Hearing a rasping sound caused Mary to tense, fearing that her father had come and found her behind the nest of trees. The moon created shadows that would hide her, but she wasn't sure if they would be enough against his keen eyesight. But the set of fingers that landed to rest on her shoulder was far from the heavy flab that resided on his hands like webbing on a frog's foot.
Nathan. The serf who contained power in his mind, who the priests of the church called cursed. She smiled slightly when she gazed at his face; into his golden eyes that lay below brown, cropped, dark hair and a stubby beard. His tanned skin seemed much paler in the light of the full moon. Her smile faltered as she saw the grim frown on his lips.
"What's wrong?" she asked softly.
"Your father has found out about us, Mary," he said.
Despite the numerous skirts she wore, Nathan lifted her from the ground and tossed her onto the saddle of his jet black mare. "He'll find us if we don't leave, he's already got the Cardinal to send the sheriff's men after us. The owls heard them speaking in front of the monastery. He'll have us both locked away, maybe worse." Nathan leaped onto the mare's back, stroking her mane.
"Go, girl," and the horse obeyed his commands. No bridle was needed, thus freeing his arms to hold Mary close against him, keeping her from tumbling off the galloping steed.
"we will go to Lord Humphrey," he whispered in her ear. "He will take us in. He despises the Cardinal ardently." There was no need to cajole her, she was ready to flee with Nathan anywhere, no matter the reason. She pressed her hand against her stomach, thinking of what her father would do if he found out about it. Her hands shook at the thought of it.
The mare pulled at the saddle with her ribs as she turned to take a left fork in the road. Two sets of horses galloped behind her. Mary sighted them, two men in rough chain mail with large horses, small cross bows in their hands. Her breath caught in her throat. The men were yelling for them to stop but Nathan didn't hear their words.
Two more horses cut off the mare's route in the fork in the road. They were soon joined by a black stallion, larger even than those the sheriff's men rode.
"Father," Mary gasped and stiffened at the sight of the corpulent man.
"Lord Stephen," Nathan murmured the name as though it were a curse. Lord Stephen urged his stallion to canter up to the two lovers, a smirk plastered on his face. Mary felt her heart race, beating against her chest as if it was trying to burst free of her rib cage.
"My daughter," Lord Stephen stopped his horse, relishing his victory. "You degrade yourself by even thinking of this lowly farm hand, this demon child." He spat at Nathan, whose hands trembled in rage.
"Come back to my arms, Mary, and we can put this behind us, and the monster can go to the sheriff's dungeons where he belongs."
"on what charges, my lord?" Nathan asked angrily.
"Kidnapping," The lord laughed at Mary's astonished face. She attempted to regain her composure.
"I've made up my mind, Father," She looked him square in the eye, attempting to appear braver than she felt. His face resembled a flaming cherry on top of his large throat and formidable chins.
"Have it your way, girl," he hissed. "Take them!"
The sheriff's men trotted forward, but a word from Nathan caused the lord's stallion to leap forward, turn around, run at full force and whinny in the air. The men stared at this in fear, as Nathan's mare burst past their small siege, charging away at a full gallop.
Nathan laughed heartily, despite the danger of the situation. Mary joined in, pressing her body close to his so she wouldn't fall. All they had to do was make it to Lord Humphrey's domain, where the sheriff's jurisdiction ended. Then the child who grew in her could live without fear, as long as Lord Humphrey owned his territory.