Stephen woke from the dreamless sleep groggy. Since the Frenchmen took him from the field, he’d lost all sense of time. Bits and pieces of events faded in and out of memory. He recalled at one point he’d tried to fight and they’d stuck him with a small spiked weapon. It hadn’t hurt, no more than a prick from a lady’s sewing needle. Then, he was floating and had the sense of angels lifting him.
Not angels but his captors.
The delicious scent brought him awake. He might’ve slept hours or days, he didn’t know. All he knew was the food smelled like fine fare and his stomach felt stuck to his backbone, he was so hungry. Those last weeks before the battle the army had run short of provisions. The knights had foraged for food along with their horses. The night before the battle he’d dined on overripe berries and dandelion soup. Soup indeed. Nothing but a handful of dandelion greens thrown into a kettle of boiling water.
“Is the food for me?” he’d asked, stomach rumbling.
A new man, one whose voice he’d never heard answered, “Yes.”
He attempted to rise but tethers kept him prone. His wrists and ankles were tied to the bed with padded cuffs instead of chains. A small but curious kindness.
“How am I to eat it tethered as I am? Smell alone will not get it to my stomach.”
“I’ll release you, but first you must promise not to fight or to touch your eye wrap.”
“Yes, yes, I promise.” He’d agree to most anything for a full belly.
Stephen sat up as soon as he was free.
The man put the tray of food on his lap and set cloth wrapped utensils into his palm.
“What is this?” Stephen poked the tined edge of a four-pronged eating tool to his fingertip.
“What is it? It’s a fork. You know—for sticking your food with and bringing pieces to your mouth.”
Seems silly. Why bother with cutting then sticking your food with the fork before bringing it to your mouth, an eating dagger is faster, more sensible? Stab and eat.
The aroma of meat and bread filled his nose and he put the fork aside. His head low to the tray, he shoveled the vegetables into his mouth with the spoon. A juicy, plump chicken breast nestled next to the vegetables. He tore the meat from the bone with his fingers, licking the buttery drippings from the tips as he devoured it. He last ate chicken in July and then it wasn’t a fat hen but a wiry, tough rooster. When the spoon no longer scooped vegetables, he used his bread to wipe up any remaining morsels on the plate. The captors brought two more plates and he finished those before he was finally full.
Stephen sensed someone enter the room as the man left with the last tray.
“Who is there?”
“I’m here to give you a sponge bath, if you like,” a female, young by the sound of her said.
“You wish to bathe me?”
The pass of his hand over his hair told him somebody had washed it. No dried blood was caked anywhere. He sniffed his forearms. They smelled of soap and had also been cleaned. He had no need of a bath. The woman offered something other than a wash.
He smiled with knowledge. It had been a long time since he’d enjoyed the services of a bawd. Tempting as the harlot’s offer was, he suspected enemy devilry and declined.
“Would you like to listen to music?” she asked.
The bawd traveled with minstrels. He wasn’t in the mood for her other services, but he’d welcome a cheerful tune. “I would.”
“What station do you wish,” she asked.
“I don’t understand.”
“I’ll turn it to a classical one.”
A tune different from any he ever heard came from across the room. “I’ll come back tomorrow,” the bawd said. Her light footfalls told him she left.
Classical station? Lovelier than any minstrel’s music, he dozed off still baffled by weird words and goings on of his captors. They’d woken him an unknown amount of time later and said it was the day and hour for his eye surgery. A man told him to make a fist. He said perfect when he found a vein and then stuck a needle into the crook of Stephen’s elbow. That was the last he remembered.
“Monsieur, monsieur,” a female voice said, patting his hand. “Wake up.”
Stephen yawned and propped himself up on an elbow. “Ugh.” His mouth tasted like sour milk and his tongue felt like it was wrapped in a mitten. “I’d like some water.”
“Here.” The woman slid a flexible spout between his lips. “Suck.”
He didn’t know what the spout was made of, nor did he care. The water tasted sweet to his parched mouth and he sucked the cup dry. “More.” When he’d sucked another cup dry, he asked. “What day is this?”
“September 22,” the woman said, taking the empty cup.
Three days had passed since the battle. Why had they let him live? There could be no good reason for it.
“This is Dr. Berger. Do you remember me speaking to you two days ago about your eye surgery?”
“Dr. Monette is here too. We want to talk to you about the day they found you. The more we know about you, the more we can help.”
“Who is the woman?” She didn’t sound like the first woman, the one who smelled like a garden. This one carried no scent of any flower. Nor did she sound young as the bawd. What was this one’s purpose? The first, he suspected, had created the potion that put him to sleep. He knew a bawd’s.
“She is Nurse Cloutier.”
Probably Witch Cloutier. “Ask what you will.”
“What is your name?”
“What’s the last thing you remember before receiving your injury?”
“I am a knight in service to the Baron Guiscard. He rode to the aid of his friend. I saw your men surround the baron. They were trying to pull him from his mount. I was about to ride to his aid when one of your knights, his heraldic symbol was of a panther on a field of orange, challenged me.” Stephen thought again how Guy’s warning had made him falter. “I...I hesitated and your man struck with his sword.”
“Monsieur Palmer, your eye injury is serious. If this answer is an attempt at humor, then it is a poor time to engage in such a jest.”
“You asked what I remembered. I told you. I’m not in the habit of making jests with my enemies.”
“Monsieur Palmer, we are not your enemy. We are not at war.” A long moment passed and then Berger asked, “What year do you believe it to be?”
“The year of our Lord, 1356.”
“Mon Dieu,” Cloutier said in the background.
“From what the paramedics told us you said when they arrived, and your answer today, I am convinced that you do believe this is 1356. Monsieur Palmer,” Berger covered Stephen’s hand with his own. “The year is 2013.”
This is book 3 in the series, and this is my first look at this book. I really feel like I was missing a little bit, but still was able to follow along and enjoy the story. What happens when 2 hunky knights are dropped into our time? lol....Chaos and wonder!! The author did a wonderful job portraying first time visitors into our time. I laughed out loud a few times because of the descriptions. The vividness of the writing was very real!!
Was it believable? Could I get into it? Absolutely!! You feel like your journeying right along with the characters!! The romance between Stephen and Esme is a delicious mixture of sweet and spicy.
I would definitely recommend to all my time-traveler and Knight lovers. You won't be disappointed!!
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