Chapter 14:

Invisible Ink

The Knight of the Golden Rose

We lay in that position for hours, our chests rhythmically rising up and down with satisfied breaths, until the sun finished its journey across the sky and darkness draped over us like a blanket.Bookmark here

I don't remember when I fell asleep, but I do remember that when I woke up, Anselm filled my every thought like the smells of my father's bakery on a long afternoon.Bookmark here

I couldn't help staring at him when he was fishing or setting traps, showing off his impossibly tight and attractive figure. I constantly sought to see his face and meet his eyes, often with a giggle. Whenever there was silence, I filled the space with conversation, something that I had never found the energy to do before. Whether it be about the legends, love, magic, or just farming techniques, I sought his opinions on everything.Bookmark here

I started to sleep in his arms under the excuse that it helped me sleep better, but in reality the proximity of his hot chest and intoxicating breath caused my heart to jump like a madman all night long.Bookmark here

Anselm, for his part, seemed to reciprocate my efforts. He happily responded to all of my nonsensical inquiries. Instead of gathering food separately like in the past, we now went together; I sat beside him and hummed when no fish were biting; whenever we were low on medicinal herbs, he accompanied me to a nearby forest. On horseback, we were in constant embrace: me with my arms wrapped around his waist and him drawing his hand back to pat my head every so often.Bookmark here

I was astonished that I had never noticed how handsome this boy was, this boy who had been my companion for the past several months. Or rather, I knew he was handsome, but I always put his prettiness in the same category as those pretty knights in books instead of the prettiness of a living, breathing human standing in front of me, whose desires overlapped so much with my own.Bookmark here

A knight and his lady! A man and a powerful sorceress! Oh, all the adventures we would have! Such thoughts made my heart light and added a skip in my step.Bookmark here

The fever disappeared just as quickly as it came. Soon enough, Anselm was in high spirits and low temperatures. Sometimes he slept a little too well at night, and I woke up to his snores, but I couldn't be too mad, for I thought his snoring was rather cute.Bookmark here

"Thanks to your magic, I'm all better now!" He flexed his biceps at me after waking up particularly refreshed. The powerful muscles worked in tandem like a well-oiled machine to produce a rippling mass of strength.Bookmark here

After forcing myself to stop staring, I pushed his arm down. "I'm glad, but there's no need to show off all the time, you know."Bookmark here

"I know. But I also know that you like it," he said with a stupidly-wide grin.Bookmark here

Ears burning, I could do nothing but mumble a weak retort, to which he laughed and patted my head like a child.Bookmark here

The foot wound too, left with the fever. The rotten odor soon disappeared, and Anselm was back to slipping his boots on and off without pain. I was happy I no longer had to hold my nose to change his bandages.Bookmark here

"What did you mean when you said I was the only one for you?" I sometimes asked in moments quiet. I was always treated with a chorus of crickets and a sly grin. Then a shrug and nothing. I grunted in dissatisfaction, desperate to know his every thought about me.Bookmark here

Those were the happiest days of our journey. The sun was bright but not harsh, and the moon bathed the night in a beautiful white light. The water was sparkling and the forests mysterious and cool. Sweltering summer heat gave way to a cool fall breeze that tickled my nose when it passed by. The forests were painted in brilliant hues of amber, gold, and crimson.Bookmark here

Just as Persephone cherished the last moments with her mother before returning to the underworld, so too did we squeeze every drop of joy out of those waning autumn months.Bookmark here

We stopped in different villages, each one with its own unique flavor, and met kind people who wished us luck on our quest and if they had heard of Anselm as the stellar young knight in one of Lord Barrymont's many magnificent tournaments, even gave us bread and cheese for the long road to the king's castle.Bookmark here

Every day, I tried a new spell from one of the many books I still carried, although occasionally with substitutions, for I had neither dragon's tooth nor gold ore. Convinced that my failures at Lord Barrymont's estate were simply flukes, I eagerly showed Anselm my burbling stews that coughed with such foul smells. This one for warts, that one for boils. A love charm. A poison.Bookmark here

He clapped and praised me for being such a wonderful little witch. A natural talent sure to rival Morgan le Fay.Bookmark here

I agreed that my potential was boundless. I just needed more and more spells. And eventually I'd be able to rescue people from the brink of death, transform lead into gold, and maybe even bring Arthur back if Bellemere Forest wasn't to his liking anymore.Bookmark here

I imagined returning to the village as a hero, hugging my mother, and telling her that the hunt for a husband was finally over even though Anselm had been here all along.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

