Ivon rode toward the castle and pulled his mount to a halt.
The king sat upon his black warhorse with sixty men behind him, all were ready with swords and shields.
His heart pumped with adrenaline. He stared at the king, judging how close he could get to His Majesty before his guards sliced him apart.
He would not make it, but he could not stop now. If he turned back, Rheda would have to run for her life forever, always fearful of being caught.
Ivon took a deep breath. Nae. He would stay and fight, even if it meant he had little chance of surviving.
"I demand a challenge of the sword," Ivon shouted. The king would probably not agree, but it was his only hope.
The guards laughed at Ivon's audacity. Nobody challenges a king. Even if Ivon won, he would be killed for taking the life of the sovereign.
"I accept!" the king shouted and swiftly swung from his saddle.
Ivon gently rose and lifted his leg over the saddle, the wound in his side shot pain through his chest. He gritted his teeth and stepped down. Very soon his injury would not matter.
He would do anything to keep Rheda safe.
The weight of a stare forced him to look over his shoulder.
She was here!
Rheda sat on her white steed next to her brother. Her face seemed pale, but she sat upright as if she were a queen worthy of a throne.
He nodded to her and she returned the gesture.
He had no choice. The king must die.
Pulling the sword from the scabbard, he walked to the middle ground. The king waited for him, swinging his gleaming sword from side to side.
"Think you can take a king?" he gloated, a sneer etched on his arrogant face.
"Aye," Ivon replied and readied his sword.
The king lunged, aiming at Ivon's chest, but he leaped backward out of the blade's path.
Metal on metal sparked as the king pressed the attack with agility and strength. Ivon parried and dodged the aggressive advance and then returned with a lunge.
The king danced out of the way. He laughed at Ivon's attempts. "When you are dead, Rheda will open her legs to me every night."
Fury burned within, but Ivon knew the king wanted him careless, emotional. He smiled in return.
"From what I hear about your tiny size, she would not have to open her legs very wide."
The king roared with anger and lunged at Ivon. He sidestepped and the king ran passed him, giving Ivon the chance to ram his sword into the king's exposed back.
He turned around. The king lay on the ground, blood oozing from his back, his face in the dirt.
Ivon crouched beside him and rolled him over.
The king's guards gathered around.
"I did not want to kill you," Ivon confessed, torn with guilt for the man he grew up with.
The king coughed and winced. "There is something I wanted to tell you."
Ivon leaned closer.
"You are my brother."
"What?" Ivon uttered.
"Your mother was my father's mistress, but when she died in labor my father gave you to his friend to raise." The king coughed up blood. "I am the only one who he told. I...I"
The king's brown eyes closed and his body became limp as his spirit left.
Ivon rose to his feet and stared at the soldiers. One by one, they bowed, showing their allegiance.
Rheda pushed through the men and ran into his arms.
He kissed her with passion, as a man who had a second chance at life and at love.
Rheda returned the kiss with all her heart. She was free and Ivon was alive! She wanted to cry, to shout to the world that her love was alive.
She looked at him, tears welling in her eyes.
"Would a Saxon Lady ever consider a Norman King for her husband?" he asked, his warm arms around her waist.
"Aye, this Saxon would."
The soldiers' cheers sounded throughout the glen but Rheda paid no heed to it. Her heart was captured by the love shining in her knight's dark eyes.