Short Story

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Side by side, the women walked, silent, tension stiffening their spines. Joan pressed her free hand against her belly, trying to quell a sharp pang of nausea. Saying goodbye would not be easy.
Behind her, Joan heard the whispers of several dozen voices, and those whispers swelled into chatter. She glanced over her shoulder to see many hundreds of people walking behind her, all there to offer support and farewells to the knights. It warmed her heart to see them, for it meant she and her friends were not alone.
Joan rounded the corner, and there at the rendezvous point stood the considerable army, its ranks swelling every moment as men sped down the hill in groups of five to ten. Perceval careened down the slope, flanked by Ulrich, Lionel,
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However, Joan was immune to his charms. She was more concerned about his sword arm.
“Sir Kay, my husband tells me you’re a skilled warrior. I am pleased to have you watching over me and my son.”
“The honor is all mine. When I escort you back to the castle, we’ll discuss your needs and preferences. I plan to be as invisible as possible, unless you state otherwise. Now, I shall step away as you bid your husband a final farewell.” The ram horn sounded, indicating it was time for the men to ride.
Joan motioned for Perceval to lean down. “He’s not half as handsome as you.”
Perceval chuckled and wrapped his arms around her. “I’ll miss you and I love you. Stay safe.”
“Same to you.” Her throat tightened. “I love you, and write when you can.”
With a nod, he mounted Aethon and lined up in formation.
Meanwhile, Joan found her way back to Carina, Drea, and Alis. They held hands as they watched their husbands ride off into the forest.
Finally, Joan allowed her tears to fall. “This is hard.”
She could not think of anything more to say, and her friends, tearful, nodded in agreement.
As the last rider disappeared into the woods, Queen Guinevere joined them, grasping Drea’s hand. “I feel as if a part of my heart’s gone missing.”
“As do I,” said Joan. “But we will remain strong together.”
Those words sounded braver than she felt.
The first week of Perceval’s absence was wretched, and Joan feared she would never adjust. It did not matter how much time she spent

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