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~An Honorable Knight~
Published May 21, 2008


Written By

drewsoltesz

Storyteller
24591Views4.9Rating

Page 1 / 97

At the time of the Crusades, a nobleman and knight finds he must uphold that which is most dear to him...his honor.

I would not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honour more. ~~Richard Lovelace

At the time of the Crusades, a nobleman and knight finds he must uphold that which is most dear to him...his honor.

I would not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honour more. ~~Richard Lovelace
It is 1192, in the heart of England, two weary saddle-sore riders are making their way toward the hamlet of Twinninghamshire.
Fresh from fighting in the Crusades, the two men have travelled many months from the Muslim lands to return home.

Gone for close to five years, Sir John Twinningham and his loyal serf and close friend, Allen Jamieson are anxious to return, they have not heard any word from home in all that time.
Sir John Twinningham was the Saxon lord and master over the village bearing his family name. All that was left of his family was his elderly mother, he did not know if she was still living or not.
He was deep in thought, what changes had occurred in his extended absence? He prayed his dear mother would be there to greet him at Twinningham Castle.
Allen Jamieson loyally followed his master to the Holy Lands to fight in the Crusades; in that time the men had become very close friends, fighting side by side. Allen's love and friendship and loyalty to John were unshakable.

In recoginition of his unwavering service, John had set him free from his serf status. Allen was anxious to return to his home village and begin life as a freeman.
"We should arrive in Twinninghamshire by morning, Allen. Are you as apprehensive as I? I feel as if we are going into battle for the first time." John declared.

Allen was silent for some moments. "Aye, 'tis unsettling, but I am certain we shall fall back into the old ways soon enough. A roaring fire and a leg of mutton are first on my list."
"I am sure my mother will greet us with a banquet Allen, never fear! And to sleep in a soft, warm bed and drink some mulled wine, to sit in front of my own hearth, it is what I have dreamed of for months, nay, years!" John said, his voice laced with joy.
After a short rest overnight in the woods under the stars, the men at last reached the outer edge of the village. It was eerily quiet, only the sounds of their horses nickering pierced the silence.

"This is strange..." John said. "At this time of the forenoon the village is usually alive with activity! I see Herrod the Blacksmith's shop ahead, perhaps he can enlighten me as to this situation."
John knocked on the door, and with much trepidation the blacksmith came out. "What can I do for you, sir?" he asked in a subdued tone.
John was flabbergasted. "Herrod! You must know me, it is I, John Twinningham, returned from the Crusades!"
The man squinted at John, then said in a flat emotionless tone. "Sir John Twinningham is dead, you must be spectre come to haunt me."
"I am not dead, where did you hear such nonsense? Herrod, look at me, you have known me my whole life, you showed me how to shoe a horse when I was 13!" John said quietly.

Herrod took another look into the face of the man before him. There could be no mistake, the fair hair, the piecing blue eyes, the powerful frame...why, it was the master!
"Sir John, please forgive me! We were told of your death some years ago! The sheriff of the shire informed us of this most terrible event!" Herrod cried.

John's thoughts went to his mother. The poor woman thought him dead all this time. "What of my mother?" John said quietly.
Herrod was silent.
"Come man, speak!" John cried. "Do not hold back, tell me all!"
"You mother died shortly after word of your demise, Sir. It was said her heart broke. Your...your lands, your castle were taken possession by the Sheriff, he lives there still. He now rules over the village, it is his laws and his iron hand we live under."
John could not believe what he was hearing, his dear mother, dead! His lands, taken!
John turned to the village centre. He pointed at the skeleton in the stockade. "And who is responsible for this cruel form of justice? The Sheriff I take it? Who is this sheriff, I remember Philip Hale was sherriff when I left..."

Herrod shook his head. "He was replaced by the Prince Regent not soon after you left. Now it is a man from London, Sir Lance Spofford. He is the man living at your estates."
"Where is my mother buried?" John whispered with great emotion.
Herrod told him.
John motioned to Allen, he would visit his mother's grave, and then he would see this sheriff.
He found the grave, nestled beside a fiery maple bush. A simple stone, with just her name 'Anne Twinningham' carved into the face. John's emotions overcame him. For weeks he had been looking forward to a tearful, joyous reunion with his mother.
Not this.
He never should have left, not only did his mother suffer for it, but it seems the whole village. He had to make things right. But how?
His poor dear mother...she should have been buried in the family tomb with his father!
Allen sat on his horse and watched his friend mourn deeply. John's head hung low, his broad shoulders heaving, he was sobbing quietly.
"I am sorry for your loss John." Allen said softly. "We must be off the Twinningham Castle and confront this interloping sherriff. Come my dear..."
John nodded. He took one last look at the lonely, solitary grave of his beloved mother. "Forgive me, my lady. Forgive my vanity for seeking glory and honor on the battlefield, when I should have been here, attending to you, and to my people..."
John wiped his red-rimmed eyes. "Come Allen, let's make haste, we have not a moment to lose!"
Twinningham Castle, nestled on a hill over looking the village of the same name. It was here John was raised, his late father was a kindly master, and looked after his people, treating them fairly not only in terms of justice, but in finance. He let them prosper; he encouraged trade and commerce. He taxed them very little.
When John became master, he followed his father's vision.

