Ch. 34.2 — Matthew and his companions sat around the fire on logs, watching as the woman poured them each a mug of hot wine that steamed and smelled oh so good. For a moment no one said anything. They drank it down. Matthew felt the warmth spread all the way to his toes.
The woman stirred the stew that hung on a tripod over the fire. “Almost done now.”
At last Matthew was warm enough to speak. “I am Matthew, crown prince of Nelsonia. This is my brother, Mark, and our guards, Gordon and Percival.”
She nodded graciously. “Welcome, Highnesses and good sirs. You may call me Mary. It is a bad storm. How fortunate that you found me.”
Matthew couldn’t seem to take his eyes off her. He felt warm and heavy, and his brain seemed to float in his skull. He struggled to think. “Why are you out here in this storm, Lady Mary?”
She smiled. “I was traveling to your kingdom when the storm overtook me. As it happens, you are just the men I was looking for.”
She took a ladle and served them up each a large bowl of stew. Matthew ate gratefully. He couldn’t identify the meat, but he recognized the potatoes, carrots and onions. The stew tasted wonderful. When he held out his bowl, she filled it a second time. The others thanked her for the delicious meal and also went for seconds.
“Aren’t you going to have some?” he asked.
Her laughter was like the tinkling of silver bells. “Oh, no. I’ve already eaten. This is all for you.”