Gisborne… the third instalment for FanstRAvaganza

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Herewith the third instalment…

The walls of the Priory stood at my back and Guy waited in front of me, two horses held. ‘Ysabel? Is ought wrong?’

Wrong? God above, where do I begin? ‘Nothing that wasn’t wrong before, only now a lot closer,’ I replied as I took the reins from him and grasped the stirrup.

But he took it away and turned me from the horse’s side. ‘I swear that as long as I am able, I shall keep you safe. Rely on me.’

Our eyes locked and I wanted to fall into the circle of his arms for just a moment, just a strengthening moment. Instead I took the stirrup again and as I mounted, the leather of the saddle creaking, I merely replied ‘Thank you. It is appreciated.’

I followed behind, my horse a spritely bay gelding, his ears pricked and a winter coat beginning to thicken. As we walked along the road away from the Priory, I heard the bell for Terce. Hard to believe it was so early in the day and already I felt as if I had been up for hours. I fiddled inside the sleeve of my tunic where I had pushed the hempen string and pulled it out. It was a pretty piece of knotting and weaving. I had a thought that Wilf and Harry would approve as I tied it in a circle and slipped the bracelet over my knuckles to lie on my wrist.

My horse threw up his head as we walked right into Guy’s stilled mount.

‘What is that?’ he asked.

‘A gift from Sister Thea.’ I explained about the devotions and about Thea’s girdle.

‘She grew fond of you in a short time.’

‘Less time to know of my shortcomings. Any longer and I would have received nothing, I can assure you.’

‘Ah,’ he said as he clicked his horse on. ‘You are overly hard.’

You say? Have I changed then? Have I improved? ‘What intelligence did you garner, Guy, whilst I was in the Priory.’

If it was possible to watch a body harden with annoyance, it is what I saw from behind as we proceeded in single file through the thickening forest. His back straightened, the shoulders lifted and I watched as he sank his weight down through his calves and into the stirrups.

‘Gisborne?’ I prompted.

A sigh. ‘Nothing of import. Merely that there has been no sign of De Courcey’s men on the road we travel.’

‘And that is a good thing? Could they not be taking another road entirely and shortcut us on the way?’

‘You forget they don’t know we sailed to Harwich, Ysabel. If they sailed to Dover, we are like to arrive in Moncrieff a day or two before them, even if they ride at a gallop upon landing. In principle, you should be able to see Gelis, your father, make up your mind what you will do and begone before De Courcey enters the demesnes.’

‘And what of Vasey?’

‘God keep you, Ysabel!’ Guy dragged on his reins and spun his horse to face me, snarling with fury.

'God keep you, Ysabel,' he snarled.

‘Your questions raise the issue of trust. You either trust me or you don’t. If you don’t then say so. I would rather know on what ground we tread before we proceed further.’

His eyes glared and nothing warm remained therein and I shivered in the shade of the trees. Intimidation and an incipient threat hung about but I would not be cowed.

‘Trust?’ I said, fiddling with Thea’s prayer cord. ‘I owe you honesty. For we have been as close as a married couple this last few weeks.’ Ah, yes, that got a reaction. His eyes opened wider and then slitted again. ‘There are times when your inability to be open frightens me. There are times when you slide off on your own that inspire lack of confidence. Your relationship with Vasey sickens me, cousin or not. And yet, despite it all, I would have none other at my back, Guy. All I ask is that you treat me less as a trouble and more as a trusted friend.’

‘I could ask the same of you.’

‘Trust is earned and I would be less than grateful if I didn’t say you had earned it, but I know you spy…’

His gaze sharpened.

‘You spy for money and I fear for myself at such times because spies have enemies.’ Oh how selfish I sounded when what I really wanted to say was that I feared for him. But I had made a pact with myself because I believed I knew which way the cards lay.

He looked at me long and then down at his hands. Finally he spoke. ‘You need have no fear for yourself. I do spy for money and have done for a number of years. I am skilled at my job, Ysabel, and would never put your life at risk.’

‘Then answer me. Where is Vasey?’

‘I imagine with De Courcey.’

‘And that doesn’t worry you?’

‘No, it doesn’t. There are some things Vasey doesn’t know and Davey’s sailing tactics are one. We have an edge and I hope that Fate will let us play it out.’

You hope? ‘Is there a chance it may not?’

‘Nothing in life is ever certain.’

I must have looked stricken because he said. ‘Please, Ysabel.’ He rode his horse next to me and laid his hand on mine. ‘Trust me.’ He picked my hand up and kissed the inside of my wrist, right over the top of Thea’s prayer bracelet and my strength, my determination, folded.

Damn you, Gisborne. I wanted to be free of this feeling. I wanted to do what must be done and move on. I wanted to leave this life and all that had happened behind. All of it, Ysabel? You lie to yourself. I found my fingers curling over his and there beat a moment like that in the room at the inn when he had held me naked against his own body. ‘I want to trust you, Guy. Just as I trusted my own mother.’ I laughed a mirthless laugh. ‘Leastways, as a woman, I feel I have little option.’ 'We kissed long.'Our hands still sat joined across the pommel of my saddle and we sat as still as statues and then, damn him again, he leaned over and kissed me long.

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