However, since no Twinningham's have ruled over the shire for a few years, all that changed when Sir Lance Spofford took over the castle and the village. The people no longer prospered or found fairness in their dealings with the new master.
Sir Lance Spofford, High Sheriff and nobleman of Twinninghamshire and the surrounding lands...was bored. He did not want to come to this God forsaken place, leave his comforts in London. But the Prince Regent chose him personally, and he could not refuse a royal request.
So here he sat, ruling over goat herders and farmers, serfs dressed in rags. How tedious.
His servant Grace announced there was a man to see him. Lance waved her to fetch him.
"Good evening Sheriff, I am Sir John Twinningham, recently returned from the Crusades. I believe there has been some mistake here, as these are my lands and lodgings, and I have come to claim them as such." John said firmly.

Lance looked at the man in front him. Damn! He was sure Twinningham would not return, very few men did from the Crusades, well...this was a conundrum.
Lance's devious mind raced.
He cleared his throat. "I am glad you have returned hale and hearty, Twinningham, but these lands were taken for taxes owed and other debts, by the crown. Where I have been gifted with this place legally, I have the papers to prove it with the royal seal. The rest of the massive debt was sold to a moneylender, Glenn the Milliner. He collects from the people of the village to pay this debt." Lance said smoothly. Both Allen and John were thoroughly shocked. "I cannot believe what you are saying...when I left, the estate's finances were healthy, the village prospering! What has happened??" John demanded.

Lance leaned forward in his chair and shrugged. "War happened, Sir John. Your poor mother could not handle the estate."
"What of my steward, Eric Manson? What became of him?" John sputtered.
Lance rose and walked over to the men. "No one knows what became of him, no doubt absconded with some or all of the estates funds."

John snorted. "I cannot believe any of this! Eric was beyond trustworthy; he was steward to my late father! Nay, he would not have let these lands fall into such a state! Something is amiss here, and I aim to get to the bottom of it." John said as evenly as he could muster.
"Are you implying that something underhanded was done here? I resent your implication sir! Everything was done legally and above board, I assure you!" Lance snapped. "And I only have your word that you are Sir John Twinningham, you could be some beggar off the street!"

Now Allen became agitated. "How dare you doubt the word of Sir John, you are speaking to nobility! There are plenty in the village that will testify to this man's identity!"
Lance smiled smoothly. "I meant no offence. I do suggest you seek out Glen the Milliner and find out the extent of the debt in question. I am sure if you pay the debt in full, your good name will be restored to you. However, these lands and the castle are now mine. Unless you can afford to buy them back..."

John's heart dropped to his knees. His homecoming was becoming more wretched as the minutes went by. He had no money on him, not enough to buy his home back and probably not enough to pay the debt. Something niggled at the back of John's mind.
This was all wrong...all of it, and he aimed to prove it, somehow.
In the nearby village of Carston, a few miles from Twinnighamshire a village that was also under the protection of the Sheriff; Margaret Glenn tended to her daily chores. She was the only child of Glenn the Milliner; her father not only was a clothier, but also a moneylender. She heard two riders approaching, and turned to face them. John could not believe the loveliness that stood before him. It had been a long time since a young maid filled his vision in such a way. Too long he had been at war, he forgot how stirring beauty could be to one's soul.
He looked at the young lady frankly, his gaze burning with a yearning he had not thought possible.
Margaret was quite taken with the powerfully built knight riding proudly on his steed. He was fair, with rakish good looks. The man slid down off his horse in a fluid, confident motion. "Miss, how are you this morn? I seek Glenn the Milliner, I have business, could you direct me?" The deep voice rumbled.

Margaret could not move, in all her life, never had she been so taken with a man at first glimpse. She gulped deeply. "Follow me..." Margaret led the knight into her father's shop and introduced him, then left them alone.
John looked around the shop. In behind the wall he could hear the muted sound of working looms, and the sound of sheep in pens outside. He introduced himself and explained his reason for being there.
"I would work to honorably settle the debt." John said proudly.
Glenn looked at John. "I have no need for a noble knight's hand. I cannot take a nobleman to labor in my business."
"My rank is of little bearing in this matter, the honor of my family's word is at stake as long as this debt remains. I will not have you collect from the villagers any longer." John declared.
Glenn looked into the determined face of the knight. "The only labour I require is apprentices, if you and your man," he motioned toward Allen, "come to work for me, both of you could work off the debt in one year."
John glanced at Allen; his friend did not hesitate to agree.
John turned back to the Milliner. "It is agreed then. One year. I am not well known in this village, I wish my rank to be kept secret as long as 'tis possible."

