Esme, the Chaste

by James

I was wearied to the bone, the welts raked across my neck were aching abominably, but even as I fleetingly considered abandoning my horse in the courtyard and staggering to my chambers the voice of my old mentor began to nag through my mind. Horse first, lad, and then your own comfort. I guided the mare towards the castle stables, found an empty stall and then began the laborious task of settling her in for the night. Tackle off, nosebag on, water poured, and then the stroke, stroke, stroke of brush through her hair as I smoothed free the dirt and the dust of the road.

Her comfort satisfied, I turned to my own. A trip to the guardroom to gather meat and cheese and ale from the permanent spread set out for the guards of the castle. It was bright and noisy and warm, the atmosphere thick with drink and men’s laughter. I thought I might have snuck in unseen but as I began to hack at a loaf of hard bread I could hear the sniggering begin.

They were laughing of my latest “quest”, sniggering the name of the Sir Reginald’s daughter. Oh Esme. Esme the Chaste, only the way they all muttered the word, it came out as “chased”, and that set their laughing tones to outright mockery.

Esme the chased? More like Esme the throw herself down in the bushes and-

I escaped with my food and trudged my weary steps up to my chamber. It was wonderful inside; the fire was crackling merrily, and joy of joys, a basin of steaming water awaited me. A bottle of light spring wine sat on the table, and next to it was set a fine silver cup. These quests of Sir Reginald were thankless, but the rewards could be wonderful.

The wine fortified my spirits. I stripped my soiled garments from my body and washed some of the stress and strain from my face with the hot water. A mistake. The sting of the water as it found the marks on my neck cut through my pleasant mood and I felt a tremble come to my belly at the thought of the knife as it whipped past my ear and plunged itself into the rough wood of the door in that tumbledown cottage.

After that, my fury had known no limit and I had easily bested the ruffian I had found within. There was a man would never both my lord’s daughter with his unwanted advances again. I dabbed my neck with a cloth, wincing as I did so. Esme the Chaste was a wildcat, and no mistake.

I settled down at last for food when an apologetic tap sounded at my door. It was Sir Reginald. He cleared his throat. He thanked me for my fine efforts in rescuing his daughter from the clutches of that beast. Several seconds of silence followed and my spirits sank.

Esme needed rescuing again?