One particularly long and uneventful night when the embers had all been reduced to smoke, I tossed and turned but couldn't fall asleep no matter how tightly I shut my eyes. I looked at the boy in front of me, whose breathing was too irregular for him to be dreaming.Bookmark here

"Are you awake?" I whispered.Bookmark here

A pair of ice blue eyes appeared in pitch black darkness. "Yes."Bookmark here

"I can't sleep."Bookmark here

"Me neither," he said, propping up his chin with the palm of his hand. "That makes two of us."Bookmark here

I rolled on my back and looked up, breathing in the cool air. "Isn't the night sky beautiful?"Bookmark here

"You know what else is beautiful?" Even though I couldn't see him, I knew the corners of his mouth were turned up.Bookmark here

I groaned. "Don't even start."Bookmark here

"My, my, narcissistic, aren't we?" And he laughed and lay on the ground beside me.Bookmark here

Andromeda and Pegasus stretched across the sky in grand majesty. I couldn't even begin to fathom how large the constellations were, for they could easily encompass all of England. I wondered if those constellations ever got bored in the throne rooms of the sky. Were us humans enough entertainment for such a heavenly audience?Bookmark here

And what of those lesser stars whose light could never burn bright enough to save a lost and weary traveler? Were they born to bow down to greater stars who had a tyrannical hold over light?Bookmark here

And a smaller but more insidious thought: was I, too, destined to be inferior?Bookmark here

"What are you going to do after this?" I asked someone I wasn't sure was still awake.Bookmark here

"After what?" He immediately replied.Bookmark here

"After you've found the king and become his knight. What will you do after that?" I kept gazing at the stars infinitely far away, trying to imagine my own future. Would I be a lonely witch? Or a regular baker's wife with five children and one more on the way?Bookmark here

"I don't know," he said. "I'd like to just go back to the fields."Bookmark here

I furrowed my eyebrows. "Really? You're not going to kill a dragon, rescue a princess, and all that?"Bookmark here

"Maybe some of that. But then I'll go back and help my family. Any extra hands are good when there are mouths to feed." He patted his belly for emphasis.Bookmark here

I remembered an old conversation we once had. "Didn't you want to be Lancelot? The greatest knight in the world?" I put my hands in the air, fingers spread out, imagining what a constellation in the shape of Lancelot would look like.Bookmark here

"I did," he said, then quickly added, "I do."Bookmark here

He stopped to pull his thoughts together. I waited.Bookmark here

"But now I think there are more important things than just being the most famous knight, no matter how exciting it is."Bookmark here

It was true, certainly much had been written about Lancelot, and not all of it good. He rescued Guinevere countless times, bested many opponents, and even participated in the quest for the Holy Grail. Yet, he caused so much tragedy with the murder of his own disciples and his adultery. Indeed, some have accused Lancelot of the destruction of Camelot. The king's grieving face must have haunted him in his dreams.Bookmark here

Did he want all of this, or was destiny foisted on him? Would Lancelot have been happier as a simple monk?Bookmark here

I turned to Anselm again. "Do you think Guinevere regretted being Lancelot's lover?"Bookmark here

"Yes," he said without a moment's hesitation.Bookmark here

"But she was only able to regret because she experienced that love. If she never got involved with Lancelot, she would have never known what a dangerous affair it all was. And then perhaps her regret would be not to have loved him."Bookmark here

To this, Anselm had no answer. Silence enveloped us. Then I sang a song my mother taught me, and he clumsily hummed along.Bookmark here

I don't know which one of us drifted off to sleep first.Bookmark here

Soon the sun woke up to vanquish the night and her army of constellations. I rubbed the morning rays out of my eyes and rummaged through my bag to see if we had any dried meats left. I felt a small piece of paper and took it out, remembering the little old healer at Lord Barrymont's manor. Faded silver letters adorned the paper.Bookmark here

My eyes widened. "Anselm! There's writing!"Bookmark here

He shot up with a groggy yell. "Is something the matter?"Bookmark here

"Look here!" I ran towards him and shoved the paper in his face.Bookmark here

"Dinasfield, Bathsheba," I read.Bookmark here

"There was magic in that note! Something triggered the words to appear!" My face lit up. "The water! It must have been when we fell in the river!" I could barely contain my trembling breath, my heart threatened to burst from excitement.Bookmark here

Anselm opened the map. "Oh, Dinasfield. It's just a little south of here. Shall we go?"Bookmark here

"Yes!" I shouted with so much energy I nearly spat on his face. "This is the person who will teach me magic, I'm certain of it! This is fate at work!"Bookmark here

He stood up, secured the bags, and untied the horse. Then he turned to me and held out a hand. "What are we waiting for? Let's go."Bookmark here

Fuzzy Rabid Usagi
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