"Agreed. Be here bright and early on the morn. I ask in return you stay away from my daughter while you labor here, I will have no knight playing frivolously with her heart." Glenn said firmly.
John raised a eyebrow quizzically but said nothing. What daughter?
After the two men left, Margaret entered the shop. "Listen my daughter, that man is coming to work here on the morrow and no one must know of his rank."
Margaret was flabbergasted. "What? Why would you take on such a man, what of your ideas of nobles and their ways? Especially knights! Notorious womanizers! They are so arrogant!"
"You have no fear of his advances, he agreed readily that he not press you with his attentions." Her father replied.
Did he indeed? Margaret found herself getting agitated. So he did not find her attractive then! The knave!
"Isn't this knight and his companion a little old to become apprentices? Usually you take on a boy, father!" Margaret exclaimed.
"Clever souls are never too old to learn something new. You will be civil to this man and treat him as any other. You are to speak to no one of his rank, understood"? Glenn said firmly.
"Aye father, as you wish." Margaret exhaled. "He will not be staying in our house?"
"Of course he will, that is the tradition." her father replied.
One year of having a wickedly handsome noble under foot...Margaret gulped deeply.
Nay, she would not allow the man near her heart!
John and Allen both showed up for their duties early on the morn, he was looking around for Glenn when that young woman he had seen yesterday approached him. She must work here, or somewhere near, John surmised. Perhaps the year would pass pleasantly if he were to have such a fetching maid working nearby. He hoped she lived there; it had been a long time since he enjoyed the softness of a woman.

John leaned against the nearby wall blocking her path. He looked the young woman up and down, his eyes all but undressing her. "Well my treasure, such a pleasure to find such a gem among the sheep and bolts of wool. Charmed, milady." He purred seductively.
Margaret was incensed. The arrogance of the man! Just because he was a noble, he thought he could speak so! Typical wench-chasing knight, they were all alike! "Are you in the custom of saluting common women so regally?" Margaret huffed. "Mayhap you expect me to swoon in your arms at being addressed as 'milady'?"

John was taken aback. "I meant no offence, 'twas part of my upbringing that I address a woman as thus."
"Oh aye, a finer upbringing you know doubt have, better than us all. The loftiness of your manners! I will not be mocked by the likes of you!" Margaret fumed.
John gritted his teeth, wondering when he had ever met a more annoying woman. This dark beauty has a bite. "Twas not what I meant, to mock! I called you thus simply because I did not spare the time to think before I spoke!"

"Implying what?" Margaret demanded. "That if you did think about it, you might have realized that I was unworthy of such an address?"
John did not know whether to kiss her or throttle her. His anger was boiling beneath the surface.
John was about to retort when Glenn walked up to them. "John, you are here! We will begin right away. John Twinningham, may I present my daughter, Margaret Glenn."
John was shocked. THIS was his daughter? And he gave his word to stay away from her. After banding words with this sharp-tongued maid, it would be his pleasure to stay away!
"Father, perhaps John can begin in the stables." She turned to John. "The dung heap is there, and the shovel is leaning against the wall. I will get his friend to join him."
Glenn nodded his assent; John stormed away toward the stables, still seething.
Glenn noticed the irritated look on his daughter's face. "Margaret, he will be apprenticed here for one year, regardless of your thoughts on the matter. You will be civil to him and treat him as any other. You will forget his noble status."
Margaret snorted. "Of course father, he made sport of me, and I fear I lost my temper. Such obvious flattery! I am too old for such nonsense!"
"Margaret, you are three and twenty. You could have been married many times over, but you turn them all down. Now the Sheriff is calling on you, promise me you will give him a chance?"

Margaret thought of Sir Lance and curled her lip. He was no more appealing than the rest of the curs that came calling over the years, but he was the most important. "For you father, I will try."
It was evening now, and Margaret entered the front parlour, she gasped. There was the arrogant knight, sprawled shamelessly on the bear rug in front of the fire! Sweet saints above, he was nearly naked! How dare he behave so in her home?

But Margaret's annoyance soon gave way to admiration. Such a fine figure he had, such stark male beauty. She found herself unable to move or speak. Never had she been affected so.
John smiled slightly. He knew Margaret was standing there, his warrior instincts heard her light tread enter the room, her unmistakeable sweet, fragrant scent filled his nostrils. His keen hearing heard her catch her breath and gasp almost silently. He made no move to acknowledge her presence.
Margaret stood for the longest time, the air between them hummed with attraction. Still, John did not move.
Quickly and silently, Margaret slipped from the room and went outside. She took deep gulps of the cool evening air, praying it would dampen her raging temperature. The image of him sprawled comfortably on the rug, the light from the flames accenting every chiselled muscle, would no doubt be seared into her brain...she would get no sleep tonight. The next day, Sir Lance Spofford came to call on Margaret. She was none too pleased, but remembered her father's gentle pleading that she at least give the Sheriff a chance.
He flirted with her shamelessly, were all these overbearing, imperious noblemen the same?
Margaret turned away in disgust. All at once, Lance's demeanour changed.
"Margaret...am I so abhorrent to you?" He said softly.
He spoke so humbly, hurt and disappointment in his voice.
He wasn't really. He was not loathsome; he was a handsome man if she were to be truthful. And never had such a propertied man of the nobility paid her court. She should be flattered. "No, Sir Lance. I do not find you abhorrent." she whispered.
Lance smiled. "Come, let us go for a walk."
They walked and talked together for some time. Margaret became more at ease in his presence. He did not talk down to her, and seemed interested in her opinions on all matter of subjects.

