Continued from the previous chapter, here.
𝔗he two men–one clad in a green so dark as to be nearly black, the other in mail–soon came to a larger village than that they had left. There, they were able to find horses that were broken to the saddle, and they rode thence to a small town. The distinction lay, really, in the fact that it boasted a cooper, a miller, a blacksmith, and tanner. It also had a bridge over a smallish river–not one that could not be forded, but it was far easier to ride dryshod than to put up with soaked clothing and horses irritated from carrying riders clad in it.
There was also a minor lord–or the home of one, rather. When the green-clad and mail-clad man approached it, they were greeted by a young woman in rough homespun. She curtsied deeply when she saw them; the mail bespoke a warrior, deference to whom by the unarmed is usually prudent, and the green-clad man’s attire was rich and fine, such that he was assumed to be a mighty lord in his own right. And so she addressed them, saying “Milord, Sir Knight, please do come in and be welcome. The lady of the home has bidden me show all courtesy to those of rank and esteem, and so you seem to me to be. Therefore, please do come you in, and eat, and drink, and take your ease. The lady shall attend upon you presently, I am certain.”
The green-clad man gave a perfunctory nod and swept past the young woman. The mail-clad man was more courteous, saying “God’s peace be upon this place and all within! But tell me, who is the lady of this house, and who the lord, and whither has the lord gone?”
“Oh, Sir Knight, as to the last, I am sure that you know, for I am certain that you did yourself stand in the battle between the two kings that was not long ago. It is thence that the lord of this house went, called once more to fight for the king to whom he had sworn, although he was in the fullness of age and past it. Sir Gwion was he called, and long had he been the lord of this land, given title to it after good and diligent service with the old king. And the Lady Maelis is his wife, wedded to him eight years gone, now, and their one child a daughter in the convent until she should be wedded, herself.”
“Thank you” replied the mail-clad man, and he went inside in the wake of the green-clad. He found the latter seared high at the table in what seemed the primary hall of the house, eating good bread with butter and honey and drinking wine. A place was set a seat below him on the same side, and the mail-clad man seated himself there at the green-clad man’s gesture. As he did, the latter said “Had the servingwoman anything of worth to note?”
The mail-clad man nodded. “Sir Gwion, an older man, is–was, probably–lord of this house. Maelis is his wife and here. They have a daughter who dwells in a convent until she is to be wedded.”
“Ah.” The green-clad man returned to his meal. Around a mouthful of bread, he said “Did you know Gwion?”
The mail-clad man, himself eating, said “No. But there were many arrayed, as I know you saw–at least, there were until the fighting began, and with each moment there were fewer present. It is possible that I was to fight alongside him, but I recall no man so named as Gwion.”
“I am saddened to hear that I will hear no news of my husband” came another voice, a woman’s voice, low but clear with youth. And its owner proceeded to the table where the green-clad man still sat and from which the mail-clad man stood, asking “Are you the Lady Maelis, then?”
She nodded as she approached a seat at the right hand of the obvious lord’s chair. Its back was not so high as the high seat, but it was still higher than any of the others at the table. Indeed, where the mail-clad man sat had no back at all. The green-clad man slowly rose to his feet and sketched something like a bow. “Milady” he said, somewhat flatly, and he looked at her openly. The mail-clad man, for his part, bowed deeply and remained bowed long. “God’s peace upon you” he said.
“And on you, as well,” she replied as she seated herself. The men sat shortly after, and the green-clad man resumed eating as Maelis asked “Since you know no man named Sir Gwion, I shall not ask you after my lord husband, although I worry that you are come from the battle but he is not come back to me. But then, you also say that you were to fight alongside him, perhaps. Shall I take it to mean that you did not fight against the young king?”
The mail-clad man nodded. “It is as you say. I did not fight against the young king.”
The green-clad man interjected. “He fulfilled the word of God, instead, if it is your concern that he has turned recreant. And in doing so, he found himself in mortal peril, from which I delivered him. So now he follows me, blessed to that task and the fulfillment of it. So you may be at ease, Lady Maelis, that your husband did not fall because he was surrounded by cowards who betrayed him. If fall he did, it was bravely, and it is no shame to him–and it should not be sorrow to you if he did, for is it not a worthy thing to die in defense of lord and land, or of friends?”
“Yet it were better had he lived and returned to his land and those who have loved him these years long.” Maelis gave a clipped reply, and the mail-clad man sighed deeply.
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