Continued from the previous chapter, here.
𝔗he green-clad man looked back at the Lady Maelis as the mail-clad man looked on. He raised an eyebrow over one dark eye and said “Yes, it would be better did your lord husband return from battle. But you know that knights must fight, and that there is great danger in fighting even for the most mighty, even for those of most worship. And of your lord husband, Sir Gwion, can it be said that he was doughtiest and of most renown? I say not so to speak against him, for I am sure that he is a good man and worthy, but any man in his age will fare less well against men in their youth than might be hoped.”
The lady held his gaze for a moment before dropping her own. “It is true. My lord husband was not as young a man as he used to be. We had not expected even to have the daughter we have now and who waits in the convent for an advantageous marriage–whether to a knight in service of the king or to the Lord Christ as a nun. But even though we had not had such a thought, we are glad the Lord gave her to us, and we had thought that perhaps we would be blessed again. But if it is as you suggest, that my lord husband will not return, that Sir Gwion has fallen in battle, then I will mourn, for a wife should mourn a husband who falls even in battle. And I will bless God that I have had him in my life for so long as I have, and I will wonder if I will find another husband, for I am not so old that I cannot bear a child again, and if it is the case that Sir Knight,” and here, she gestured at the mail-clad man, “answered the word of God, then so must I, and the priests say that the Lord God said to be fruitful and multiply.”
The green-clad man nodded. “I have heard that that is the case.” He looked at the Lady Maelis again, more intently, and the mail-clad man studied well the food remaining on his plate and the drink in his cup. A single servant, the young woman from before, brought forth more wine and filled the cups of all three while they sat silently. She smiled as she came to the mail-clad man, though, and he, seeing that smile, offered a faint one in return and said his thanks to her for her fetching and pouring. It was not until after she withdrew that the lady of the house continued.
“If there is not news to be had of the battle between the two kings, the young one and the old, then I would wonder what it is that brings you to my home. My good lord? Sir Knight?”
The mail-clad man, hearing himself addressed, began to reply, but the green-clad cut him off. “I have said to you that he follows me, Lady Maelis. But as to my intent, well, of that I may not speak, save to say that a thing was taken from me some time ago, and I am working to reclaim it. Sir Knight will be of aid to me in the endeavor, as are others whom I know. I am, of course, always seeking to find more aid, for the task I face is not a simple one, and I am no knight of worship to face my task singly.”
Lady Maelis replied “I cannot say much to you of such a thing. Until it is known that my lord husband is gone from this world, the land and all its efforts are his to give or withhold as he will–but I know that he would not have me turn away travelers of rank from the door, and if the food now is but bread, the food this evening, when dinner is served, will be the more plentiful and finer, so that I hope you will stay to share it with us. And if you would care to tarry here, either to await Sir Gwion or else the news of his passing, or even for only the night, then you are welcome, too.”
“You honor us, Lady Maelis, and we will at the least sup with you tonight and stay with you until morning. What the coming sun will reveal will be seen in the fullness of time, to be sure, but we thank you for the offer you have made, and gratefully we accept all that you would choose to give.” The green-clad man stood and bowed slightly; the mail-clad man followed suit, bowing more deeply.
Maelis stood, as well, and returned their courtesies. “Then I will leave you to your refreshment and rest. Dinner will be served here, not long after Vespers. It is coming up on None, now, so there is time to rest well before the meal. It will be in plenty, although there will be few in attendance.” She smiled a tight smile and departed, leaving the two men and the remnants of their bread and wine.
As they seated themselves again, the mail-clad man asked the green-clad “You mentioned that I fulfilled God’s word at the site of the battle. I am not a priest. To which such word do you refer?”
The green-clad man smiled. “In the vulgar tongue, it is to the effect of ‘I shall put enmity between you and the woman, between your line and hers. She will crush your head, and you will await her heel.’ That is, adders shall strike at men, and men at adders, and this very thing did you do, both giving and receiving. So take heart, for it is certain that you proceed in the path appointed to you, that path on which you are strengthened by the exhortations of the priest. Take care that you remain on it.”
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