Perhaps being married to this man would not be as repugnant as I thought, Margaret reasoned.

They were deep in pleasant converse, and did not hear John approaching with the wagon.
John felt his heart tighten as he watched Spofford walking and talking amiably with Margaret. She was looking at him and smiling! They had not noticed him. He did not want the sheriff to know he was working here; Glenn had given his word as had Margaret that they would tell no one, he hoped they would keep their word.

He quickly wrenched the reigns and turned sharply behind the stable before he was spotted. He jumped down and stood by the wall, straining to hear their converse.
In just one afternoon, Lance had made amazing strides in his conquest of securing the milliner's daughter. At first, he aim was to merely seduce the maid, but he changed his mind the more he was in her company.
She was beautiful, intelligent. She would make a fine wife and mother to his children.
He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it passionately. Margaret was flattered, and told him so.

John stood by the wall watching the sight. Not only had the man taken his lands and village, now he was going to take the woman who had caught his eye. John turned and walked away dejectedly.
A few days later and John and Allen found themselves alone to share the midday meal. Allen cleared his throat. "John...'tis worried I am, you are not yourself since we returned home. The John Twinningham I know would not sit by and let his lands be taken. 'Tis your honor that spurns you to rid yourself and your family name of this debt, but you have every right to inquire as to what led to these tragic events!"
John looked at his friend. He was right, he was preoccupied with honor...duty.
"Allen, I have given this a lot of thought, I have thought of naught else. Something is amiss here, you are quite right. When you go for the load of hay later this day, stop by the home of the Manson's and inquire as to my steward's supposed disappearance. I will avail myself to visit the sheriff again. So overcome with news of my mother's passing, I did not question the man as thoroughly as I should have." Allen smiled. "That is better, that is the John I know and love. I will also endeavour to question the villagers, 'twill do no harm to make such inquiries. I am sure word has spread of your return, I will be vague as to your whereabouts."
John nodded. "It is only a matter of time before my presence here at the Milliner's is discovered. The more we find out, the better. I am not without friends in lofty positions in London, we may make inquires there as well."
The sun had all but set, it's golden amber rays lay lazily and low on the horizon. John was aching all over from his hard labour, but it felt satisfactory to him, to be working off the debt. Every day that passed restored a little more of his honor, not only to him personally, but to his family name.
His talk with Allen in the forenoon also encouraged him.

He walked into the room and Margaret was tending the cauldron in the hearth. What delectable odours were rising from the pot. He inhaled deeply; pork stew. So the temptress could cook. He stood and watched her for the longest time.
John took a few quick steps to Margaret, grabbing her hand, whirling her around to face him.
Her hands were rough from working the looms and her daily chores, but they were small and delicate, entirely feminine.
John was enchanted; he momentarily forgot his honorable oath to stay away from Margaret, her beauty urged him forward.
He slowly raised the delicate hand to his lips and kissed it. He heard Margaret gasp aloud, and he smiled, for he was enjoying it as much as she was. He was starting to care very much for the milliner's lovely daughter.

Margaret did gasp aloud, for it was if hot flame had sprung from between her fingers. This kiss on the hand was so intense, nothing like Sir Lance's, while pleasant, did not stir her...not like this!
Margaret could not speak; his lips were mere inches from hers. Oh, those blue eyes! She knew she was trembling, she knew she desired him. And looking into his handsome face, she saw that he knew it, too.
The arrogance! The presumption! How dare he!?

Margaret could not have been more wrong. It was not arrogance on John's face, but a true yearning.
John leaned in closer; he longed to kiss her...
"Nay!" Margaret cried, she pushed John away roughly and turned to face the fire. She had not saved herself this long only to casually gift herself to a hopeless wencher! "Truly, you see smoke where there is no flame." Margaret said coldly.
That stung. Tis true, what right did he have to press his attentions on this irritating woman? Besides, he gave his word to Glenn he would leave his daughter alone, his word of honor. Honor was all he had left; it was all that mattered.
This exasperating woman had a stone where her heart should be.
John turned and left the room without another word.
The next afternoon, John got permission to call on the Sheriff. He was shown once again into the large dining area. "Well, Sir John Twinningham! To what do I owe this honor, and so soon after your last visit!" Sir Lance's voice was polite but curt; he stood defensively, his arms crossed in defiance.
"I think I would like to see this royal decree in your possession, the one that gifted you with these lands and this castle. I am well within my right to see this document." John said firmly.

