Brodie woke Gabriel as the light of dawn started to appear through the trees. She would have berated him for not waking her sooner and allowing himself more rest, but she figured it was of little use. Pulling the cloak she wore a little tighter about herself, she walked to the creek to wash her face. Along the way, she noted that the mules were still nearby, though she was surprised to see that Phillip had left them untethered. She supposed that they would not stray far, and that they would rest better if they weren't tied to the cart all night.
The water was freezing cold, and it worked incredibly well to force her awake. Taking a deep breath, she contemplated how much longer it would take to get to London. They were at least a half day behind her original plan, so she wanted to press hard today and try to make it by nightfall. Starting back toward their camp, she wondered if Brodie was planning to tag along. It might make the journey easier, but she knew he was a target if they were to run into the men who were after him, and it might spill over onto her if she was traveling with him.
She crept into the camp, intending to try not to wake Phillip, only to find him sitting up and poking at the fire. He smiled at her, "Morning Lady."
Brodie was packing a few belongings into a cloth sack and looked over his shoulder at her, "Aye, what he said."
"I wanted to let you sleep," she said, perturbed that he had denied her duty.
Brodie waved her off, "Who needs t' sleep when ya got an adventure to go on?"
"You can't travel well on a light sleep sir," she countered.
He shrugged, "I've been doin' it all along."
Phillip realized what Brodie was saying and frowned at him, "You not go."
That set Brodie off, surprising Gabriel quite a bit. "Her father took me in when I needed help," he ranted. "So there's no way I'm goin' t' leave her t' fend for herself when I can help!"
"You trouble..." Phillip began to interject, rising to his feet to tower over the young man.
Brodie's Irish blood wouldn't let him back down, even if he wanted to. "Aye, that I am," he said menacingly. "And I'll be a nasty trouble t' anybody what's going to cause her 'arm!"
"Enough!" Gabriel interrupted. "I will decide who stays and who goes," she said with authority.
Brodie turned to her, "Beggin' yer pardon, but I just can't leave you t' yourself."
Phillip never looked away from Brodie. "He bring bad men..."
Why do men do this? "I said, 'enough!'" she shouted. Both men turned to face her as she continued. "I am going to London to look for my father." She pointed at Phillip, "You are going with me, just as we started." A small look of satisfaction began to spread over his big face. That is, until she pointed at Brodie and added, "You are welcome to come with me, if you like." She saw the look of conflict on her servant's face before he could begin to form an objection and cut it off, "And there will be no arguments." Trying to calm the tension in the air, she explained, "My father saw fit to bring him into our home and extend his protection to him. I am simply honoring my father's wishes, as well as taking advantage of his services."
Phillip managed to release a sigh without it sounding like he was disagreeing with her. He was out-of-line by arguing as much as he had, but she knew that he didn't want her to get into any more trouble. They started off down the road in the cart to the sound of the mules’ hooves on the dirt. She wasn’t sure if it were her imagination or not, but it seemed like the mules were moving quickly this morning. Feeling optimistic, Gabriel unwrapped the loaf of bread and began sharing it with the men. They stoically tried to resist her at first, so she let out an exasperated, "I cannot believe you two. You are like children, the lot of you."
Both men looked at each other for a moment, which required looking around Gabriel who was seated between them. Frustrated, she angrily wrapped up the loaf again and started to make her way out of the cart.
"Hold on," Brodie protested. "Where ya goin?"
Phillip was about to add to the protest when she answered them both, "I am getting out to walk. I refuse to ride with you two like this all the way to London." The cart shook and shifted beneath her feet, and she wobbled a bit before catching her balance again. She thought about adding to her statement, but decided to finish it with a leap to the ground instead. She landed on her feet, bending her knees to absorb the shock like Sir Belding had taught her. The cloak and dress she wore fanned out over the ground, catching more dirt and dust, but it wouldn't make much of a difference how careful she was now.
"Bloody hell!" Brodie commented, making ready to join her.
Gabriel turned and shot him a look that stopped him in his tracks. "No, you two need to learn to get along," she stated. "And I don't want to sit there between you while you do." The look of hurt on Phillip's big face almost caused her to loose her resolve. He just sat there like a tremendous child who had just been scolded for putting his filthy hands in the bread pudding. Again.
Brodie eased himself back down onto the seat, only then noticing how cramped it had been with all three of them on it. He was willing to get along with the big man, but the question in his mind was; could Phillip go along with him being there?
Gabriel snatched her sword and scabbard from the back of the cart once more, belting it to her waist. She walked behind the cart for a short distance, only to observe that the men were still not talking to each other. This defiant ego-contest was getting on her nerves. Why couldn't Phillip just accept that she had made up her mind? Brodie wasn't making it any easier with his 'tough-guy' attitude either. This was going to be a really long day at this rate.
