Duncan twisted his codpiece strings into an incorrigible knot, and then cursed his clumsiness. “Damned…” he muttered under his breath, making his sore fingers undo each agonizing string. Righting the garment, he then found his cloak-pin upside down; fumbling, he unpinned it, dropped it, spat on it, cursed it, sleeve-shined it, pinned it back. He found one glove, the other absent, he looked about the changing room, wither did… only to see it in the mirror, stuffed into the back of his breeches. This time he laughed. He ran a finger through his now-clean hair and wondered if he should have trimmed his beard.
“Shall I drink this red by myself, if you’re going to be in there all night?” Phillipa called to him, from her bed, beyond the changing curtain.
“For some of us, my lady, beauty takes time. You are always beautiful, and would not understand” he called to her with mock wounding. From behind the curtain, he heard her giggle; her laugh was a warm breeze. He brushed himself down, took a breath and tossed aside the curtain with a flourish, thrusting out his chest and chin, his legs apart like some noble knight from a tale.
She clapped and laughed “What a picture you are!”
Chin thrust forward, he strode purposefully across the room, arms swinging manfully. He grasped his goblet with vigor, raising an exaggerated eyebrow.
“I shall defend fair maiden from the treacheries waiting within the wine!” And took a generous gulp.
She placed one hand against his arm and another against her forehead, crying My Hero! and they shared the wine and laughter, and toasted her fine hospitality, and drank again, and toasted his victory, and drank again.
Phillipa took up the cheese knife, her eyes locked grimly on the wide-mouthed bottle of peppery red wine and stabbed at it with vigor.
“Back beast, back! You will not stain Sir Duncan’s honor!”
“Stain my honor? It will do no more than stain my clothes, should we keep drinking this way.”
“It does unman you now! You will soon be so far in your cups, after only three swallows of that tiny glass, that you will barely be able to stand on those long legs of yours.”
Duncan scoffed, “If I will be in my cups, you will shortly be so soaked that your pinned curls will all come tumbling down, and I shall hear a curse out of that proper prim mouth of yours, finally, and I shall spread the hearing of it to every ear!”
She raised playful eyebrows, trying not to laugh. “I will be soaked?”
He shrugged casually. “As many ladies become wet, in the presence of strapping knights.”
She crossed her hands in her lap, like a nun. “Never me; I am a winter flower, never blooming.”
Duncan suddenly went to one knee, and called to sunset through the window, “Would that the summer sun come and make this flower bloom!”
Phillipa laughed long. And he told her, her laugh was the summer sunshine. And she smiled for him, and he did not know what to say, so they drank, and she called for another bottle. Duncan sat in a chair by the window, away from her perfume, and tried to keep his head from spinning. But he could not take his eyes off of her.