My name is Isabelle. I was born in the back of a wagon near Budapest in the year 1478, though my family was not from that town. We are gypsys you see, we travel where we will and make a living where we can. Whatever others call us, we live by our own laws, the laws of the earth, and find our way where fortune takes us. This is the tale of how my new daughter, Selina, came into being. As I write this she is sleeping, and only two days old. I hope this will make things clear to my dear Father, for we are nearing Paris now…

Isabelle listened to the sounds of the birds in the trees as she made her way to the river in the early morning light. The air was crisp and cold, the late spring bringing a fine silver mist that seemed to chill her straight to the bone. She shivered and clutched the vessel tighter in her hand. She was never much of an early riser, but if she expected to learn anything about cooking, she had to help Loridana, the camp cook in her daily tasks. She reached the river and hiked up her skirt, exposing her slender brown legs to the cool mist. She was sixteen and quite lovely, with a very slender body, fair face and eyes that sparkeld like emeralds in the sun… But that was not what she was noticed first for. Her and her whole tribe came from India, and and her dark skin stood out like a sore thumb. She had learned to deal with it however, and even take pride in her differences. She was just kneeling to fill the jar when she heard some voices from across the small river. She suddenly felt afraid, they were camping near a village about two days from Paris, and the locals had not been as happy to see them as most. She arose and turned around, only to find a tall man standing behind her. "Hello pretty, getting some water for some of your potions are ya, ya little witch?" He said, his rank breath hitting her even at several feet. Two more men stepped out from behind the trees. "Na, she's not old enough to be a witch! She's just a little tramp!" Said one of the others. "You well broken in, ya little tramp?"
Isabelle began to panic and turned to the river when one of the men grabbed her and pulled her back from behind.
"I'm sure she is," said the third "and a good thing too! We're going to make sure your nice and full, we'd hate for ya to die unhappy! Won't ya like that, ya gypsy whore?" He asked with a grin as he tickled under her chin. She snapped at his finger, making him jerkhis hand back. The others roared with laughter and forced her to the ground. She screamed and struggled, but knew that no one would hear her from this far away. As they gropped her and forced her legs open, she felt numb acceptance fall over her. "So this is it." She thought. "I'm going to be raped, and then I'm going to die." She began to cry in ernest then, but the men laughed all the harder, as they jerked her skirt up. "Leave her alone you bastard sons of pigs!" The men and Isabelle turned tward the river and saw another man aproaching fast. Isabelle doubted he could help, but she hoped and prayed to be wrong.

Henry ran into the river at the sick men across it. He looked almost as much a rogue as they: Tall, dark haired with a darker complexion. He had a handsome but rough face to match his dark and stained travel cloths, with a gotee and unshaven cheeks. The only odd this was his very short hair, it was very much not the fashion. In short, he looked downright shabby, the only nice things he had on him to mark him as any more than a common thug were the spanish rapier and matching dagger that were now in his hands. He just hoped he rememberd enough of his lessions to matter…
"Leave her alone!" He shouted again. "What the hell is wrong with you?!"
"That's what I was going to ask you, she's just a Gypsy girl!" One of the men shouted back.
"This is your last warning, let the girl go or I'll have them picking your tripes off your boots!"
"It seems the little 'ero can't count. Let's help him out why don't we?" Said the man to his fellows. They let the girl go and she stumbled back, watching her attackers fan out around Henry, who had just reached the shore. He tried to keep his eyes on all of them as they drew their weapons. Their swords were not as nice as his, but they were still just as deadly. "Great," he thought. "Wake up, eat breakfast and be dead before sunup. Won't dad be pleased." Then his fathers voice cracked like a wip in his head. "Be where you are, keep your mind in the fight!" He took his fathers advice and concentrated. The man to his left made a sudden thrust as the one to his right mad a swing for his head. He parried the left with his dagger and cought the right on his sword. As he did this the middle man, the loud mouthed one, started to thrust. He spun, his sword knocking the thrust aside as he moved behind the man and stabbed him in the kidneys with the dagger. The man squeeled and collapsed, and Henry barely had time to block another swing with his sword. The other man, now behind him, made a stab for Henry's back. He twisted sideways so that the man's blade missed and split the man's face with his sword. The man cried out briefly and then fell down into a spreading pool of blood. The last man took this chance to stab Henry through the thigh, making him cry out and collapse. The man turned to run, and Henry shouted "Take this with you!" He grabbed the sword of the fallen man and threw it after the fleeing one. It spun end over end to sink deep between the man's shoulder blades. Henry turned to where the first man had been, and saw him gone. Then he noticed the man riding away… On Henry's horse. "Great," he thought. "All my cloths, my money, my food…" Then he thought about the wound he had given the scum. It would kill him… In about a week. Henry hoped he enjoyed every moment of it. He tried to stand, when a sharp pain in his leg made him collapse again. He just saw a beautiful face over him and thought that, perhaps, he was on his way to heaven. Then he knew no more.

Henry awoke in a small, wooden room that he realized, after a few moments of confusion, was a wagon. Then he heard the voice of an angel speak to him. "I'm glad you're awake, you have been unconscious for over an hour." The voice was clear and light like silver bells, and soothing like a forest stream. He looked around and saw that it was the young woman he had saved. She was stunning, short and slender, with long dark hair, bright green eyes and exotic brown skin. Then she smiled, and it was like the sun breaking through a storm. "I am Isabelle. Thank you, for your courage. You saved me life."
Henry blushed, flusterd. He had devoted most of his life to study, and had seldom even been around women.
"Henry. And it was nothing." He replied. "Anyone would have done the same."
"That's not what those men were doing." She replied with a humorous smile that did not quite reach her eyes.
Henry felt a stab of pitty for her. "Are you well?" He asked, worried for her. "She is fine, thanks to you my young friend." Henry looked and saw a rough looking man gazing through the low window. "I'm her father. Isabelle told me the whole story. I owe you a debt I can never repay." Henry nodded his head respectfuly. "It was my pleasure." "And your misfortune it seems." Her father said with a sharp grin. "Where were you bound?" "Paris." Henry replied. "As are we. I would be honored to take you with us. It's the least I can do. Will you join us my friend?" Henry glanced down at his badaged leg and said with a humorous grin " Do I have much choice?" Her father roared with laughter. "Not unless you intend to hop like a crippled chicken from here to Paris! I need my daughter now, but when you feel up to it, please come out and meet the rest!" With that he turned and walked away, heading to the center of the camp. Isabelle looked at Henry and said, "Stay in here at least a few hours. When you come out, there is a stick in the corner to help you. Again… Thank you." She looked at him shyly for a moment, then brushed her lips lightly against his. Her lips were like silken fire, and his breath cought in his throat as they touched him, and as a stray lock of her dark hair fell down and brushed his cheek. Then she got up then and left. He watched her walk across the camp from the window, her slim hips swaying and her colorful dress rippling in the breeze. She glanced over her shoulder and smiled a bright and slightly naughty smile at him. Then, with a wink, she was gone. Henry laid back, the pain in his leg now just a dull throb. What a day, and not even noon. His father was an open minded man, but he wondered if even HE would buy this story…

To be continued

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