The marketplace that morning was as crowded as ever, people rushed about madly trying to gather all of their necessities before the merchants ran out. The center of the road only cleared once someone appeared on horseback. Thus was true when Sir Taylor and the royalties came down the road towards the marketplace.
Taylor slowed Kintessa down as they approached the edge of the square. He dismounted and turned towards his entourage. “I think it best we walk. ‘Tis more crowded than the usual.”
Zachary, Prince Henry, and Princess Ann each dismounted their steeds and tied them on the post near the grazing field. Jessica remained at home to help with the rest of the chores, urging Taylor to tell Henry they would take a walk later in the day. Zachary went in her place.
“Stay here, girl,” Taylor told his horse, tying her next to the others. He patted her neck, “I will return shortly.” Kintessa neighed. Most would swear it was because she understood his words and needed to show she believed in them.
The four started down the center of the road, the townspeople clearing their path as they approached. The women curtsied, the men bowed, and the girls giggled. Taylor blushed as a group of young girls whispered and pointed at him, smiles on their pink faces. He had to grin, he often saw many young girls whispering about him and it always made him laugh. His sister told him they did that because he was extremely handsome and strong, and the fact that he was a Knight made him even more appealing to a girl’s taste. His own mother had agreed so Taylor suspected it might have been true.
“Sir Taylor,” Princess Ann said touching his arm gently. “I wish to go over there.” She gestured towards a cart.
“Of course, my lady.”
Everyone cleared a path as the four youths walked over and browsed at a cart full of small gems and candles. The Princess’ eyes grew wide as she picked up a piece of scented wax and held it to her nose. She smiled and placed it back on the cart gently. “I have forgotten you have brought me prettier smelling candles, my Knight.”
Taylor blushed. “Yes, my lady.”
The Princess moved on to the gems, fingering the stones lightly, resting her gaze on a glowing purple grain. “What is this?” She asked holding it in the palm of her hand, her eyebrows narrowing in wonder.
“It is called amethyst, your Highness,” the merchant informed her, bowing her head in respect.
“Where does it reside from?” Ann questioned.
“The finest quarry in France, my lady.”
The Princess’s eyes shown as bright as the gem, a gleam of wonderment in her green eyes. “I must have this,” she said to Taylor. “It will go lovely on the diamond links you gave to me.”
“Anything would go lovely on your precious neck,” the Knight whispered to her, taking the stone from her hands. “How much?” He inquired, his attention towards the merchant.
“Thirty Denier,” the merchant replied.
Taylor looked at the princess. It was expensive but she wanted it, and he would get her anything in order to please her.
“It is a rare and precious gem,” the merchant pressed, attempting to persuade Sir Taylor that it was worth the whole price.
“No one has one, my Knight,” The Princess begged. “I would be the first.” Her fingers lingered on his arm, her touch cool on his arm even through his shirt.
He swallowed hard. “Will you settle for this?” Taylor reached under his shirt and pulled out a silver emblem: a cross, attached to a chain around his neck that he wore hidden under his garments.
Princess Ann gasped. She recognized the piece of jewelry immediately. He had received the emblem on his first royal journey when he was thirteen years old. It had once belong to a king and was beautiful carved with symbols of their faith. Her father allowed Taylor to keep it and wear it as protection from harm on his future travels and even more, his future battles. The Knight was never without it.
The merchant’s eyes grew wider in awe when she saw the cross. She darted to the Knight’s side and held the silver cross gently between her own fingers. “‘Tis real silver,” she muttered, her voice full of her dreams of fortune. This silver cross would surely help her achieve her riches. “Yes,” she said quickly. “This will do just nicely.”
Taylor bowed his head and slid the chain up off his neck. He pressed it into the merchant’s hand. “Thank you.”
The merchant’s eyes gleamed greedily as she rushed to the other side of the cart to show off her new prize. Taylor placed the amethyst in the right hand of the Princess. “It will be beautiful on the diamond links.” Ann closed her fingers around the gem and nodded. “Let us move on,” the Knight said, not wishing to speak of the price he paid for the stone. The cross was just a material object, her happiness was not material.
“I hear your elder brother is courting,” Princess Ann said quietly as the four children walked towards another merchant’s cart.
“Isaac?” Taylor questioned.
“Yes, Isaac,” Ann confirmed. The ends of her mouth twitched, it was obvious she was holding in a smile. The smile broke through and she grinned at her protector.
“Where did you hear that?” Taylor asked, grinning back at her as she gazed at the items on the cart they came upon.
She turned her head towards him, her eyes teasing him. “Nevermind where I heard it,” she giggled. “‘Tis true, is it not?”
Taylor chuckled. “Perhaps.”
“He and Lady Alexandria,” Ann said matter-of-factly. “He has been courting her for a spell now. Talk has it he will ask her to become his wife soon enough.”
“His wife, eh?”
The Princess nodded. Her eyes narrowed. “You have not heard?”
