For Her Honor Story Excerpt
A snapping twig caught her attention. She scanned the area quickly and jumped when two eerie eyes stared back at her. A mountain cat stepped into view, and her horse shied nervously. Her heart pounding, she wondered if it was true that animals could scent fear because she was certainly more terrified than she had ever been in her life. The cat eyed her lazily before ambling away. She thanked God it had obviously already eaten its fill recently.
As her heart rate returned to normal, Jocelyn questioned the intelligence of her decision to leave for the nunnery at night. Perhaps she hadn’t planned this as well as she thought she had. But it was too late to go back now. Her pride was the only thing she had left, and to turn around now would strip her of even that. Besides, her flight for freedom would have already been discovered. The consequences of her escape would be too high to pay. With any luck, her betrothed would have arrived at her father’s cottage by now, and the lot of them would be searching in the opposite direction.
As an extra precaution, she slung her quiver of arrows over her shoulder and hooked her bow over her elbow. At least if she used the bow and arrows she had a fighting chance against a hungry predator.
Urging the now-skittish horse forward, Jocelyn made her way deeper into MacGillivray lands, the night getting blacker and blacker with every passing moment.
Her head began to bob from exhaustion. She had been up at first light this morning, and it was very nearly the dead of night. The stars and moon did very little to penetrate the thick trees, and she guided her horse cautiously, praying she would not walk the mare into a hole with each step the horse took.
Yawning, Jocelyn stretched and forced her drooping eyes open. Just a little longer and she would bed down until dawn. She wanted to get as much distance between her and her father before light. The closer she was to the nunnery in the morning, the better.
Another twig snapped, and she looked around warily, ready to face another mountain lion. When nothing jumped out at her and she didn’t see anything, she relaxed a little in her saddle, which proved to be her mistake.
“That looks to be some nice horseflesh, lad,” a rough voice said from behind her. Suddenly she was surrounded by a band of men, each bearing a sword and each pointing it directly at her. “That is far too much horse for a young lad like yourself,” said the same man. “Why do you not get off and give the mare to us?”
Clearing her throat, Jocelyn lowered her voice to what she hoped would sound like a man’s voice. “You will have to take her from me,” she said confidently, her eyes widening at her own words. What in the hell was she thinking? While she was an expert with her sword, even she could not hope to take on five men at once. She crossed herself as she drew out her sword. She would go down swinging at least.
The men merely laughed and slashed at her. Her horse reared, throwing her, and raced back down the mountain toward home. She was left lying flat on her back, staring up at the would-be horse thieves. Perhaps now that the horse had flown, they would leave her alone. “You cost us a horse, lad,” one of the men growled, “so we will take the cost of said horse from your flesh. Slowly.”
There was only one thing left to do. Grabbing her sword, Jocelyn threw back her head and screamed bloody murder. Her battle cry energized her, and she jumped to her feet, swinging her sword. If she was going to die this night, she was going to make damn sure she was taking one of them with her.
Her palms were slick with nervous sweat, but she didn’t let that stop her from jabbing at one of the men in hopes of throwing him off balance. He danced out of the way, though just barely. He looked down at his shirt in dismay. She had managed to slice through the material, leaving a hole about the size of a fist in the wake of her sword.
The men froze around her as if contemplating their next move. Dare she hope she had convinced them to move off elsewhere?
“You have ruined my shirt,” he growled. “We are really going to let you have it now, lad.”
Dimly she heard the racket of horse hooves clattering behind her but focused her attention on the men before her. She deftly ducked her head under the man’s sword and feinted to the right, thrusting her sword at another thief, just missing his arm.
She growled in frustration when her badly balanced sword wobbled in her palm. She steadied the steel and jumped aside just as one of the thieves lunged at her. She swung her sword with both hands and sliced into one of their legs. It was a shallow cut, but it bled freely. She didn’t have time to relish the triumph of drawing first blood.
The largest of the men charged her, and she barely managed to step out of the way. She could feel the fatigue weighing down her arms and knew she wouldn’t be able to continue for very much longer. She only prayed they would kill her before they found out she was a female.
Her pride wouldn’t let her give up, and Jocelyn danced around in a circle until she had her back to a copse of trees. A group of mounted men had arrived behind the thieves and seemed to spring into action. She had no idea when they had arrived, but she fervently hoped they weren’t allies of the highwaymen.