Points of Departure, Chapter 6

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

𝔇inner ended as would be expected, with the Lady Maelis rising after the courses had been served and cleared and more wine was poured by her hand for the green-clad man and by his for her, and by one smiling servingwoman for the knight. “I must retire,” she said, “for the hour grows late, and I am weary. But I am pleased to have had you in my home this evening, and even if you will not linger here to await my lord husband, Sir Gwion, you have been welcome, and you will be welcome again should you choose to come again.” And she made her courtesy somewhat shakily, and the green-clad man and the knight rose and bowed, and she retired.

Soon after, the green-clad man, finishing his wine, stood and said to the knight “I, too, find that I am wearied. I know not if we shall stay here for a time, but I know that we will tonight. So be at your ease, Sir Knight, and in the morning, we shall see where matters lie.”

The knight rose and bowed. “Then I shall bid you good night, and I shall see you come the morrow.” The man in green nodded and left, and soon, the knight saw the servingfolk work to clear away what remained on the table. Most were quick and quiet about their work, but one, the servingwoman with whom he had spoken upon entering the house and who had provided him the blue robe he wore, lingered. When the others were gone, she asked him “Sir Knight, the Lady Maelis has dismissed her servants for the night. I am therefore utterly at your disposal, ready to address your needs.”

She looked at him full in the face as she spoke, and the knight took her meaning well. So he said to her “I find that I am at a loss with a house unfamiliar to me. I am not at all certain I recall how to again find the room with which the Lady Maelis has so generously provided me. Perhaps you could help me to find it again.”

The servingwoman smiled and said “That is a thing that I can do, Sir Knight, and I am happy to show you the way to where you want to go.” She gestured, and he rose and followed her. It was not a long walk for them, and they soon stood inside the chamber that had been given over to the knight for his use. The servingwoman smiled again and asked “Will Sir Knight require help in preparing for bed?”

“He would” came the reply, and the servingwoman began to undress him. And she did more besides, for it was clear to her that he desired her, and she gave every sign of desiring him, in turn, so they lay together into the night. But in the morning, the knight woke alone in his bed, his regular clothes laid out for him, and he dressed and went back to the hall where he had eaten before, searching for food, as he was hungered. While he did, he looked for the woman he had known the night before, but he did not see her in the hall. Nor did he see her afterwards about the home, nor yet in the town, into which he ventured as Terce came and went, and still were the green-clad man and the Lady Maelis absent from view. Yet the town was busy, with the commons going about their many tasks. The mill-wheel turned, and the cooper plied his craft, and the sounds of youths being as they were could be heard easily.

The priest of the local parish church saw the knight, clad again in mail, looking about and approached him. “God’s peace upon you, my son,” said he, and the mail-clad man replied “And also upon you, Father.”

The priest went on. “You appear to be lost, my son, although I know that the Lady Maelis is hosting you.” And the mail-clad man replied “I was looking for someone, Father, although I recall now that I know not the name of the one I seek. How strange is it, then, to seek for that of which the name is unknown?”

“It is not so strange, my son,” said the priest. “There is much of which we know not the name, on earth as in heaven, and yet we know that we are in need of it. Even the names of the Father and the Holy Ghost are sought but unknown to many, and of the Son, well, there are many who know it not but should or will come to do. So I know you do not know the name to seek, but why do you seek?”

The mail-clad man shook his head. “For that, Father, I would have to be shriven, and while I trust that you could do such a thing, I well recall that in the open air is not a place for the doing of such things,” he said, and the priest replied, “Then come you into the church, my son, and be shriven–and if there is penance to do, you may do it and be right with the Lord.” And so the mail-clad man did, speaking what he had done the night before to the priest and being told what to do to atone. “For what you have done is a matter of grave import, and perhaps more than you would know, for it might be that the one with whom you lay was wedded to another. Yet you would be ignorant of such a thing, and so did not commit adultery in the full force of will if such were done. So you will pray at dawn and noon and sunset, and you will fast, taking neither meat nor drink save water while the sun is in the sky, from this day forward for the space of as many days as there are hours in each day. And when that is done, your penance will be done, and you will be forgiven. Now go, and sin no more!”

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