I'm Jolene Navarro and I'm going to share with you the final scene of a great battle and the love of Lady Elizabeth and Baron Drake. Happy Valentine's day!
With Drake’s warm hand on her upper arm, Elizabeth scanned the room for her sister. What she found were faces full of terror, women screaming and running. Her heart lodged in her throat. Villains had invaded her home on a day of love and joy. She didn’t have time to hide behind Drake. The ground would soon be turning red with the blood of innocents, innocents she was responsible for.
While her own blood pounded in her ears, she left the security of Drake’s presences and ran to her Man-of-Arms. The look of devastation on his face scared her. She quickly gave him orders to move the knights to the west wall and send out men to close all entrees, she thought of every single lesson her parents had taught her. She couldn’t afford to miss anything. The flow of invaders had to be stopped. She demanded a few guards to take the women and children to the Abby.
Metal clashed on metal. Drake forced the enemy out of the hall with the might of his sword, his training in full evidence with every fast and swift move. Her stomach rolled in fear. He fought viciously, as if these were his very own people. The easy going charmer had vanished, Drake was now a brave warrior her people needed. The clanging of metal weapons and screams of pain crowded her head.
Her sister, where was Patricia? Looking toward the courtyard she saw her, under the thorny vines of the hibernating rose bushes. Next to her was Thomas. Her brother had arrived! A touch on her arm startled her and she swung around. Aunt Jane stood there, tears in her aunt's eyes. “I’m so sorry. I knew. I did, but I wanted to pretend everything would be….I hoped he…” Her aunt collapsed into her arms, sobbing. “I thought he would forgive me.”
She moved her aunt to the dark alcove she had just been in with Drake. Thomas joined them with Patricia in tow. “Aunt!” His voice stern. “Why did you stay silent? They could have been better prepared.”
Confused, Elizabeth looked at her distraught aunt. The frail women reached a hand out to Thomas. “I didn’t want to believe he would do this. I knew he wanted revenge, but I didn’t know he hated us this much. Oh God, please forgive me.”
He brother stepped back and lifted his sword. “Claude, the man pretending to be Viscount Nicolas, is Aunt Jane’s illegitimate son with Richard, Nicholas’ father.” He looked at Elizabeth. “Your marriage was to heal and bring peace to the families.”
Elizabeth's mind spun. “What---“
Thomas cut her off. “I just found out myself.” Turning from them, he whistled. A young, curly haired noble, Burke, who was attending the festivities, ran to them. His silk tunic already bloody and torn.
“I was so worried. We were looking in every room for you.” His gaze stayed on Patricia the whole time. “We have a safe place for you and your family.” He nodded to Thomas. “I’ll make sure they get there.”
Sword ready to swing, Thomas ran without a backward glance.
Patricia wrapped her hands around Burke’s arm. “Will you stay with us? This is so…so horrible I can’t even…” She stared crying on his sleeve as he put an arm around her shoulder.
“Of course my lady.” He finally looked up and acknowledged Elizabeth and Aunt Jane, who was still crying so hard she couldn’t talk. “Stay close to me and I will get you to safety.” He reassured them, taking Aunt Jane to his other arm.
Elizabeth didn’t have time to be safe. She needed to help, to find a way to protect her people. Heading to the court yard she didn’t argue or wait for permission.
“My Lady you can’t go that way. I’ve been charged with your safety. You’ll only get in….”
She started running along the wall to the staircase. She had a plan. It might be the end of her good reputation, but her people’s safety was worth it. For a mere moment she thought of Drake and how he would react to her secret. Her brother had always told her she was the best he had ever seen. Of course, he also made her vow to never let anyone know about their training. As she took the stairs, she knew she would have to sacrifice the chance of being wife to such a noble man if it meant he and others would live.
Drake switched the sword to his other hand and drew a fortifying breath. He couldn’t afford to weaken. A great burden had been lifted from his heart when he saw Thomas join Elizabeth. Her brother would make sure she was safe. The tip of an axe caught his arm as he spun and lunged. Another enemy down. As his sword danced with another, Drake tried to locate the false Nicolas. If they could find him the battle would come to an end. Another spin, another enemy.
His lungs burned as he forced air in and out. Stay calm, anticipate, swing, hold, and lunge!
