Geese, Swans, and Milking Maids
Leto saw no one was following her. The other villagers wouldn’t notice if she snuck down to the lake, or so she hoped. A warm, late spring breeze lifted her straw-colored hair, and she breathed in the scent of lilacs and honeysuckles. She dropped her milking bucket upon a large stone, kicked off her shoes, and ran down to the lake’s edge.
Her toes sank into the wet sand, and she giggled as the gentle waves lapped at her feet. An elegant swan dipped its white neck into the water, and its mate swam beside him. Sometimes she wished she was a swan. They were so beautiful, whereas Leto was homely. Her mother told her she had nice wide hips that would attract a mate, but she thought she was just plain fat.
A honking in the cattails caught her attention, and she sloshed through the shallow waters toward the sound. The edges of her brown skirt darkened from the water.
A male goose appeared before her, flapped his massive wings, and hissed.
She gasped from surprised and noticed what he was protecting. The mother goose sat upon a nest of eggs. “I’m sorry to disturb you, Mr. and Mrs. Goose,” she said, backing away from them.
Then, she heard a horse whinnying in fear and a loud splash.
A magnificent black steed pawed at the ground and shook his head. He snorted and stomped.
Then, she spotted the reason for the horse’s agitation. A snake slithered in front of his path. Snatching her milking pail, she calmly approached the horse. “Shh, shh, there, boy, calm down.”
When she was close enough, she trapped the snake in her bucket. Of course, once she did that, she didn’t know what to do with it. Yet the horse quieted and stared at her with knowing eyes. “It’s okay,” she said, gently touching its velvety muzzle. “Where is your rider?”
She twisted in circles to find him. When she saw him lying face down in the water, she gasped. “Oh, dear!”
Without another thought, she ran into the water. The liquid weighed down her skirts, and she struggled to reach him. When she did, her feet barely touched the lake’s bottom. She grabbed him and turned him right side up.
“Oh, please be alive.” She dragged him to the shore. Out of breath, she collapsed beside him upon the beach. A stitch formed in her side, and she was soaked from the chest down. She leaned over and shook him while praying he would awaken.
Finally, the man woke with a start and coughed. When his blue eyes met her brown ones, she gasped.
She had rescued Lord Dawning.