The Wolf and the Dove

By: Kathleen E. Woodiwis

Once he stepped inside it was as if thunder shook the hall. Aislinn heard him bellow loudly and the heavy walls echoed with the noise of the scrambling invaders. Her anger forgotten, she listened and waited. Her mother crept to the corner of the building and gestured imperiously for her to come. Reluctantly Aislinn turned her attention to the task that lay before her and reached to take her father’s arm to drag him away. But she started when a great yelp rent the air and glanced up in alarm to see Ragnor being thrown naked from the door. His clothes and sword followed and came to rest beside him in the dust.

“Imbecile!” his evictor raged, coming to stand on the steps above him. “Dead men are useless to me!”

Her eyes gleaming with obvious satisfaction, Aislinn watched and relished the sight of Ragnor scrambling awkwardly to his feet suffering greatly from this indignation. His lips drew back in a snarl as he grabbed for his battle sword, and the gray eyes above him flashed a warning.

“Take heed, Ragnor. Your stench can rise with your victims.”

“Wulfgar, you son of Satan!” Ragnor choked in rage. Recklessly he beckoned the other near. “Come hither that I may skewer you properly.”

“I do not care to joust with a naked, braying jackal at the moment.” Noticing Aislinn’s interest, he lifted a hand toward her. “Though the lady wishes you dead, sorrowfully I have use for you.”

Ragnor jerked about in surprise to see Aislinn watching him with amusement. His face darkened with his wrath and humiliation, and the angry twitch of his lips were stilled as he bit them. With a muttered curse he snatched up his chausses and donned them before crossing to her.

“What business finds you here?” he demanded. “Why have you left the hall?”

Aislinn laughed low and her eyes were full of loathing. “Because it suited me to do so.”

Ragnor stared at her, considering how to effectively quell her rebellious nature without marring her beauty or the soft, lovely body he could remember all too well against him. It would be difficult to put aside that delicious memory. He had never before seen a wench with the courage to match a man’s.

Reaching out, he took hold of her slender wrist. “Get into the hall and wait me. You will soon learn that you are mine and must obey me.”

Aislinn snatched her arm away. “Do you think that because you have bedded me once you own me?” she hissed. “Oh, sir knight, you have much to learn, for never will I be yours. My hatred of you will set me against you all the years of my life. The blood of my father cries out from the earth, reminding me of your deed. Now his body begs burying and whether you will it or not, I am bound to do it. You can only stop me by spilling my blood also.”

Ragnor caught her again roughly by the arms, his grip biting painfully into her tender flesh. He was aware that Wulfgar watched them with great interest, and Ragnor’s frustration grew that he could not frighten this stubborn wench into doing his bidding.

“There are others more capable of burying him,” Ragnor growled low through clenched teeth. “Do as I command.”

The lines of Aislinn’s jaw grew rigid as she looked up into his flashing black eyes. “Nay,” she breathed. “I prefer it be done by loving hands.”

A silent battle raged between them. Ragnor’s hand tightened as if he would strike her, then without warning he flung her from him, making her reel and stumble to the dirt. He came to stand above her, his eyes raking her slender form. Aislinn hurriedly pushed down the gunna over her thighs and returned his stare coldly.

“I yield this once, damoiselle. But do not test me again,” he warned.

“Truly a kind knight,” she taunted, rising to her feet. She rubbed her bruised wrist. Her look of contempt held him for a moment and then moved passed him to the tall warrior standing at ease near the steps of the hall. That Norman met her look and smiled, a touch of mockery twisting his handsome lips.

Aislinn turned abruptly, missing the thoroughly appreciative gaze he swept over her. She bent, taking up her father’s arm once more, and began to tug at him. Both men stood watching and finally Ragnor moved to help her, but she thrust his hand away.

“Be gone with you!” she cried. “Can you not leave us in peace for this brief moment of time? He was my father! Let me bury him.”

Ragnor dropped his hands to his sides and did not try again to help but went to put on his clothes, feeling the bite of a chill wind against his scantily clad body.

With great determination, Aislinn dragged her father away from the courtyard to a spot beneath a tree a small distance from the hall. A bird darted between the branches above her head, and she observed his flight, envying his freedom. She continued to gaze after the bird, unaware of the approach of Wulfgar behind her. But as a heavy object was thrown down at her feet, she started and whirled to face him. He indicated the shovel.

“Even loving hands need some tool, damoiselle.”

“You are as kind as your brother Norman, sir knight,” she flung shortly, then she lifted a lovely brow. “Or is it ‘my lord’ now?”

He made a stiff bow. “Whatever you wish, damoiselle.”

Aislinn’s chin raised. “My father was lord here. It does not sit well with me to call you Lord of Darkenwald,” she answered boldly.