From the left, a giant of a bear charged at him, on the right a man with the look of a viper struck. This was it. He would die on the field of honor without ever telling a woman the truth of his heart. Never to tell Elizabeth his love for her.
He lifted his sword and met the bear, preparing for a hit. He was startled when the lean viper fell limp into their fight instead. An arrow protruding from his forehead. Just as quickly the bear fell. Another deadly arrow.
Stunned, he looked for his guardian angel over his shoulder and found Elizabeth standing tall, as tall and timeless as the mountains surrounding her home, the familiar look of sternness on her face. He had never enjoyed the company of flirty, giggling girls, no matter how pretty.
Now he knew why. His heart had been waiting for his serious and intelligent love. Her bravery caused his heart to slam against his chest. She pulled the string taut and he watched the arrow hit another mark. a man attacking her brother’s back.
With this area cleared of invaders, he ran past the court yard. Thomas joined him and they jumped into the battle, caging the uninvited guests into a corner of the keep. Arrows from the walk above now took down enemies one at a time. Drake smiled. When they did claim victory it would be due to it one fiery lady of the keep.
He took the opportunity to scan for the leader of this crash. The imposter had to be around somewhere waiting to strike.
An arrow missed its mark falling harmlessly to the ground. His heart stopped as he looked up to make sure she was unharmed.
“NO!” The fake fiance held Elizabeth by the neck as he dragged her away. She was kicking and clawing. The fighting around him faded out as he became focused on one goal. Get to Elizabeth and kill the man harming her.
Running faster than his heart could beat, Drake dodged swords and clubs before he paused at the steps. What if he wasted time searching in the wrong place? Taking a deep breath he scanned the area. Then he heard it. Elizabeth trying to call his name. A man’s oath. Good, she must have found a soft spot.
Sword drawn, Drake had to cut through a thick wall of twisted vines full of thorns in order to get his love.
Finally stepping into the clearing he found Elizabeth pushing at her attacker.
The man wheezed in pain as he dodged more of the fair lady’s kicks. “This fortress will be mine, even if you don’t—“
“Unhand her.” Drake gripped his weapon with both hands. His injured arm throbbed and a wound in his leg shot pain up his back. With heavy breaths, he focused on the enemy. “I killed you once, I’ll kill you again.”
The man sneered and threw Elizabeth to the ground.
Run, please run. She did. She stood and fled. He sent a prayer of thanks that she listened and one for her safety.
He slowly turned in a wide circle and waited for the other man to attack. his strength quickly waning. If he could make his enemy do all the work he might get to see Elizabeth in the sweet light of morning sun. He might get the chance to tell her of his love.
The enemy lunged and swung, hitting Drake in the shoulder. With a block of his sword, Drake drove the other man back. In circles they went, stabbing, blocking.
A hit to the leg brought Drake to his knees. This was it, he would not be seeing his true love again. Lifting his sword, he refused to make this easy for the imposter. The false Nicholas laughed as he started to bring his own sword down when an arrow threw him backwards. He landed on his back, staring at a sky he would never see again.
Spinning around, Drake tried to raise and greet his hero, but his legs gave out and his world went black.
Elizabeth leaned against the wall. The cool breeze dancing through her hair. She turned her face into the sun, letting the warmth embrace her. Drake would be leaving soon. He had fully recovered from his injuries. Injuries he had sustained while protecting her people.
And protect them he did.
All the women and children were safe. They had lost three of their warriors, but the enemy and lost many. She still had a hard time sleeping, seeing the death she herself had brought to men. Men that she knew were going to kill people she loved, but still killing did not come easy.
Life wasn’t so clear cute in what was right and wrong anymore. Her Aunt’s secret had sifted what she thought to be true in her family. Aunt Jane had been a mere girl when a handsome nobleman had made promises he knew he wouldn’t keep and then ravished her, never bothering to tell Aunt Jane he was married. When she found herself with child, the family took the baby from her and hid him. That son had lived his whole life consumed by anger.
Elizabeth sighed. They all agreed Aunt Jane’s tragedy would remain a family secret. With Nicolas, his father and now Claude dead too, it didn’t matter anymore and Aunt Jane had suffered enough.
If it weren’t for man like her father, her brother, and Drake, she might decide to hate the whole gender. Patricia’s new love, Burke, seemed to be of the same good caliber.True men of God.
