“Can you snare?” The Knight asked. It was the evening after they had buried their empty packs. They had taken as much food as they could carry, which hadn’t been much for hard traveling.
The Princess looked at him, confused. The pace was wearying her, leaving her sore and simple.
“Can you snare?” he repeated, slowly. “Can you make some snares, p’raps catch us some coneys?”
She looked slowly around the barrens. Stunted grass and rocky soil, a big sky and a setting sun. “If we had a bow I could bring one down, if I could find one.”
“We haven’t a bow. We have bootlaces. I’ll show you.”
In the morning two of the snares he’d shown her how to make held hares, a doe and a buck. Even through her exhaustion she was proud of her catch and she almost smiled, bring the small limp bodies back to where he sat beside the fire he’d built.
He nodded. “Should cook up fine.”
She held the hares out to him but he made no move to take them. After a moment she lowered her arm. “I’m to cook them then?” she asked angrily.
The Knight nodded.
“I am not your scullery girl.” The Princess dropped the hares and glared at him across the fire.
“Indeed you’re not.” The Knight paused, meeting her angry eyes with his calm ones. “You’re a maiden lost in the wilderness, and the only man about who doesn’t want to see you gutted gets irksome if he’s not fed.”
“Give me a knife.”
The Knight smiled then and pulled a blade from his belt.
The Princess worked angrily, but with careful skill, skinning, gutting, and skewering the meat. Only once did the Knight speak, to say, “Closer in. Cooking on a open fire isn’t like cooking in an oven. And the meat will want turning as it cooks, so as not to burn.”
She glared again, but followed his instructions. When they were done she took one skewered hare and thrust it towards him. He took it, still smiling.
“My thanks, lass.”
She fell to eating.
As they were mounting up the day’s ride she offered him his blade, hilt first. “You’ll be wanting this, I suppose.”
“Keep it. You’ll have more need of it.”