As the evening darkened, we approached the stone fortress on horseback. Our heads hung low while hunger tore at our stomachs. And our horses, breathing puffs of mist, quivered and shifted their weight. The ground below us was white with flecks of brown and wet from melting snow.
"We've arrived," I said, nearly falling to the ground. For days I have had no hope that we would survive. We have braved many battles together, but none had truly frightened me as this one had.
Beside me, Robin lifted her mouth in a half-smile, "Indeed, John. Indeed."
We were back. Home from the crusades.
Robin yelped her mare into a gallop, and raised her bow in salute to God and her home, and I followed in her stead. Robin's hair had grown to her chin in our travels, and it flew behind her. Years ago, her hair had been long and wild like the mane on her mare.
I could finally glimpse a piece of my young mistress again. Not the skilled marksman pretending to be Robert, Earl of a grand estate.
Before the crusades tore our land apart and shattered peace for the kingdom, my mistress's name had been Rosamond, rose of the world. But now, war has changed her. War changes us all.
Rosamond is nothing but a wilting flower.
Robin is strong, sure, and true, yet plagued by evil and haunted by death. The childish light and trill of Rosamond's eyes and laughter will likely never be seen or heard again. She has killed for her King, and that alone will mark her as Robin--and not Rosamond--for the rest of her life.
"Come, John!" Robin shouted over the pounding hooves. "We're home!"
Again a glimpse of my young mistress--a look of happiness. It is fleeting. We have come to know that happiness is ever fleeting.