“Aye, my lady, I have.”
“I knew it had to be true,” Ann laughed. She turned her body away from the cart indicating the items were too inexpensive for her and she would have no part in them. She took the Knight’s arm. “I wish to move on.”
“As you wish, my Princess.” He linked his arm through hers and looked towards his younger brother and the Prince. “Zachary, Prince Henry, we are ready.”
The two boys nodded and followed the Princess and Knight down the center road. On each side the townspeople bowed as they passed, showing their respect for the Prince and Princess.
“Do you see anything you wish to stop at, your Majesty?” Zachary asked the Princess. “Anything you find intriguing?” He felt proud of himself, able to talk to the Princess without his voice doing strange things. Often he was too shy to speak to her, he thought she was beautiful and often his voice would not come when he wished to speak.
“No, young Zachary,” she said with a smile. “Nothing as of yet.” She leaned close to her protectors ear. “I find you intriguing.”
“I do not wish to go against your wishes, your Highness,” the Knight whispered back, “but I do not believe this is the place to speak of this matter.”
“You are right, Sir Taylor,” the Princess agreed. She paused. “Not in front of tattletale children.”
“Nor tattletale townspeople either,” the young man toyed. The Princess smiled although very disappointed he could not kiss her. She would have to settle to have her arm through his, and even though she liked it very much, she preferred to have his hands.
She wished with all her heart that her love for him could be known throughout the kingdom. She stole a glance at the young man as they walked down the road. His features were perfect in their own way; his perfectly shaped eyes were the most amazing blue she had ever whitnessed in her existence, his nose fit his face flawlessly, and his mouth... his lips... called to her every time she laid her eyes upon his face. She longed to touch them with her own every minute of every day. When their lips did meet she felt as though the world did not exist, just her and her protector existed. Her breath always caught in her throat the instant they touched, but soon after her love for him surfaced, the guilt did as well. They had to be careful that no one learned of the many times they had spent together with their lips pressed together and his hands, her favorite part of his whole being, on her body. If they got caught it would be her own fault, she was sure of it.
The Princess stopped walking. “Sir Taylor, I wish to speak with you.”
Taylor became alarmed. “What is wrong, my lady?” He had been watching her looking at him. Her face had become pale as each moment passed. He was afraid she would pass out for it was a trifle hot in the market place and the hundreds of townspeople walking about was not making it any cooler.
“I am fine, Sir,” she insisted. The Princess held tightly onto Taylor’s arm for support. She was feeling a slight touch of lightheadedness and her legs were becoming unsteady, probably from the heat. “I just wish to sit down for a moment.” She looked at her brother and Zachary. “The children can meet us in a few moments.” She looked up at the Knight. “Please, Sir.”
“You are pale,” the young man informed her. “Zachary, Prince Henry, we will meet you here at this cart in a few minutes.” The boys nodded in acknowledgment. Taylor looked around and found a shaded alley off to his left. He decided to bring the Princess halfway down the alley where it would be cooler to sit and regain her strength. “Come, my lady.” He guided the Princess down the alley. The sunlight was blocked by the buildings and indeed it was cooler in the alley than in the square. The market place was blocked by the buildings as well and he could see no people walking by the entrance of the side street. The Knight slid his over garment off his shoulders and placed it over a couple of small stairs which lead into a building. “Sit, my Princess.” Taylor lowered the girl onto a step.
The Princess sat without hesitation and patted the spot next to her with her hand, indication for him to take the seat next to her. “You, too, my love.”
The Knight knelt in front of her, neglecting to take the seat next to her. He gently picked up her chin with his hand and tilted her head towards his lips. He kissed her softly but pulled away quickly. He stood. “That was wrong of me,” he apologized. He took a step back, his mind flowing with thoughts of how wrong he was to assume she wanted a kiss. “You did not invite it.”
“But I wished for it,” Ann insisted, her eyes pleading with him, proving that she was indeed telling him the truth. “Please, Taylor, once more.”
He once again knelt in front of her on one knee and kissed her mouth lovingly. He heard a noise off to his left. He could now hear the noise of the market place and the townspeople over the sound of his own uneven breaths. He heard footsteps from the marketplace but took no head to them, they were at the end of the alley, nowhere near he and the Princess, he was sure of it. No one could see the two from the streets and no one would have business to come down the street at this time of the day.
Unprepared with his guard down; something Sir Taylor Hanson never was- except when he was with his beloved.
“Time reveals all.”
Taylor’s eyes grew wide at the sound of the intruder’s voice. His heart stopped. His lips closing, now far away from the Princess’s. His guard had been down for too long, he allowed himself to give in to his feelings in public. Sir Taylor scolded himself for believing he and Ann could go off without being caught.
He turned to the owner of the voice. He would be brave until the end. He was a Knight, he would put his guard back up until it was over. “Aye,” he responded, “and so it shall be.”