming out of the stable with another man; this one took the reins of her horse from her. This unnerved her, she didn’t like it but she didn’t know what to do about it.

 

‘Your horse and belongings will be safe with Jols here’ the man said seeing the woman was unnerved about what had just happened.

 

‘I promise you my lady that your horse will be looked after till you return’ the man called Jols said.

 

‘Fine but I must retrieve something from my bag first’ Helena said and went to her horse whispering as she patted him, then she went to get the letter for Arthur Castus out of her bag.

 

The letter was the most important thing she wished to keep with her, just in case things didn’t go well if and when she saw Vanora. Though if she didn’t find her she could always go to this commander for his help like her father wished.

 

The man seeing she had what she wanted just said ‘Come’ and walked off expecting her to follow once again.

 

Realising he was already moving away Helena ran to catch up to walk beside him.

 

‘Sir, where are you taking me?’ she asked.

 

‘To Vanora that’s what you wanted’.

 

‘Yes but the soldiers said she wasn’t here and they didn’t know of her’.

 

‘They lied, they are idiots ignore them’.

 

‘Fine if you say so’.

 

They continued to walk heading towards shops and stalls. There also stood a tavern and they seemed to be headed towards it. Helena thought this strange especially when he went inside. Helena stopped at the door not knowing if she should go in or not, as she had never in her life been in one. Her father had warned her about these types of places and told her not to go into them. He told her that good women where never seen in them. The man came back to the door and beckoned for her to enter, but she refused.

 

‘Why have you brought me to this evil place?’ she asked him.

 

The man smiled only slightly as he said ‘You are looking for your cousin Vanora? Well she is here’.

 

When he said Vanora was here at this tavern it both shocked and surprised her. She had no idea her cousin worked in such a place, nor did she believe her parents or her Aunt knew.

 

Seeing the shock on her face the man gently said ‘I promise nothing will happen to you’.

 

Some how Helena believed him when he said that, even though she had only just met the man and didn’t even know his name. She nodded and followed him in. The tavern was airy being both inside and outside. Tables were along the walls and even this early in the afternoon there was a small number of soldiers sitting and drinking ale while talking or playing some kind of game. The man asked one of the serving wenches for Vanora and then bade her to wait as he headed to the rear where the bar and kitchen seemed to be. As Helena waited the two serving wenches that were working gave her dirty looks trying to warn Helena off. Helena felt her dagger still in her boot and that gave her some comfort knowing she had some protection with her if she needed it.

 

The man that had brought Helena to the tavern in search for Vanora went to the back to where the bar was, leaving Helena alone in the tavern by herself. He saw Vanora working away as he entered.

 

‘Vanora’ the man called.

 

Hearing her name Vanora turned to see who wanted her.

 

‘Tristan isn’t it a bit early for you to be here?’ she queried.

 

‘I’m not here for a drink there is a woman here to see you’ he told her.

 

‘A woman to see me, what’s her name then?’ she asked him.

 

‘I don’t know, but she said she was your cousin’.

 

‘She said she was my cousin?’

 

‘Yes do have a cousin?’

 

‘Yes I do, actually I have two. Where is she?’

 

Tristan only nodded back towards the tavern proper where he had come from.

 

Vanora got up from what she had been doing and went to look out into the tavern and saw a young woman standing by herself looking around. She had grown since Vanora had last seen her but Helena was the same in looks as she had been back then, but much prettier and looked to get more so as she got older. Helena’s hair was not tied back, but by the look of it the wind hadn’t messed it too much on her journey to the fort. Vanora wasn’t surprised to see her in breeches either as she remembered Helena had always preferred that particular clothing more than a dress, and from the looks of it she still did. Vanora started to wonder why her cousin was at the fort, she hoped nothing had happened to her Aunt and Uncle or her other cousin Tuomas.

 

‘Is she your cousin?’ Tristan asked wondering if this woman was lying as Vanora took her time looking at the woman.

 

‘Yes Tristan she is’ and walked towards her. ‘Helena’ she called.

