The leaves had changed colors but not yet fallen, and a chill in the air hinted at the winter to come without yet being uncomfortable. It was a perfect evening for a walk in the park.
Maybe it was too late for some, or perhaps they were too busy, but for whatever reason, she seemed to have the park to herself. The solitude provided a chance to listen to the leaves rustling in response to the whisper of the wind. She followed the path and enjoyed the moments as they came and went.
The thundering of hooves bearing down on her finally broke the spell. Surprised, she turned to see someone in a full suit of armor riding a large white horse and headed straight for her. Out of foolishness or fear, she didn’t move to avoid being run over, but the rider slowed to a stop mere feet from her. A hand reached up and lifted the visor of the helmet. A young man, perhaps a bit weathered but eyes bright as the midday sky, looked down at her.
“Excuse me, m’lady. Might you be the one I seek?”
She’d heard better accents at the renaissance festival; still, she tried not to giggle. “I’m sorry. I don’t know who you are. I doubt I could be the one you are looking for.”
“And yet, yours is the description I was given. May I inquire after your name?”
“You may inquire, but I’m not in the habit of giving out my name to strangers in the park. Especially ones dressed in armor and riding horses.” Did she see him nod as though he expected her answer? The metal helm made it difficult to tell.
“Very well. Will you accompany me, then? We have far to go, and not much time.”
“Wait. I won’t tell you my name, but you expect me to just go with you to… wherever? I don’t even know who you are!”
“That is easily remedied. I am a knight of the realm, Sir Gallad. A war is being fought. I was sent to bring you back so that you might aid us.”
If it was a lie, it was a poor one. Who would fall for such a story? And to what end, but abduction and worse? No, more likely, he believed what he was saying. All of which meant that he was crazy and probably dangerous in a different way. She needed to tread carefully.
“What could I possibly do to help in a war? I have no experience with such things.”
“I do not know. I know only that I was sent to find you. My instructions were quite clear.”
“Well, if you’re really a knight, don’t you have rules against taking a woman against her will?”
For the first time he seemed uncertain, nervous. “Yes…”
“Good. I’m not going, so just head back to wherever you came from.”
He looked crestfallen. “But without you, we cannot win.”
“You will simply have to try. I can’t help.”
He stared at her for a long moment, perhaps wondering how to plead his case. “Very well.” He turned the horse, to ride back the way he’d come.
The look of resignation she’d seen on his face caused her some pangs of guilt. She stopped him. “Wait. Take this.” She unwrapped the thin, light blue scarf from around her neck and held it up to him. “Perhaps this will give you inspiration to win.” It likely would be taken from him when he was caught and sent back to whatever mental hospital he’d broken out of. But he smiled.
“Thank you, m’lady. It may be that this will be enough.”
She nodded and watched him ride away for a moment. Then she began walking quickly towards home. She looked back to see which direction he was headed so that she could pass the information along to the police, but he was gone. Though there was no place to hide a horse in the wide open park, he was nowhere to be seen. The horse must have been faster than she realized.
Back home, she called the police. Surely others had seen the rider, and the police would be looking for him. But they weren’t. And no one seemed to know anything about any missing mental patient.