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Excerpt from THE FALLEN ONE

An excerpt from my not yet released novel, THE FALLEN ONE.  Backstory: the hero is a knight stripped of his knighthood by Edward III for siding with Roger Mortimer. Next to the Dragonblade boys, whom he knows very well, he was the greatest knight in the realm. Now he is surviving incognito as a blacksmith. In this scene, he saw an injustice on the street and hastened to save two women from an accoster. This is an excerpt from the conversation with the heroine, whom he just me…t.  Meet Mathias and Cathina:
“What do you suppose he wanted with my sister?” she asked hesitantly. “I have never heard of a man simply walking up to a woman and trying to steal her.”
  Mathias shrugged, trying to make light of the situation because it had ended well when it could have ended so tragically. He thought it was perhaps best not to dwell on what could have been before he had intervened.
  “Mayhap he wanted someone to come home with him and cook him a meal,” he said, mildly teasing as he skirted the subject. “Or mayhap he simply wanted a wife.”
  Cathlina turned to him, rather surprised. “Steal a wife?” she repeated. “I have never heard of such a thing.”
   “’Tis true. Those things happen.”
  She could sense his humored manner and it was difficult not to give in to the mood in spite of the serious subject matter. “Do you speak from experience, then?”
  Mathias looked at her, full-on.  His lips twitched with a smile. “I do not need to steal a wife.”
  “Is that so?”
  “It is.”
  She cocked an eyebrow. “I see,” she said with feigned seriousness. “I suppose women simply fall at your feet wherever you go and you can have your pick of them.”
  He was trying very hard not to grin; her humor was charming, and rather mocking of him, but he wasn’t offended in the least. “Something like that,” he teased. “Women are always eager to marry a smithy.”
   Cathlina laughed softly, glancing towards the smithy stalls down the avenue. “Is that your trade over there?”
  She was pointing and he followed the direction of her finger. “Aye,” he replied. “My father, my brother, and me; we are the largest smithy operation in Brampton.”
  Cathlina dropped her finger and looked at him. “You were very brave to come as you did,” she said. “I would not believe a smithy to be so brave.”
  He was amused. “Why not?”
  She cocked her head as if cornered by the question. “Because that is not your vocation,” she said, trying to explain. “You shoe horses and make weapons. You do not answer the call to arms as brave men do.”
   His amusement faded; ‘As brave men do’.  He had been a brave man, once. Her comment hammered home the fact that he was no longer among the privileged, no longer in command of thousands of men who looked to him for guidance and strength. It seemed like an eternity ago when he last held a sword.  Truth was, he hadn’t thought much about it since the day he had been stripped of his weapons and lands and titles. There was no use dwelling on what he could not change. But at the moment, he was thinking on that very fact. He felt very useless.
  “It was not a matter of answering the call to arms,” he said quietly. “It was simply a matter of doing what was right.”