 

Helena hearing her name turned to see a woman approaching her. She had red hair and looked vaguely familiar.

 

‘Vanora’

 

‘Yes it is I cousin’.

 

Helena smiled and went to meet Vanora and hugged her as Vanora did the same.

 

Pulling apart Vanora said ‘You have grown’.

 

‘Aye I have it’s been six years since you saw me last’.

 

‘Yes I know and I’ve missed you every day’.

 

‘I have missed you too. Father and mother would tell Tuomas and me any news they heard of you’.

 

‘Then mother still visits you regularly then’.

 

‘Yes she does’.

 

‘How are your parents?’

 

‘They are fine and so is Tuomas. Aunt Aeron is also well’.

 

‘I’m glad to hear it. I was worried when I saw you that something was amiss’.

 

‘Oh no everything is fine back home’ Helena said.

 

‘So why are you here then?’ Vanora asked wondering what reason Helena had to travel so far to see her.

 

‘Ah I’m not sure you’re going to like it but Aunt Aeron sent me’.

 

‘I see well lets sit and you can tell me all about what my mother is up to’ turning to see Tristan still standing in the doorway to the bar she called out to him ‘Tristan get us both a wine and join us’.

 

Tristan nodded and turned to get the wine, as he did Vanora and Helena seated themselves at the table at the rear near the doorway Tristan had gone though. Having seated themselves Helena had to ask a question that burned in her mind.

 

‘Vanora the man who brought me here...’

 

‘You mean Tristan’.

 

‘That is his name?’

 

‘Yes Tristan is one of the Sarmatian Knights stationed here’.

 

‘Is he the father of your children?’

 

‘Tristan no Bors is my lover and the father to all my children’.

 

‘Bors?’

 

‘Yes he’s also a Sarmatian Knight’.

 

‘So Tristan is someone else’s lover’.

 

Vanora smiled at Helena saying ‘Tristan has no lover; he may bed women on the occasion but has no one that he’s attached to’.

 

‘Why he seems to be nice’ Helena said remembering the slight smile he had given her just before they came into the tavern.

 

‘Nice is not what he’s ever been called. Tristan is a loner he keeps to himself mostly. Helena he is not the man for you’.

 

‘What you think I’m interested in him’.

 

‘Yes I see it in your face and eyes don’t go there you’ll only get hurt. I know Tristan and the Knights you don’t, trust me. Tristan is not the man for you. Anyway I thought you would have been courted by one of the boys of your village or even be married by now’.

 

‘No I’m not being courted by any boy nor am I married, and I don’t plan on either yet’

 

‘Then why are you interested in Tristan?’

 

Helena saw Tristan heading their way with the drinks and looked down at the table blushing. Vanora seeing her blush looked around to see Tristan coming with their drinks which he placed on the table. Tristan noticed the woman he had brought to the tavern to see Vanora was now looking at the table blushing for some reason. He thought this strange but he hadn’t heard any of their conversation to know what was going on. After putting their drinks down he left them and went to sit in his usual corner out of earshot but still in sight.

 

After Tristan had left them Helena said ‘I’m not interested in him’.

 

Vanora knowing differently only shrugged. ‘So why are you here then?’ she asked.

 

‘As I’ve said Aunt Aeron sent me’.

 

‘Why?’

 

‘She wants you to return home’ she told Vanora.

 

Vanora laughed at Helena’s answer. When she stopped laughing she told Helena ‘you’ve wasted your time coming here I’m not returning to her’.

 

‘She’s worried about you and the child you carry’ Helena said.

 

‘No she’s not. You don’t know my mother Helena like I do. Why do you think I left with my father in the first place?’ Vanora said sounding angry.

 

‘Were things that bad between you?’ Helena asked.

 

‘Yes, she made sure no one knew that, even your parents’.

 

‘I’m sorry I had no idea. But still my parents sent me anyway to help you and the children till after this child is born’.

 

‘I don’t need any help’ Vanora shouted and got up and walked away.

 

 

Chapter 3 Sarmatian Knights C3