Lance smiled craftily. "The document is not here, it is in London. T'would not be safe here."
"And what of the account books? My steward kept meticulous records." John questioned pointedly.

Lance shrugged. "Nay, I know nothing of account books, mayhap the man took them with him when he run off."

John stepped closer to Lance. "And what have you done to find this missing steward? As Sheriff of this shire, you must have held a hearing, an investigation."

"I grow weary of your questions, Twinningham. I will send to London for the parchment if it is so important to you. 'Twill take some time. Now, I have no more time for you, my man will show you out." Lance said curtly.
As soon as John took his leave, he stood outside, the anger and frustration he felt finally burst from deep within. His face twisted in rage.
He knew, deep in his soul that his steward did not run off. He no doubt met some nefarious end, and Spofford fraudulently took over his castle and lands, thinking he would not return from war. With his mother dead, there was no one to fight it.
How could he ever prove it? How could he ever restore his honor?
He returned back to the Milliner's, changed and sat before the fire. His angry thoughts soon turned to Margaret. He snorted aloud with amusement as he thought of their encounters.
John thought it annoying to be on the end of her sharp barbs bad enough, but to have her ignore him when he was painfully aware of her was infinitely worse. He sensed her presence when she arrived and felt the loss when she left.
He exhaled deeply. John wondered if Margaret were not forbidden to him, would he find her less appealing? Yet his waking thoughts and his tortured dreams were full of her, no other.
John went for a walk to try and clear his mind, he saw a candle burning in the shop, so he entered. There was Glenn. "I would dain to speak frankly." John began. "There is little in my work that merits much attention."

Glenn raised an eyebrow. "If truly you find your tasks devoid of challenge, perhaps other's might be found."

"Shall I learn to use the looms, then?" John suggested.
"You have much to learn before you touch one of MY looms, they are too valuable to be left in the hands of one so inexperienced." Glenn said firmly.
John grimaced, wondering if he would ever be given the chance to do something interesting in this shop.
Glenn saw the disappointment on John's face. ""Tis better to learn one step at a time, you will learn it all in time. Mayhap we can begin tomorrow."
John smiled. "I am gratified, I do learn quickly, be assured." John cleared his throat loudly. "I do wonder, if I may ask you questions with regard to the debt amassed by my estate."

Glenn thought for a moment. So far this noble had kept his word, he did not shirk his tasks no matter how lowly or mundane. "Aye, ask away, I do not know what I can tell you."
"When did this debt pass to you, and who approached you?" John inquired eagerly.

"The Sheriff came to me, right after the death of your mother. I will admit I was surprised to hear of such a debt, it was Sir Lance's idea for me to collect from the villagers, saying since the tenants are part of the estate and must partake of it's debt obligations. Seemed reasonable and just to me, as there was no one else to collect from, your death was much reported by this time."

John silently seethed. He was becoming more and more convinced some kind of fraud was perpetrated here. He looked into Glenn's face; the man seemed honest. He assumed the debt and collected as any moneylender would. John doubted Glenn was behind the taking of his lands. John thanked Glenn and took his leave.
Margaret could hear muffled voices through the wall. She recognized her father's voice, and the deep rumble was no doubt that shameless knight. Her heart took a little lurch each time she heard John's deep tones. It was getting harder to spurn his attentions, he was all easy charm, and she was uncertain if she could maintain her resolve if he insisted in speaking to her in that sensuously low voice. Of all the men who came to call, even Lance...did not move her as John did. But she would never show the arrogant knight her feelings! The door soon opened and John stepped inside. Margaret stopped in mid bite, was there no escaping the man? His virility and male presence filled the room, making her knees quiver slightly.
He was looking at her; she could feel his gaze hot upon her skin. 'Nay, I will not look at him!' she said firmly to herself.
John took a seat opposite her. She continued with her meal, paying him no mind whatsoever. He smiled warmly, hoping to elicit an equally warm smile in return, but nothing, she would not even glance at him.
Why was she playing so coy? They were attracted to each other; he felt it!
John felt his patience draining away. Enough of these games.
John rose from his chair, his eyes never left Margaret, he gently took her arm and lifted her from the chair and gathered her in his strong arms.
"Margaret...why do you torment me so?" He whispered.

That voice! She could not resist him, not this time. She looked into his handsome face, that was a mistake. His cool blue eyes burned with a fierce heat.
This time he did not hesitate; he kissed her, deeply and tenderly. At first she tried to pull back, but John kept her firmly in his arms.
She gave up resisting, his kiss was too devastating to do so.
She lifted her arms and put them around his neck, pulling herself closer.
That motion was all John needed. He leaned her back, deepening the kiss, he began to moan under her lips, this was far better than he had hoped and dreamed. She was so beautiful, so spirited. Everything he could ever want in a woman.

