Ariana awoke to the sun shining in her eyes through the unglazed window, a slight smile on her face. She stretched her arms over her head, rolling onto her back. She'd had the most wonderful dream. A man's hands caressing her bare flesh softly, a man's strong arms around her, holding her close, murmuring soothing words into her ear. She felt the unfamiliar straw under her and her eyes flew open. She stared around her wildly, not knowing where she was or how she got there. She tried to sit up but felt dizzy and fell back onto the make-shift pallet, her hands clutching the rough blanket to her naked body.
"Dear God, where are my clothes? How did I come to be here?" she thought frantically.
It all came back to her in a rush; the soldiers, her wild ride through the forest to warn her father, her flight from the battle, the storm. Beyond that, she knew nothing. Tears started to trickle down her cheeks at all she had lost. This would not do. She had to get out of here, find help, reach Frederick.
Dashing the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand, Ariana rolled over and made it to her hands and knees. She saw her clothes by the fire, hanging from sticks thrust into the ground. She remembered being carefully wrapped in the blanket and tenderly laid on the straw. Someone had cared for her, well. Perhaps she could enlist this stranger's aid in finding her way to Frederick.
But it would not do for the stranger to find her naked and weak. He must find her fully dressed and standing on her feet as Lady Ariana, daughter of the great Earl William. She would then be in a position to demand his help. After all, he was probably one of her father's peasants and, thus, owed his allegiance to her as well.
Ariana crawled over to her clothes and pulled them toward her. She managed to draw on her pantalets and chemise before having to rest against the wall. She closed her eyes and sat there, trying to catch her breath.