"Help, somebody help!"
The sound of screams up ahead caught his attention. He followed, and when Jacobi rode cleared the tree's, he saw eight men in a circle around a woman. The men were hitting her and tearing at her clothes. He could see she had been slapped quite hard; the blood still ran from her mouth and nose.
Anger rose in Jacobi. Raping a woman was against the rules. He could kill a man, but he had never in his life raped a woman. They came willingly to him and left without a complaint. He didn't like this and decided to put a stop to it. Intent on their victim, the frenzied crowd did not notice his approach.
He whistled. "Boys... 'ear now. What's goin' on?"
"Get out of here. It's none of your business."
The man who had spoken grabbed hold of the woman's hair. She fought him while trying desperately to keep her front covered with what was left of her dress.
"Now, gentlemen. We mustn't harm the lady. What good will she be damaged?"
"WE, mustn't harm her? What is this stuff?" the leader asked.
"Well, you must give ol' Jacobi a crack at 'er. It wouldn't be polite not to share, and I likes my women in one piece."
At the sound of Jacobi's name, several of the men backed of. He could see that his reputation was intact. The leader held his ground, but looked nervous.
Jacobi walked over to the man, and released the woman from her assaliants nerveless grip. She didn't resist Jacobi, but kept her arms tight to her chest, looking at the ground.
" Now. After I'm finished..."
"Why do you get her first?" interrupted the fattest of the men.
"Because, I'm Jacobi. Do you want to fight for ‘er?" he drew his sword.His voice soft, but holding a threat of violence. The man stared at Jacobi for a few seconds, then hook his head.
"Anybody else?" Jacobi challenged. He looked at each man who shook hishead. "In that case.....I think I shall keep 'er for myself."
Jacobi walked with the woman into the woods, and vanished. Shock held them fast, but once he had gone, and the aura of violence and power disappeared, the leader let out a yell. "After him!"
Well into the woods, Jacobi let go of the woman and whispered. "Will you be safe?"
"Run!" He watched her until he heard the sound of the men approaching. By the time they arrived, he was ready for them.
"Where is she?" demanded the leader.
"Whom? asked Jacobi.
The leader nodded towards the path and pointed towards two of his men.
"You two. Find her!"
"Down to six," thought Jacobi, facing his attackers. "Much better odds." He muttered and went on the attack. They weren't prepared for him to react so quickly, and Jacobi took full advantage of their surprise. One man went down under Jacobi's sword, another under his knife. The next two came after him at once; Jacobi punched one in the face and used him for leverage to kick the other in the mid-section, knocking the breath out of him.
The leader pushed the remaining man at Jacobi, then ran in the opposite direction. The last man, looked at Jacobi, then at his leader, threw down his weapons and ran.
Jacobi laughed, then fell silent when he heard a soft rustling of leaves. He turned expecting to see the other two men. He relaxed his battle stance when he saw it was the woman.
He began to speak, then felt a sharp burst of pain.
Jacobi woke to the sound of singing, and to a horribly dry mouth. He tried to turn his head to the source of the singing, but was not able to. His body was numb, and that worried him a bit. He tried to open his eyes, but found that they, like the rest of his body, wouldn't work properly.
The singing stopped as he began to struggle, but found himself restrained with a gentle hand. "Go back to sleep." whispered a soft voice. He felt strangely comforted by it as the singing started again. He fell back to sleep as a tender hand stroked the worried lines of his brow.
He dozed, and when he woke the second time, he felt a searing pain in his shoulder. Focusing his consciousness away from the pain, he tried to remember what had happened, but the memory was elusive.
Again, he felt that comforting hand at his brow and opened his eyes. He saw a woman, her eye and cheek both blackened, her lip split. It was then he realized that is was the woman he had saved.
Her voice was gentle. "Here, drink this." She helped tip his head so he could drink. " It will help the pain and bring your fever down."
"What's your name?" Jacobi asked, and before drifting off to sleep, heard her whisper, "Elizabeth."
Over the next couple of weeks, Jacobi floated in and out of consciousness. Elizabeth was always there tending to his needs. As his shoulder began to mend, the pain receded. Elizabeth allowed him get up - first sitting up in bed, then to a chair, then on to his feet and outside.
One morning, while he was dozing under the trees, he heard the singing again. At first he thought it was a trick of the breeze, then realized it was Elizabeth, singing in her garden, while she gathered vegetables for their supper.
Jacobi lay listening to her and thought he had never heard anything more exquisite in his life. After a while, he opened his eyes to watch and study her. She was tall, and had long brown hair that reached past her slender waist. Her face wasn't ugly, but she wasn't beautiful either. Plain is what he would call her.
She looked up from her work and smiled at him. That smile made his heart skip a beat. It was more then ordinary, it was enchanting, and it lit up her whole face.
With basket full, she walked toward him, still humming. "How are you feeling?" she asked, shaking him out of his reverie.
"Your skin is getting a little red. Let me help you move into the shade, all right?" she smiled at him.
He swallowed a lump in his throat and nodded his head. When she bent close, he breathed deeply, appreciating the scent of flowers that hung about her. He wondered why he hadn't noticed that before.
She helped him sit in the chair, then went to get him some tea, taking the basket with her. When she came back, she brought his tea and the supplies to change his bandages.
"What's in the tea?" asked Jacobi
"It's a normal tea, with some ginger, caraway and valerian in for the pain and to help you sleep. Now drink your tea." Again she smiled at him. Jacobi was a little surprised that she would be so honest about the sedative in his beverage. Still, he trusted her, more then he had anyone else, and did as he was told. When he'd sat back, she set about changing his dressing, while he drank his tea. He tried not to stare at her, but found it difficult not to.
Her touch was gentle as she took the dressing off and looked into the wound where the arrow had pierced his skin. It had gone deep and had taken all of her healing knowledge to remove the arrow without killing him. The loss of blood had made him so weak, that sleep had been necessary for him to heal. "Well," she said, "I can take the stitching out now. It's pretty well healed." She got her instruments together and prepared the area. "This is going to sting a little."
By the time she was ready to begin, the sedative in the tea began to make him feel drowsy. She watched him, while she worked, and when he dozed off, she took a small knife, and cut through the fine sinew that had kept his skin together, as it healed.
While she worked, a rogue hair fell into her eyes. She blew it aside and it fell back across her face. Using the back of her hand, she brushed it away from her face. Within seconds, it had flopped back down. Jacobi reached out and smoothed it away from her brow, and held it while she completed her work. She looked at him, brown eyes looking in to brown. She smiled and blushed, thanking him briefly before going back to her task.
She snipped another stitch, close to the center of the wound, the sharp pain, causing him to inhale sharply. She gave him an apologetic look, then carefully removed the remaining stitches. The activity left his shoulder slightly numb, but within a few moments, he was once again overwhelmingly sleepy. As his eyes drooped, she removed his hand from her hair and laid it on his lap. While he slept, she dressed and bound the wound.
She sat there looking at him when she was finished. The teas effect had lessened the normally harsh features of his handsome face. In the time he had been with her, she had never seen him smile. A rouge hair fell in his face and she brushed it back, tucking it behind his ear. Just touching him caused shivers to go through her very soul.
She removed her hand and started picking up her things, angry at herself. No man was destined for her. She knew it and right now, that fact wayed heavy on her heart.
End of Chapter One