Margaret's eyes flew open and she looked at the knight. Saints alive, this was too much! She pushed at his broad chest and tore herself away from his kiss.
"How dare you! How...how dare you take such liberties! I will not be a notch on your belt, Sir Knight!" Margaret whispered.

"You think me a rake, a seducer of innocent maids? 'Tis mistaken you are. My feelings toward you are honest and just. I should not have kissed you thus, I ask your forgiveness, but I twill not apologize for my feelings!" John said firmly.

Margaret's lips were trembling, and still burning from his kiss. "A true knight, a true gentleman, would not behave so. Sir Lance has not behaved in such a base manner!"
John's anger and jealousy burbled. "Why do you allow him to pay court? He is not the man for you!"

"He has certain qualities, you t'would not understand!" Margaret cried, a few tears starting to cluster in her eyes.

"Aye, he possesses land and title, MY land! Verily you are impressed by such. You are easily swayed by wealth and position!" John yelled, his anger and frustration boiling over.

Margaret looked at John, biting her lower lip. She turned and fled.
At last, sometime later, he heard Allen return, the man was gone hours.
John had a quick look around the yard, there was no one about. Margaret no doubt ran to the safety of her locked bedroom after their passionate kiss. And Glenn he surmised had already retired.
"Allen, what did you learn? What happened to Manson?" John said quietly.
"'Tis as we suspected. Shortly after your mother's death, Eric simply disappeared. He went to market and never returned. I knew Eric, he would not steal from you, nor would he leave his wife and child to live on the charity of the Abbey. They are in a bad way John, his family. Wretched poverty. People do help, 'tis not enough." Allen said gravely. John, your people live in fear. Terrible punishments have been meted out by Spofford and his guards. I met villagers missing fingers, tongues...they have been taxed beyond all reasoning! If they cannot pay, they are thrown into the dungeons! Many are there now, that is why the shire was so quiet when we arrived!"

John closed his eyes, a raw pain flooding his soul. He had let everyone down.
"What can we do? We have no proof of Spofford's deceit. He tells me this land deed with the royal seal is in London. I looked into his eyes Allen, the man is lying." John said through his clenched teeth.

"When your dear mother passed, he no doubt made his move, betting you would not return. If he did have Eric Manson murdered, he will not hesitate to rid himself of you in the same way, you are asking too many questions. You are a nobleman. He knows you will not let this lie fallow." Allen stated.
The light from the fire flickered on John's face; it was hard set, his lips curled slyly. "Allen...I have a very important task for you to carry out. I shall write a letter to Lord Carlton at court. He was my father's close friend. I want you to go to London and deliver it directly to his hand and no other."
Allen shook his head. "It will take me many days to reach London, nay, many days to return!"
"Aye, but Lord Carlton is very influential. He will know what to do..." John replied.
John and Allen parted. At last, John felt some hope in his soul that his problems would soon be resolved in an honorable matter. Allen would leave tomorrow for London. Lord Carlton wielded considerable influence at court. Not even Prince John would dare defy the man. Carlton was one of King Richard's most trusted allies, his confidante and advisor.
Even though King Richard was still off fighting the Crusades, Lord Carlton was more or less running things, with the Prince as a mere figurehead, or at least, that is what John hoped and prayed was the case.
It was a few days later, and Margaret could not sleep, her mind raced with thoughts of John Twinningham, and his embrace. Restless, she decided to practice her music. Margaret sat at the harp, and nimbly began to pluck at its strings. She began to sing softly...

Just wait
Though while he may roam
Always
A hero comes home
He goes where no one has gone
But always
A hero comes home
He knows of places unknown
Always
A hero comes home....
John stood at the open window and listened. It was if Margaret was singing just for him. He felt a few tears stinging his eyes; the lyrical tune moved him deeply. He was not aware that he was being observed. Glenn stood and watched.
He saw the look on the Knight's face. He truly cares for Margaret, Glenn thought to himself. Mayhap she feels the same? Glenn had grown to like and respect the young nobleman over the past few weeks; maybe a match could be made.
When the tune ended, John took one last longing look at Margaret, then walked away.
Glenn entered the cottage. " Daughter, you filled the night sky with your music. Utterly delightful."
Margaret looked at her father. "Thank you father, I try to practice when I can."
"Margaret, I wish to speak with you, can you tear yourself away from your harp for a moment?" Glenn said gently.
Margaret was a little alarmed at the serious look on his father's face. "Aye, of course father."
"You are most dear to me Margaret. You are a beautiful young woman. I long for you to be wed, settled with a family of your own. But I want you to be happy. You must do what your heart bids you."
Margaret sighed. Her father knew her well. "My heart is sorely confused."
"Your heart would do well to recognize that it is not the only one to be so troubled. I speak of Sir John Twinningham." Glenn murmured quietly. "I am not so old that I do not remember what true love looks like, I have seen the way he looks at you Margaret, and if truth be told, you at him."
Her father was wise. Aye, it was true, she wanted John and no other. The revelation brought her up short. Surely the arrogant knight would mock should she choose to confess her feelings. But then again, mayhap he would not. Mayhap she had been wrong about him.
Glenn could see his daughter was struggling with her feelings. "Sir Lance Spofford is coming to see me tomorrow, I believe he will ask me for your hand. What are your feelings for him?"
"I...I don't dislike him father, But he does not...move me." Margaret whispered.
"Ah, and Sir John does? My dear daughter, you do not want a loveless match with Spofford. I will refuse my consent for your hand tomorrow, is that what you wish?"
Margaret thought for a few moments. "Aye, I do not want the Sheriff for husband, father."

