Continued from the previous chapter, here.
𝔗he mail-clad man woke in disbelief. He felt no pain, was not hindered in his motions when he moved his arm and shoulder and sought to sit up. When he looked around, he saw that he sat in the forest where he had fallen the night before. The green-clad man sat across the fire from him, eating. When he saw that the knight was awake, he nodded and offered a cup of water, for the sun was already in the sky, shining through the trees.
The mail-clad man took the cup with thanks, offered up a small prayer, and drank. When he had wet his mouth, he asked “Am I dead? For I recall that I was smitten in shoulder and in flank by arrows, and the latter bit deeply into me.” The green-clad man answered him swiftly, saying “If you are dead, then so am I, as is all you see around you. But I think you are not dead, for I do not think myself to have passed out of life. Nor yet did I work healing upon you this day.”
“Then I am confused as to what happened. And I am confused as to how you reacted while a fight occurred around you. For there was fighting, and you acted as if nothing was wrong, eating your food and drinking your drink and paying no mind to aught that happened. A man was set to kill you, and yet you acted as if nothing was amiss.”
“Why should I worry? You were here, as I knew you would be, and you are charged to me, so that I knew you would act in my defense if it were needed. And it is so. I am unharmed, and you appear to be so.”
The mail-clad man felt himself, searching his shoulder and his side for the marks of arrows. The cloth of his gambeson was torn where he would have expected, given the wounds he had named. Yet the skin under the tears was unbroken and smooth, and there was no pain in the motion. And the mail-clad man marveled at the revelation, saying “I must be strengthened, indeed, in the pursuance of my obligation to you. For there is not a mark upon me from what I have endured, although the tears in my clothing say that something happened to me. God be praised that it is so!”
The green-clad man smiled. “If you are feeling well, then, let us go.”
The mail-clad man rose. “Let me look about a bit before we do. I have to think that there have been some things left behind by those who attacked us, and I do not know where my horse went.”
The green-clad man also stood. “As to the former, I know not, for I have not looked about. You would know better than I what to search out and recover. But as to the latter, your horse is with mine, and there.” He pointed, and the knight looked, seeing the horses standing a little ways off, grazing merrily on such shrubbery as was present for them. He nodded, and as the green-clad man went about his own work, the mail-clad scouted about. He found the corpses he had made the night before, and he offered prayers for them as he laid them out and took form them such knives and moneys as they had. Armor had they none, and their bows had been broken.
“We should stop a bit and bury them” he said, but the green-clad man replied “We have no priest to pray over them, and there is no hallowing to this ground. Too, I have scant pity for those who would have slain me and those in my service, so I will not tarry for them. No, Sir Knight, we will not bury them. Let them be as the beasts they would become, dead in the woods and given to those who live therein.” And he mounted to ride away, but the mail-clad man prayed over them again, asking their forgiveness and God’s for the neglect of their bodies. Still, he could not but follow, and so he did.
The two rode through the rest of the day, moving slowly against the deteriorating road, and stopping as the sun descended. The forest still surrounded them as they made their camp for the night, and as the sun set, the knight offered up his penitential prayers and his prayer of thanks, and he ate. Soon enough, he slept, and while he slept, he dreamed. In his dream, he saw the faces of those he had slain the night before, and the marks of their wounds were upon them. They struggled to speak, but they could not, or else the knight could not hear them–but they were joined by a third, and the knight knew the figure to be his own. And it was marked with the marks he would have suffered, with arrows in shoulder and side, and one leg swollen and bloated from the bite of the adder. It spoke to him, and he could hear its words in his own voice clearly:
“You are deceived and your soul in peril for it! For the one whom you follow is not as he seems to be; although his name is such as cannot be spoken, and the names used for him are vile and reviled, you must know who he is. Follow him not, though you think yourself charged to it, for it is only through deceit that you have taken that charge. Repent of your folly, though it cost you your life again, and be shriven that you may pass on in peace. Go now, before you are damned forever!”
The knight awoke in sweat and cold, and he stared into the overhanging leaves in the darkness, seeing only few in the lingering red light cast by the coals of the fire he had made and that had since gone out.
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