Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Knockin Christmas - Allison Knight

A Writers Vineyard Holiday Treat

“Where can he be? ‘Tis the end of the second day.”

“M’lady, worry not. He said he would return. And, he will.”

Rhianna deShay glanced at her maid as she paced the solar. He said he would return. In that Mildred had the right of it. Yet a whole two days had passed and the courtyard remained still, the silence spreading fear in Rhianna’s heart.

Once before Garrett deShay had been sent into battle with brigands and been wounded. She had not been at Knockin to aid in his recovery then. Now, she couldn’t help but fear for his safety. But how could a small raiding party at the edge of the property keep him from her for two full days?

Once more, Mildred’s voice seeped into her thoughts.

“Remember, the scout said there were only four men and m’Lord took your brothers and several soldiers with him. No chance they were outnumbered. He’ll return this eve. ‘Tis his duty to bring the Yule log to the hearth.”

Rhianna stopped her trek across the carpet to peer once more through the small pain of glass to the courtyard below. It was silent as it must have been the night in Bethlehem so many years ago.

“Did his knight find a tree big enough to burn through the feast?”

“Aye, he did,” Mildred said and grinned. “And the ribbons are already in place. They only await the master’s command to bring it home.”

“So, where is the master?” Rhianna tried to quell her fear. Only months before had they wed and she could not bear to lose him now. She had lived too many months thinking him dead. For years to come, she wanted to enjoy her life with the man she thought never to love, a man she could now not imagine a life without.

“M’lady, you must not worry. Gwendolyn will need you in the morn. Best you think now of seeking your bed. ‘Tis sure I am he will return before sunset.”

Gwendolyn! Rhianna smiled. Her daughter, only a few months old, would indeed need her in the morn.

“You have the right of it. I do need sleep.” The night before, and the hours of this day had been hard on her. She couldn’t help but be troubled. Could she find the sleep she craved while her new husband protected his property from the pillage of a few malicious men? Yet, Gwendolyn would need her.

“What if my gift to him on St. Nicholas Day had caused him harm?” she spoke her concern aloud.

“Oh, m’Lady. You worry for naught. That beautiful beast was a marvelous gift and trained by the best horseman in the district. The same as the palfrey with which he gifted you. That horse did him no harm.”

“Then why hasn’t he returned? Why hasn’t he sent word?”

She sighed. Mildred had no answers.

And, she had to see to her duties. Her involvement with the feast on the morrow should be occupying her thoughts.

“I must seek out those to whom I assigned tasks. Discover if they have been completed. The abbot will arrive early tomorrow for the Christ Mass and all must be ready. Come. We’ll check with Cook first.”

Rhianna gave one more glance to the courtyard below, but still the setting sun gave no hint of activity. Her heart sank.
She gritted her teeth against her anxiety and started for the stairs.

In the hall below, she gazed at the decorations gracing every corner. Dark green holly, with it’s red and white berries curled over chairs and tables, giving the hall a festive look. The hearth stood empty, awaiting the huge log that would burn through their feasting. Even the freshly whitewashed walls glistened in the light from torches lit against the descending twilight.

A shout from the courtyard echoed through the room. Rhianna raced toward the door. Her husband had returned.

She didn’t wait for a servant to wrench open the huge oak beams so she could peer through the entrance. But what met her gaze sent shudders through her body.

“Nay,” she screamed.

The body of her husband was draped over the saddle of his destry.

“Nay,” she whispered, her heart in her throat as she rushed down the steps.

“‘Tis not what you think,” a voice stopped her forward motion. “He’s not hurt.”

“How can that be,” she murmured refusing to look at her youngest brother as she struggled to reach the prancing steed.

“Rhianna,” Arthur yelled and pulled at her, stopping her.

“‘Tis not his fault,” Arthur added. Two of her other brothers dismounted and moved toward Garrett’s mount.

“What is not his fault? If he is hurt, he needs me.” She yanked away from his hold.

“Nay. What he needs is a long sleep, then a bath and a meal.”

“Of what do you speak? Sleep, a bath and food? How can that be if he is injured.”

She didn’t like the grimace that touched Arthur’s face.

“Tell me!”

“Well, we ousted the villains early this morn. They attempted to burn the cottage Garrett had gifted the widow from Erin. She has a daughter they intended to take. Garrett stopped them.”

“And one of them hit him on the head?”

“Oh, nay. Tis not that. The woman was so grateful she insisted on bringing forth this drink from Erin, a barrel of the stuff. Garrett had to take her offering. Then she insisted he try it. Not once but several times. She offered a drink to each of the soldiers and insisted they toast our Lord. I don’t know how much Garrett was forced to drink, but it was a lot.”

“And what was this beverage?”

“She called it ‘ooshki’, the water of life.”

Her oldest brother staggered forward, his gate telling much about his condition. “She’s to tesh us how to mash it,”

“You mean you have spent this day celebrating?” Rhianna jammed her fists on her hips. She gazed at her brothers, every one of them. All but Arthur were in the same condition.

She turned to two of the servants waiting by the door. “Take the lot to the pond and soak their heads for them. Arthur you can help Garrett to our chamber. For the rest of us, we’ll begin our own celebration now. Mildred, ask the new steward to bring forth the kegs of ale. Our celebration begins now.”

She turned to Arthur as Garrett was helped from his destry, his groan echoing through the descending darkness.

“Did you not drink some of this water of life?” she asked, fearing her face carried her disgust.

“They said I was too young,” Arthur growled.

Rhianna laughed. She couldn’t help it. After all, Garrett had returned, a bit worse for the ‘ooski’ from the widow from Erin, but alive and unhurt. The day of celebration could now begin in her heart as well as her mind.

This has been an original short story from Allison Knight
Allison, like many authors, read a book she didn’t like. Despite occasional digs from her children, she wrote a romance. And then another and another. To date she's published twelve romance novels.

A retired high school teacher, she’s taught fiction writing and spoken at conferences throughout the country. She still goes back to the classroom to teach. She talks about how she got published and some of what's involved in writing and publishing a book.

When her husband retired, they moved south to the land of hurricanes and sunshine, where she writes, creating heros and heroines, then finding ways to make their lives miserable.

Please visit her website at: