…Fading into unconsciousness, Gwyn didn’t realise the weight was gone until the warrior stood above her, sword dangling in hand, blood streaking down the side of his face.
Beside her lay the bloody-headed soldier, rather more bloodied now. His skull was split in two. Already his innards were oozing out, a pulpy mass, mixing with the mud.
Gwyn’s mouth began moving but no sounds came out. In the distance, the sounds of running footsteps faded away. Her saviour spun as if to give chase, then, with a few muffled words, turned back.
“Is he dead?” she whispered, as if someone might hear her and somehow not have noticed the combat of a moment ago. As if the hacked body might still, somehow, hold life and be awakened by her words.
Dark, shadowed eyes flicked to the prone body. “Quite.” He kicked the body away and stretched out a gloved hand. “Come.”
“All the way.” He held his hand in front of her nose.
“Nay, he’s but half dead, and will haunt you for years to come. Now, come, get up.”
Flat on her back, Gwyn frowned. A gnashing pain crowded into the back of her head. “I am more afraid of being haunted if he is fully dead, sirrah.”
This brought a moment of quiet. “Are you getting up or not?”
“Have you killed so many men, that one more means naught?”
He straightened and glanced around the deserted road. When he turned back, she could see only the gleam of his teeth as he smiled grimly. “And you, lady, have you been on so few highways that you know not the danger of riding on them alone?”
She opened her mouth, shut it again.
“Know you so little of men that you would think one such as he is not better off dead?”
Again he gestured to the man’s body. His smile receded as he ran his fingers through his hair, ruffling the dark locks into damp spikes.
“Know you how weary I am, and that I wish only to be home?”
He towered above her outstretched body but she was not afraid. Certes, he’d just saved her life. Whyfore be affrightened?
Her mind catalouged the various and persuasive reasons: perhaps because he was such an imposing figure, all hard slabs of muscle and piercing eyes? Perhaps because he’d just killed four men in less time that it took to de-feather a chicken? Or perhaps because he held in his hand a sword that still dripped with raw blood.
“I … I–”
“You,” he reached down and grabbed her hand, “do not listen well.”