The weather seemed to be with her again, so she tried to focus on the birds and beauty that surrounded her, but those two buffoons in the cart were always a constant reminder of the tension nearby. They refused to talk civilly to each other, and the whole situation was reaching another shouting climax again when she got an idea. The cart was moving along at a steady walking pace, so it was easy enough to increase her stride and walk past them. No one said anything as she made her way up in front of the mules and put some distance between herself and them.
A deep breath, followed by a calming release of tension and she put the situation behind her both mentally and physically. Now she could focus on the beauty around her without that constant reminder. It felt good to walk, and she noticed that it felt like she was making better progress too. She wondered if she would be able to keep this up all day, but reasoned that no one carried her around the castle all day, so she should be fine.
Having put the stress of two stubborn men behind her, she tried to think about where she would go once she arrived in London. She had no money for an inn, but the most important thing was to find her father. Who could she talk to? Where would he be now, she wondered. The King had summoned him, but there was no way to know if he was at the Royal Court, or on a King's errand. A sliver of dismay crept in as she realized that there was a good chance that he might not even be in England any more, but off to help defend the land from invasion!
That would be awful! How would she ever tell him anything if he was off in France or something? What if he were killed in battle? What if...
She shook off the train of thought, but couldn't help the feeling that the whole trip might be a waste. She didn't know who to talk to at court to inquire after her father's whereabouts. She had no money for a decent place to sleep tonight, and even if she managed to get an appointment with one of the King's advisers who might know something, she couldn't go in a filthy dress! Despair was taking hold of her heart again, and she wished her mother were here. She would know what to do...
Of course, she realized, her mother would pray. She would tell her daughter that God has a plan for her life, and that she needed to thank Him for his protection. Praying meant that she should get down on her knees though. That meant that she would have to stop walking, and she really didn't want this trip to take any longer! Perhaps God would forgive her this once if she prayed without kneeling?
"L'Eternal, please forgive me for standing... well, walking while I pray," she began in French. She waited for a few moments to see if a bolt of lightning struck her for her insolence. Then she remembered that she had done the very same thing yesterday, and He had let her live then. Resolving that He seemed to have no objections to her desire to press on, she continued. "I don't know what to do once I get to London, but I know my mother always told me that You have a plan." She breathed out a sigh, "I thank You for Your plan, and humbly ask that You would forgive my doubts." Nothing happened, but she wasn't sure that any dramatic sign was called for. "Please, L'Eternal, show me what to do," she finished, looking up toward the sky.
A roar of laughter, deep and throaty, surprised her so much she whirled around mid-step and very nearly fell over backwards. Catching her balance again, she realized that it was Phillip who was laughing. Head back, mouth open, laughing! She couldn't remember a time in her life when she'd ever heard him laugh before. She stopped walking, allowing the men to catch up to her as the mules led on. "What on earth is so funny?" she asked, not able to quench the smile that had crept onto her face. Phillip really was enjoying himself, and she found it to be quite delightful.
Brodie shrugged, a mischievous grin on his own face, "He liked me joke."
Phillip began to sober at her question, and shook his head 'no' while he wiped at the tears on his face. Brodie caught on and answered for him. "It's not fitting for a lady's ears," he explained.
Gabriel was insulted. These two had been ready to go at each other earlier, and now they were sharing jokes that she couldn't be involved in! "I see," she replied, and then caught herself. Isn't this what she'd wanted in the beginning? They were finally getting along! Thinking about it as she walked beside the cart while listening to Phillip chuckling as he came down from his initial outburst, she admitted that it really didn't matter how they resolved their differences, only that they had. "Well then," she shrugged, "I'm glad you to have found something to laugh about." She started to speed up again, intending to get ahead of them once more, "Carry on."
"No, it Lady's turn," Phillip said, still smiling. He pulled the mules to a stop, and climbed out of the seat. He nudged Brodie with a fist, nearly pushing the poor lad out of the cart, "Men walk now."
Brodie used the momentum to carry himself to a graceful landing on his feet, and bowed before Gabriel. "Aye, 'tis about time the lady was allowed to ride," he said with a flourish.
She could see no reason to argue the point. Her feet were getting sore, and she'd been walking for some time now. She took the reigns in hand and relaxed into the hard wooden seat as both men fell behind. A quick glance over her shoulder confirmed that they were keeping pace, and she heard Phillip say, "You tell Phillip more joke." Shaking her head, she turned back to the mules and sighed. London might be a long way off, but at least the struggle was over.