Continued from the previous chapter, here.
𝔗he sun rose and began to look through the leaves and branches upon the mail-clad man as he offered his first prayer of the day, still working towards his penance. The events of the past days still weighed heavily upon him, filling his thoughts as he rode along behind the green-clad man. His hands kept creeping to his shoulder and his side, feeling about for wounds he knew he should have but seemed not to–nor even the scars that should have marked where they once had been. But yet his clothes and mail showed the marks made upon them, so he knew that they had been pierced before. The conundrum kept itself in the front of his mind, and so the trees he passed by did not, until at length, a branch that hung across the track that remained where once a road had been knocked him from the back of his horse.
Ahead of him, the green-clad man halted. Turning in his saddle, he said “Sir Knight, I know that there are times when even the great are unhorsed, but surely you could have faced such an opponent with more skill and aplomb. Are you well?”
The mail-clad man rose, shaking himself. He replied “I am. I was simply lost in thought as I rode along. I have had much about which to think as we have ridden together, particularly since the events of the fight. I marvel yet at how I fared in it, and I am all uncertain why it should be so. I know no agency that would act toward me as I have been treated, not even the Most High whose presence has been invoked to strengthen me and toward the worthiness of which I strive. For there have not been to my mind the usual signs and symbols of it, as I have heard told in hall and in camp. And I have dreamed strange dreams that I must question, as well.”
He remounted. “Forgive me my inattention. I shall be the more vigilant–and I shall avoid falling to such an opponent as jousted so well against me as I may!” He laughed, and the green-clad man smiled, and both of them rode on for a time. As they did, they began to find that the road was in better and better repair, for they had come past the midpoint of the forest and were coming into places where people dwelt who were of civil mind and tongue. And before the day was done, they came across a group of them, dwelling together in wood-thatch huts and living off of the bounty of the forest. And those people welcomed the green-clad man as a long friend, and their speech with him was strange, so that the mail-clad man knew not what was said. But he prayed his penitence as he had been bidden, and after the sun set, he partook of the food that was offered to him by the people with whom the green-clad man spoke at ease.
The mail-clad man thought to himself that this must be the origin of the man in green whom he followed. For the green-clad man seemed at ease among these people and in this place, and both seemed at ease with him, such that they were each part of the other. But he also marked that he saw no sign of faith among them. They fed him well with nut and berry and small game, and there was a drink sweet and strong, and though he did not understand their words, he knew that their tones were welcoming and warm, so he did not make much of the matter, but he noted no priest among them, no shaven-headed friar, and nowhere the signs of the Lord he knew and followed. And it was of some unease for him that it was so–but he kept to his courtesies and acted as a guest in high hall. But when one of the women smiled at him the way Lady Maelis’s servingwoman had, he made gestures of refusal. He knew he already did penitence enough.
The green-clad man marked the demurring, and he asked the mail-clad man “Why would you shake your head so? She but smiles at you and welcomes you to this place; she says she hopes that you are happy here for now.”
“If that is all that has been said,” the knight replied, “then I apologize that I shook my head at it. But the words spoken here are strange to my ears, and I know not how I ought to respond to them. It seemed another thing was spoken, and it is not a thing that I would have, not without somewhat else that seems not to be on offer here. For I have partaken of it before, and it is for that failing that I do penitence. I would not repeat the error while yet trying to atone for it. I am taught that such belies the sincerity of contrition, and it is only in that sincerity that forgiveness may be found.”
“I am sure that you are correct, Sir Knight. I think I know whereof you speak, and if you cannot say the words as they are spoken here, in this I will be your voice.” And the green-clad man said to the woman who had smiled a series of words the knight did not understand. Her smile fell, and her eyes were sad, but she nodded at what was spoken to her, and she rose and left. Then the green-clad man turned again to the mail-clad and said “It is done. No longer will you be troubled by such a thing, at least not here. In the world outside, I cannot say, but that will be for you to handle when we are again where the words are what you know.”
The mail-clad man nodded his thanks and returned to his food while revelry continued around him.
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