Gwyn sprinted to the second gate, her heart pounding, a silent scream on her lips. The English soldier was staggering toward her at a fast clip. If he caught her…if he caught her he would have the keys. He could storm the castle and kill her and everyone she loved. And then her brother would strangle her in the afterlife for being so colossally stupid as to unlock the gate while their enemy was camped outside it. He would have a point.
She reached the locked gate and searched for the right key on the ring with shaking hands. Behind her, the inhuman grunts and groans of the soldier grew ever louder. He was right behind her. The key—she must find it! Which one was it? Which one?
She found the one and tried it on the lock; it would not turn. Wrong key! She swallowed down fear and forced herself to focus on what she was doing. She must get through. She must. She jammed another key into the lock. The man was so close behind her, she could almost feel his breath on her neck.
The key turned and she pushed open the gate even as he grabbed for her. She slipped past and tried to push the gate closed, but he leaned on it, preventing her from shutting it. She pushed with all her might, but he was stronger and was slowly opening the gate, forcing her feet backward on the dirt floor. He wedged a foot between the wall and the gate. She stomped on it, and he surprised her by howling in pain.
Unsure how her boot had caused such agony, she quickly took advantage of the moment and shoved the gate shut, locking it. The English knight was breathing hard, leaning against the wall. She backed away from him, unsure if he would attempt to throw something at her through the iron lattice. The knight stared at her through his helm without speaking. Finally, he pushed himself off the wall and limped toward the outer gate. When he reached it, he pushed at it, but it would not budge. He rattled the iron door with a howl. It was locked tight. Gwyn stared at the keys in her hand.
She had trapped an English knight!
The trapped knight rammed into the solid iron door with his shoulder several times, trying to break through. It was a hopeless exercise. He leaned against the door for a moment. She could hear his labored breathing all the way down the corridor. He turned slowly and limped back to the gate where she stood.
Gwyn instinctively stepped back, though she knew he had no more hope of getting through the second gate than the first. He rattled and shook the gate, the loud clanging of iron on iron echoing down the corridor.
“Let me out!” he demanded with a growl.
“Are ye daft?” Gwyn would not come near the gate for anything. Her heart pounded in fear and excitement, and she put a hand to the stone wall to steady herself. She had trapped a knight. An English knight!
The man rattled the gate again, and Gwyn covered her ears. “Will ye stop that racket? Yer English castles are built strong, I give ye that. Ye have no hope of shaking yer way free.”
The man slumped against the gate. “I might appreciate it more if I were not locked inside.”
Gwyn backed away to the door. She would tell her brother she had trapped a knight. He would be so pleased and proud and…
Gwyn stopped, her hand on the door latch. David would not be pleased. If her brother discovered she had gone outside for an elder plant, he might kill her.
The knight took off his helm and Gwyn’s hand fell from the latch. It was the young knight who she had seen the parlay. She thought him handsome from afar, but now she knew he was the bonniest man she had ever seen, with dark brown hair, brown eyes, and chiseled, Romanesque features.
“Ye’re Sir John Lockton!” she cried without thinking.
He looked at her from between the iron bars, his eyebrows raising high. “And who might you be that you know my name?”