Let us hope it will not be necessary.
The bad part of it, of course, is that I will be away from computers all day long - and therefore, away from the Internet and blogs. And emails. And comments. On the other hand, I seem to have driven half of my commenters away in the last few days anyway. May as well go for broke.
"How many do you think, Squire?"
"Not sure, M'Lord", Squire answered, breathlessly. He looked back over his shoulder. "There be not many, though. Their dust is too small. Four, maybe six at the most."
They were riding hard and fast as they could - but that wouldn't be fast enough, what with the warhorse and the pack animals. Warhorses were big, strong animals, but they were slow at the run and the pack horses, though smaller, lighter and faster, were weighed down with the gear they would need to keep themselves alive on the journey home. At some point; when they found a place that would give them advantage, they were going to have to stop and fight it out. Their pursuers were riding the desert horses the warriors of the castle rode, and they would catch them up before long.
Earlier that morning, Gwalchmei and Squire had quietly packed themselves up and slipped out of the castle past the sleeping guard at the gate. Sleeping, as much of the castle was sleeping, the deep sleep of those who had been drugged. For they had been, after all. A week earlier Sir Gwalchmei had announced that things were going so well, the men were responding so very well to their training, that the last night of their training would be a celebration of their performance and there would be singing and dancing and wine to honor their work. They had no idea that their wine was laced with a sleeping potion prepared by Gwalchmei and supplied to him by Habeeb.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Sire", Habeeb had asked. "If they catch you, they will kill you."
Habeeb had come to meet him in a small village just outside the castle to deliver the last of the kashakish powder.
"It's a chance I must take, Habeeb. I am certain the King means to have harm done to me and Squire. I am sure he means not to pay me the rest of the gold he has promised, and I do not like the way the Captain of the Guard looks at me of late."
"But this is such a risk, Sire. And to steal the gold from the purser. King Guy will not tolerate that very well, I think."
"Oh, I am certain he will not, Habeeb. But we are not going to steal anything - we are just going to collect what is ours a few hours early. After all, we have a long way to go and an early start is certainly in order."
"Ha, ha ha. I like the way you think, man of the West. I wish you luck. May Allah speed you safely on your way. And may King Guy find all of his concubines infested with sand fleas."
He studied the way ahead to find a spot where they could stand and fight, but all there were was low and rolling hills - nothing to shelter any flank, no place to take a stand.
"I can see them now, M'Lord. They're riding fast. There be six of them and they are but lightly armed."
"I think that may make little difference, Squire. Look ahead. Up the side of yon hill off to the right."
There, near the top of the hill, were a dozen horsemen. Arabs.
"Aye, M'Lord. I see them. And I see half again as many up that hill off on the left. I think we are for it now, M'Lord."
"Over there, Squire!! That small stand of trees. Some protection, at least."
As they headed for the trees, the horsemen started down the hillsides at a gallop. It was soon clear that the Arabs intended to cut them off from those pursuing them - there would be no help from their pusuers against their common enemy.
They galloped up to the trees and pulled up their horses, tied them off and drew weapons in preparation for the fight which was sure to come, just as the two groups of Arab riders met, between them and their pursuers, in the shallow valley at the base of the hills. Their leader, a large man in a fiery red headdress, raised his scimitar in the air and signaled his riders to charge at the knights riding toward them.
Their leader sat his horse and watched as his men attacked the pursuers.
"Look, M'Lord! They're attacking King Guy's men. And who ever their leader is, he's coming this way."
Indeed, the leader had turned his horse toward them and began to trot in their direction.
As he got closer, he reined in his horse and jumped down like a man half his size. He bowed deeply, removed his headgear which had obscured his face, and stood erect with a huge grin on his face. It was Habeeb.
"Ha, ha, ha, ha, man of the West! A beautiful morning for a ride, is it not?"
"Yes, Habeeb, it is."
"Don't look so shocked, Sire. You think me a simple innkeeper, and that is how I would have it. But, there is so much more under these loose and flowing robes, my friend. I am a Captain of Saladin and a gatherer of information and in my inn, information flows as freely as the wine."
"Oh, them? They are but a few of my friends, out with me for a little ride on the morning - and, perhaps, a little fun. Don't worry, my friend, they are just going to spank them a little and send them home. No one is going to die, today."
"Thank you, Habeeb. It is good that no one die on my account."
"You are a good man, Sire. But I would ask a favor of you."
"Ask, Habeeb. If it is in my power, it is yours."
"It is a simple thing. I would know your name."
The Knight held out his right hand which Habeeb took. Gwalchmei reached out with his left hand and grabbed Habeeb by the back of the neck and kissed him on each cheek. He looked Habeeb dead in the eye. "My name is Gwalchmei, Habeeb, and I am a man of Wales. Wherever I am, wherever is my home, there is also a place for you, my good friend."
Sir Gwalchmei and Squire mounted their horse and prepared to continue on their way.
"In shallah we will meet in heaven, Gwalchmei. In shallah."
"Aye, my friend, In shallah."
And Sir Gwalchmei and Squire turned their horses and rode away.
"Do you think we'd actually meet Habeeb in heaven, M'Lord?"
"I think maybe so, Squire. I think all good men go to heaven, no matter what their faith. And he is a good man."
"Well, I hope we meet him M,Lord. I do."
"Really, Squire? And why is that?"
"Perhaps, M'Lord, he might be willing to share his virgins."