"You believe John to be arrogant daughter, I have found he is not. Such a man of honor that he toils here in work far beneath him to work off a debt incurred while he was away at war. A debt, I am beginning to believe, that is false in its structure. You judge him too harshly." Glenn admonished gently.
"I am covered in shame. I had no idea that was the reason he worked here. I will be more tolerant in future." Margaret said quietly.
"Margaret, tell John how you feel, I think you will find he returns your affections." Glenn urged.
"I will think on what you said father." Margaret replied softly.
John had learned to work the loom in the past few days, Glenn thought him ready. He caught on quickly, and found to his surprise, he enjoyed weaving. John found it relaxing. He sorely needed the distraction.
The song Margaret sang was still in his mind, she looked almost angelic sitting at the harp. He frowned. Surely she could not enamoured of that oaf sheriff! Did she sing for him? Nay!
What were his own feelings for her? At first, he reasoned that he had been too long without a woman...but he knew in the same moment that he wanted no other. None but Margaret with her thick raven hair and flashing temper and soft, supple skin. He had fallen for her...hard.
Sir Lance Spofford arrived the next evening as he promised. Margaret was staying out of sight, as she had done from John all day as well. She still needed time to think.
"Sir Lance, do come in. Margaret has retired for the evening so it will just us to speak." Glenn politely led the Sheriff into the front room. He was not looking forward to this, he knew Spofford had a fearsome temper, and when he would refuse the Sheriff's suit, he knew the man would become enraged.
John saw Spofford arrive, and he could well guess the reason the Sheriff was here, he was going to ask for Margaret's hand. John felt his insides roll and lurch, his anger began to build. He did not tarry to listen at the window, he was too heartsick and growing far too enraged.
He went to his room.
Spofford laid out his case, his affection for Margaret, his desire to make her his wife. Glenn stayed silent. Finally, he said. "Nay, I must refuse your offer of Margaret's hand. I am sorry, but her heart belongs to another."
Lance's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Who...who is this knave who trifles with Margaret's affections? Tell me his name!"
"Tis not important who the man be, but the fact Margaret cares for another. That should be enough to know." Glenn said.

"No other man can offer Margaret what I can. Truly, I am marrying beneath me; I am giving Margaret a great opportunity to raise herself from her humble situation. So who is this man who dares to compete with me?" Lance demanded.
"Sir John Twinningham." Glenn announced.

Lance's face grew dark. "He is penniless, no lands, a man without honor. He has nothing to offer."

"Naught but his heart, and that is strong and true. Nor have I met a more honorable man. And as to his being penniless, there is aught amiss there, I intend to dismiss the debt, and call for an inquiry." Glenn said in a strong, determined voice.

"Milliner...I would not interfere, if you value your life, and Margaret's, stay out of this." Lance hissed cruelly. "I will have Margaret for wife, on that I pledge!"
With a sweep of his long black cape, Lance stormed out of the cottage.
Back in his room, John got his sword from its hiding place under his pallet bed, and changed into his Crusade chain mail.
He began to run through some exercises with his sword, it had been a good while since he wielded it. He parried and thrusted with amazing accuracy and skill, he did not survive five years of hell in the Holy lands without a deep knowledge of how to handle a sword.
All his thoughts were focused on Lance Spofford, the man who took everything from him...his home, his lands, his money, his honor...Margaret. That cut the deepest.
There was a soft knock at the door. He bade enter. John was pleasantly surprised to see Margaret enter his room. He put the sword down and turned to face her, he smiled warmly. "Good eve Margaret."

"John..." she gulped deeply. "I want...I wanted to tell you I am not accepting the Sheriff's hand. I...I do not know why I tell you thus, you no doubt think me foolish...the way I have spoken to you...I am sorry."
"You have made me very happy Margaret." John slowly raised her hand to his lips and kissed it tenderly. "Do you care just a little for me? I believe there is smoke Margaret; I would taste again the flame we have kindled. However, A promise I did make your sire. Let me restore my honor, then we may explore what we are feeling."
Margaret was lost. She knew it; she loved him, deeply, absolutely. "I do care for you John. I will wait as you do ask."
John's heart raced with joy. He kissed her hand again, then escorted her to the door.
John stood, a proud, determined look on his face. At dawn, he would head toward his former home and call out Sir Lance Spofford. A duel to decide his fate and the state of his lands would settle things honorably. Then he could claim Margaret and her love. For he truly did love her, and her love would carry him forward to restore all that was honorable.
For without her love, he knew he would be nothing.
With the first golden rays of dawn spreading over the horizon, Sir John Twinningham made his way to the castle.
"Sir Lance Spofford!" He thundered.
The sheriff sent out his man, and John waited patiently for Spofford to join him in a sword fight.
At last, Spofford strode out to face John, an arrogant look of distaste on his face.
"For what do we fight, Twinningham?" The Sheriff spat.
"For my lands, my people, my castle...honor." John hissed.
Spofford laughed cruelly. "Honor? Spare me your noble soul and virtuous Knightly code!"
Lance swung his sword toward John, the blades met in a crash of steel and sparks.
They duelled for sometime, each thrust and parry was evenly matched. Both men were very skilled.
The clash of swords continued. "You think you are better than everyone else!" Lance yelled angrily.

