To his horror he realized he was masked with a heavy leather hood that went down to the base of his neck, and the smell of sweat in the leather was almost overpowering Whoever had captured and bound him had used the hood on others the sickening smell of other men s sweat was thick in his nose But the hood, although tightly laced to his head, had an opening for his mouth At least he could breathe At least he wouldn t starve to death if his captor intended on feeding him I don t know why I am bound so, he called to the forest If you are any kind of a man, unbind me and we will fight to solve this matter His next words were interrupted by the distinct clink of armor a small sound, as if someone were trying to move furtively The armor clinked again, almost tentatively, as if whoever owned the spurs was asking his permission to move He would not show fear, even though he was bound and hooded like a truculent mountHe felt a rush of morning air on him as the top edge of the blanket was slowly pulled back He felt soft hands caress his thigh Stop, William murmured I am not a dressed deer carcass for your pleasure The hand stopped, but rested lightly, possessively, on William s thigh Oh, God, this man was going to rape him He struggled against his bindings, the cuffs cutting cruelly into his wristsThe soft hand continued its slow journey across his thigh No William shouted No Men don t touch me so The hand came to rest on his shoulder, and then squeezed it gently I am not a man, a muffled voice said I am a woman You have nothing to fear from me William s heart surged with hope A woman wouldn t hurt him Women didn t hurt men Men hurt men But his thoughts became despairing as quickly as they had soared with new hope It was clear this woman was wearing armor But women didn t wear armor Armor was heavy, and wearing it and using it was a man s place, not a woman s So what manner of woman could this be She s like the woman in my dream May I see you William asked Would you please take off this hood so I can see you No, the muffled voice said, matter of fact You must wear the hood for a time Butbut, I cannot breathe The leather is against my face and I cannot breathe He found himself begging He didn t want to beg especially to a woman The mouth of the hood is well open You can breathe The woman squeezed his shoulder again in a peculiar act of reassurance He felt her kneel next to his ear, now You are like a hooded falcon If I remove the hood too soon, you will try to fly He heard a faint sigh from the woman Her voice was partly muffled from him because of his heavy leather hood But it was clear, now, that she was wearing a heavy helmet You are ard, are you not William ventured I am Why does a woman wear the armor of a man It iscomplex, she said, her voice suddenly sounding sad There was pain and loneliness in her answer, and if William weren t bound he knew he would feel sorry for herThe woman moved somewhere behind his head He felt strong, ard arms against his back I will help you sit up You have enough chain to allow thisHe felt her softly brush her hand across the hood The intimate act made him tremble Now he heard her stand up and walk away from him He hoped she was getting him something to eat, something to slake his thirstHe lay back quietly, for there was little else he could do Through the thick leather of the hood he could just hear the muffled popping of a fire