Drake. Her mind drifted to him a great deal. Sitting by his bedside as his body fought off an infection had become her daily routine. Now he was up and no longer needed her. She felt a little lost. She loved working in the gardens and on tapestries, but the restless she ignored before had become stronger.
“I see someone else dares brave the cold for a breath of air,” said a deep voice to her left. “I’m surprised. Not many maidens I know venture beyond their tapestries for such a pleasure.” His charming smile baited her to smile back, even if it wasn’t proper. This time she did. He had taught her that smiling was so much better than scowling at the world.
She allowed her gaze to take in this seemly laid back charmer with chestnut brown hair, a bit too long. When she had first seen him she had thought he was in need of a trim. Now, all she thought of was running her fingers through the tousled mess. She had grown fond of his mischief. Maybe she needed some of that back in her life. “I’m sure I’m very much unlike the many maidens you know.”
He chuckled. “True. Not that I know that many. My business of war has made me a bit unsuitable for the company of most maidens. I find I prefer the more serious kind of lady. I have never met any female and very few men that are as accurate with a bow and arrow as you proved to be in the heat of battle.”
She turned red and looked away. What had she been thinking when she started to flirt with him? That he would be interested in such an unladylike maiden as herself? Not likely.
He motioned for them to continue walking along the parapet, just like the first day, as if they were a promised couple walking along together. “Sir, you seem to have forgotten again, it is not proper for us to be alone.”
“If my memory is correct you have spent many hours alone in my bedchamber with me.”
She gasped, horrified he would say something like that to her. “Just because I shot an arrow like a man is no reason to insult me.” She would not look at him. She couldn’t and the thought that she might cry was actually more horrifying.
His callused hand gently touched her arm. “Truly, Elizabeth, my indent was not to insult or embarrass you. My sense of humor does get me in trouble, see why I’m not suitable for fair company.” He touched one finger to her face and with slight pressure turned her toward him. “You are amazing. You know we claimed victory because of your skill and bravery. I’m alive and so are many others, including your brother because of the talent he encouraged you to practice. You should never hid or be ashamed of your ability."
She almost believed him.
He smoothed out the wrinkles her frown caused. “I have your father and brother’s permission to be here, alone with you.” He went down on one knee.
Her hand went to her mouth that was now hanging open. He lifted a yellow ribbon towards her. As she went to touch it a strong wind took the silk strip. They both grabbed for it, but it danced higher.
Drake laughed and ran after it. He returned with a smile and the ribbon, the blue sky behind him. From a silk bag he pulled out a flower, a perfect red rose. Again, he dropped to his knee. “I know St. Valentine’s Day is over, but ours was a little interrupted.” He looked up and just stared at her for a bit. “You are the most beautiful ---“
“Oh, Drake. Please don’t lie to me. I know there are many good qualities about me, but I’m not even the pretty sister, let alone the most beautiful maiden. You don’t need to flatter me with sugary tributes. I …like you a lot and I hope you would …return the feelings.” Her heart pounded so hard she could feel it in her ears. She held her breath. Waiting
He raised on perfect eyebrow and the corner of his fine-looking lips pulled up, causing the dimple to cut a line in his cheek.
“Are you done?” His deep voice had traces of humor laced in the simple question.
He handed her the rose and then tied the yellow ribbon around her wrist. “I ask your permission to spend the rest of my days convincing you that you are my nirvana, the beauty that settles my heart and gives my peace. You are brave and beautiful. You insult my honor or sight by implying I’m either a liar or weak in the eyes, I assure you I’m neither.”
She held her breath. Maybe she had found a home for her heart.
He took her hand. “I pledge my love, my honor and my life to you.” He licked his lips and swallowed. “Will you be mine?”
“Yes!” Oh, she was going to cry. “I’ve waited so long for you and you…you seemed too good to be true.”
He stood and pulled her close than spun around with her, laughing. She wrapped her arms around his neck and joined his laughter with her own, the joy couldn’t be contained. She laughed and cried. It would be just one day of many that she would find joy in his arms.
“Not sure about the too good to be true part. I’m sure I’ll find all sort of ways to drive you to madness.” And his first attempt worked when he pressed his lips to hers.
They lived happily ever after and many years later they would tell their great grandchildren the story of their first Valentine's day together. How love conquered evil.