"No, Spofford, I only think I am better than you, of which I will soon prove!" John thundered. "You have made a grievous error to cross me!"

Lance Spofford roared in anger, and lunged once again, his sword dangerously close to John's face. John raised his sword to block the thrust.
Both men were labouring heavily. They soon had their arms and swords tangled. Lance laughed cruelly. "Why not throw that comely wench into the mix? You desire her as much as I!"
John's eyes narrowed. "Nay, I would not barter for Margaret's affections, not with the likes of you."
"You are going to lose, Twinningham. Lose everything!" Lance hissed.
"Then I would rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud!" John cried. He pushed away from Lance and continued the duel.
"HALT!! STOP!! In the name of King Richard!" A loud imperious voice thundered.
Both men lowered their swords immediately.
It was Allen, and he had Lord Carlton with him all the way from London.
John immediately knelt before the Lord. Lance did not; he stood stiffly, breathing hard.
"Nay, Arise Sir John. I see I arrived in time. I will not have two knights fight so. Drop your weapons at once." Lord Carlton demanded.
The men did as they were bid, then turned to face each other.
"Sir John, your castle and lands are forthwith returned to you with the apologies of Prince John. We will be reimbursing your money as well. The debt is forfeit." Carlton stated.
Lord Carlton turned to Lance. "You have taken lands and money fraudulently Spofford. I have here a writ for your arrest and immediate return to London, where you will answer the charges in front of the court and Prince John." Lord Carlton motioned to guards standing nearby. "Seize him."
In a softer tone of voice he turned to John. "I am sorry this is how you were rewarded for your loyal service, John. I pray you will find peace and solace. It is what your father would have wanted."
Margaret Glenn rode up with her father; saints above, no one was injured! She immediately ran to John Twinningham. "Oh John! You are in one piece, is it truly over?"
John took her hand. "Yes my love. All is well."
Lance raged nearby.
Lord Carlton shook his head in disgust at Spofford's actions. "I must go John, I have another overly ambitious sheriff that needs reigning in, I go to Nottingham from here." Carlton handed over the parchment with the royal seal. "Take this, so there is no mistake in future who owns these lands."
John got down on one knee in front of Margaret. "My love, can you see your way clear to betroth yourself to a humble knight, who loves and cherishes you most dearly?"
Margaret was deeply moved. He loves her! John Twinningham loves her!
Nearby an agitated Lance roared, 'No, no, NO!!"
The royal guards quickly led him away.
Margaret ran into his strong arms and buried her face into his shoulder. She began to cry softly. "Yes, oh yes I will marry you, I love you, Sir John Twinningham..." she whispered into his ear. And she did, deeply, truly, almost from the start.
At last, Sir John Twinningham felt like he was finally home. As gratified as John was that he restored his family's good name, integrity and honor, it did not compare with winning the love of Margaret~~

THE END~~

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#93QGOct 26, 2008

\:wub\: another tummy tingeling story, the rest was already said.... I stand in awe\:wub\:

#94mogan44Nov 15, 2008

I stumbled upon your page and saw that you wrote stories. Once I checked out some of the titles I KNEW I had read some of your creations before and really enjoyed them. Thank you so much for being so wonderful, you truly are talented and I can't wait to read more. \:rah\:

#95Jan 4, 2009

Yet another good read from my favorite writer on here. Good job, you write the most moving and inspiring stories \:\) \:wub\:

#96Little SeerFeb 26, 2009

#97Little SeerFeb 26, 2009

Opps, that was silly of me clicking before I wrote.  One of those days!  Anyway been away for awhile so I get to catch up on all your excellent stories.  This was terrific as always, you are seriously one of the best!  Cheers! \:\)

#98KvetoslavaMar 16, 2009

\:rah\:

#99fabrizioammolloMar 21, 2009

Thank you for sharing this long nice story, it has to require a lot of hard work, to build the set and take all these beautiful picture... Well done!

#100omik79Mar 30, 2009

great story \:\) thank you!

#101lisaliseApr 8, 2009

Thank you for a really good story

#102DVSVJul 18, 2010

 Nice story,very creative \;\)

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