The three knights were weary from the journey. They left London a week ago. The baggage wagons slowed the progress of the cavalcade when they became stuck in the muddy ruts of the road paths. It seemed the rain never stopped since they left London.
“Your sire picked a horrid time of year to command your presence at Keyes,” Sir Lewis grumbled pulling his hood down further to cover his face.
William shrugged. He was not in a pleasant mood. The rain was running down his face like small rivulets. He was soaked through to the skin and his woolen tunic was emitting a very unpleasant odor from the soaking. The wagons had stopped them three times this morning. They were still at least four days from Keyes Castle. If this rain continued it could very well take another week to get to the castle. He was starting to chill with the cold rain. Dusk would soon be approaching.
Sir Gaston was returning, he had ridden ahead looking for shelter. A town was nearby, but they weren’t certain how close they were. “Wills, there is a town ahead only a short distance. It has a hostel. I’ve arranged for shelter.”
“Blessings upon you,” Lewis shouted. He spurred his Destrier into a run passing William and Gaston. “At last a warm dry bed, dry clothes, warm hearth, hot food, and warm Ale. Lord be praised.”
William and Gaston watched the knight disappear down the path as he galloped around the curve. A copse of trees shielded the path from observation.
“I have to admit I intend to enjoy those same comforts,” Gaston laughed. “I nearly did not return to you. The hearth was most inviting.”
“Then let us enjoy such comforts post haste,” William grinned. His thoughts were of a good meal, ale, warmth, a dry bed and of course a wench to warm him. William spurred his horse into a gallop. Gaston was behind him. The squires, pages, wagons, and camp followers also picked up their pace.
“At last, there it is,” Reimond stated raising his bowed head to look at Keye’s Castle with relief. Ahead there were warm hearths. There would be food and ale. Keye’s Castle would offer comfort and respite from his sodden journey. He was also worried about his eldest daughter, Sarra. She was soaked to the bone. She had been sneezing the last furlong. He was worried she might catch the ague. If anything happened to her he didn’t know if he could go on. His youngest daughter, Sabina was already happily married and expecting his first grandchild. He was thrilled, but Sarra was always his favorite. It was Sarra that continued making his cold castle of Mondel a warm and inviting home. Reimond remembered his beloved Joy. Reimond considered his great fortune to have Joy as his good wife. She was perfect for him. Sarra was trained well by her mother. Sarra not only continued her mother’s work, she looked like his beloved wife.
Sarra looked to her father. She was soaked from the rain down to her skin. The cold rain was giving her chills. Her teeth were beginning to chatter. “No..oo..tt.. tt a mo..mo..ment anon,” Sarra chattered with her teeth. “I am co…old to my...my...bo...ones.”
“We will have warm shelter and warm drink soon,” Reimond promised. This was a poor time of year to travel. He could not understand why his liege lord would summon, not only him, but his daughter also. Reimond had always known Edmond to be considerate of his Stewards. Edmond had been a fierce and powerful knight, but he followed the rules of chivalry. It was a bit unreasonable to travel in the early fall. The roads were almost impassable during this season. It was difficult at best for a knight, even an old knight, but expecting a young woman to endure the journey was unreasonable to say the least. It certainly did not fit Reimond’s respect for his liege lord, Edmond. There must be something important for Edmond to call him and Sarra.
Sarra was cursing the Earl of Sussex under her breath. This weather was most foul indeed. She felt she weighed another fifty pounds under the wet woolen cape, tunic, and gown. She was also worried for her father riding in this weather. He was no longer a young man to endure such a journey with these weather conditions. The men at arms were not used to such travel either. Sarra worried most about her maidservant, Roese. Her maid was two score and four. Roese was maidservant to her mother and was like her second mother. Even today Roese would worry over her care like a mother hen. This was not the weather to expose a delicate older woman like her Roese. As soon as they entered Keye’s keep, she would ask for hot cider to warm them and then a good meat broth.
A few minutes later, although it seemed like another hour, the travelers crossed the drawbridge into the bailey. Reimond had identified whom they were and the drawbridge was lowered immediately. The guard had been told to expect Lord Albyn.
Sarra’s spirits were beginning to improve with the warmth of hearth so near. She thought it strange that there was no greeting for them.
The Marshal had been called and approached the small caravan to care for the unloading of the wagons and the care of the horses. But there were no knights or men at arms to give proper greeting. Sarra’s father was the Steward of Mondel Castle. It was a large manor and he was given the dukedom of Mondel. Chivalry demanded a proper and respectful greeting. There was no greeting.
The Marshal assisted Sarra from her palfrey. “Welcome, my lady.” “Thank you, kind sir. Why is there no one about?” Sarra queried.
“We were summoned to Keye’s Castle by his lordship. Yet, we are not greeted. Surely it is not the weather. You must have known we approached. The gate keeper was told to expect us.”
“Lord Edmond told us to expect Lord Albyn and his daughter, but we did not know when to expect you. We were heralded when told a caravan approached, but we did not know it was you. The rain obscured our vision and your pennants,” Marshal Bouvier apologized. He realized the lady might be insulted. “We did not know who you were until you hailed our guard. Until then we assumed you might be merely travelers seeking shelter from the weather.”
“I understand the confusion,” Sarra replied quietly. “We are truly sodden and in need of a warm fire and hot drink.”
“Lord Edmond is in residence and in the keep,” Marshal Bouvier informed. He motioned for his helpers to assist the Lord Albyn and ladies maid. He personally walked Sarra to the keep and led her to the great hall.