Continued from the previous chapter, here.
𝔄fter the hour of Vespers, the mail-clad man–clad in mail no longer, but in softer clothes that had been provided; the serving woman from the door and the table before had brought him a richly blue robe, saying that he looked to be of a size for it, and that it would be comely–arrived back in the room where he had eaten before. He was joined shortly after by the green-clad man, dressed as ever in a green so dark as to be nearly black. He looked his companion up and down and said “Sir Knight, that color is becoming on you. Yet I do not recall it in your blazon before.”
The normally mail-clad man replied “Indeed not. The shield I bore as a matter of course was gules, on a bend argent a baton gules wavy. I had a surcoat showing the same, as well, although I had offed it for the battle, the day being both warm and cloudy. But I suppose that I will need to have other raiment made, since I am seeming sworn to you, and if I am to be your officer, then I must to bear your emblem.” He paused for a moment, then asked “Have you arms, then?”
The green-clad man laughed aloud. “Indeed not, Sir Knight, for I am not a fighting man–at least, not in the kinds of fights for which you are trained and for which your order is justly renowned. And since I am no fighting man, what need have I of arms? You need not change yours for me, however. It is enough that we know that where I will go, you will follow, and until you have given me my life as I have given you yours, you are bound to do so. And I know that I can trust in your good word, now and ever, and in the strength of your right hand, as the adder found before. But the adder is not the first, is it?”
The man in blue shook his head. “It is as you say. I have lifted my sword in anger, yes, and lowered it in wrath, and more than once in each case. Yet I would rather I had not had to do so the once or ever. I would it were such that my order was without need, yet well do I know that the world is fallen and the people in it, and until all are risen in Christ, there shall be need of the work of hands such as mine. But since you spoke of our first parents earlier, such things as I recall from my earlier teaching have been much on my mind, and their faltering before the Lord has wrought such that we, their children, must seek to address.”
The green-clad man nodded. “It is a thing thought rightly, to be sure, although one I have seldom heard spoken save by priests, and those only of a particular demeanor that is less often found in the world than many might prefer. But I hear the sound of people approaching; I believe the Lady Maelis is upon us.”
And so she was, for a moment later, the doors at the end of the hall opened wide, and Maelis swept in, attended by her servingwomen and a few pages obviously young in service. The servingwoman who had clad the one man in blue was among them, and she smiled at the knight as Maelis inclined her head to her current guests. They bowed in return as she said “God’s blessings upon you, and be welcome in this house.”
A murmur of thanks returned to her, and she gestured towards the table. “Please, my guests, be seated. Be at ease.” She suited her deeds to her words, and she took her seat at the head of the table. The man in green sat beside her, and the knight sat in the next seat down. The servingfolk bustled about to bring in food and drink, and, as had been promised the travelers, it was plentiful and finer than the loaves they had had earlier in the day. There were fish and fowl for them, beef and pork, and breads in abundance. Wines were poured and drunk and poured again, by Maelis and by the man in green, and throughout the meal, the man in green kept Lady Maelis talking about her husband’s lands and holdings, listening intently.
She spoke of the productivity of the cooper and the smith, of the tensions she had had to resolve between the miller and the tanner more than once. She spoke also of the priest of the local church, who had urged her and Sir Gwion to send their daughter to the convent. “He said she would be the better schooled in the womanly arts, and my lord husband believed him,” she said. “But there are arts of which the sisters know nothing, yet they are good for all wives to know.” The knight could see that the drink she had taken spoke through her, for her skin was flushed and her speech soft around its edges. He had been drinking slowly, having much on his mind, and he saw that the man in green was, as well. And he saw that the servingwoman smiled at him shyly, sneaking glances at him when the others were not looking, and the knight felt himself flush as he thought on what it might mean that she did so.
Through it all, the man in green said but little, ate but little, drank but little, and moved but little. He seemed even to blink but little and breathe but little. Yet there was no doubt among any there that he was focused on the Lady Maelis, completely and utterly, and as she drank more, she spoke more, and the man in green learned more of her–more, indeed, than the knight was comfortable in hearing. Yet he said nothing, knowing that it was not his place to do so.
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