Continued from the previous chapter, here.
𝔗he next day saw the knight rise before dawn again, and he ate briefly and offered up his penitential prayers while the people around him slept. They did so in some disorder, with many people sleeping in several of the huts they shared, while other huts stood empty. The green-clad man had melded into the crowds the night before, leaving the mail-clad man largely alone with his thoughts; the people had fed him, but after the words the green-clad man had spoken, they otherwise left him alone. He said nothing of the matter, either in the night or in the morning beginning, but it sat strangely with him even yet that matters were as they were, that he had healed from injuries without scar and had been left to himself after thinking that an advance was being made upon him after he had already been at the center of such advances, both making them and accepting those made towards him.
It was not until after the sun was shining through the leaves of the overhanging trees that the green-clad man emerged from one of the huts. He seemed content and well-fed, and he nodded to the knight as he readied his horse. The knight followed suit, and it was not long until the pair continued heading eastward upon the road whose quality seemed to increase with each step that was taken. The forest began to thin around them, and the knight could glimpse small patches of blue amid the translucent greens of the leaves above. He said as much to the green-clad man riding ahead of him, receiving a nod and “It is as you say, Sir Knight. We draw closer to the edge of this wood, and thence we will ride to Anderitum, where there is somewhat for me to do–and I may well need your aid in doing it, as we have discussed in the past days.”
“I recall the talk,” replied the mail-clad man, “and I remain ready to aid you as you may need. If it is the case that I am strengthened as you say, then I surely must do so, for if I am given a gift, I am a fool to turn away from it and from that which has given the gift to me. Yet I worry, for I know that a gift given can be withdrawn, and I would not have that with which I have been provided taken away so easily. I am grateful for it, and I think not that a person can be blamed for wanting to keep such a thing.”
“Indeed not, Sir Knight,” replied the green-clad man, “and you seem to have been given a good thing, indeed. But I doubt not of your sincerity at this point. I know well that you know the value of what you have received, and I know that you know how strong upon you the charge you carry lies. Several of the charges, in fact, for I see that you continue to do penance for some error you feel you have made. How much longer have you to do such? For I note that you drink little and eat less as you conduct it, and though you are strong, I would have you remain so against such needs as we may have.”
“It will not be long, I think,” replied the mail-clad man. “For I have been so diligent as I may be in praying and fasting, and we have been on the road long. Each day has seen me act in accord with that charge, and I will soon be discharged of it. But you need not worry of my strength. I feel it greatly in me, such as I have not since I was newly knighted. It is as you say. I have been given much, and it is of great value. I treasure it, although I wonder that I did not find such earlier in life, and that others have not found similar favor who were more pious than I. For there have been many such, many who have attended more fully to their catechism and to the work of the Lord than I. Why, then, should I find such favor? For though I am grateful for it, I am confused by it utterly.”
The green-clad man shrugged. “Perhaps it is because your strength will be needed where theirs is not. Or perhaps you are meant as a test to others, a temptation away from faith and towards despair.”
The mail-clad man stopped suddenly. “Am I then a tool of the devil? Is it through unholy agency that I am strengthened, then, and the priests deceived about me?”
“Why would you think yourself a tool of the devil to be used as a temptation away from faith? Is it not written, and do not the priests speak of it, that Job was tempted to show what faith truly is? So worry not that that is the case, but press on as you may. Act in good faith, and surely it will be shown to you.”
The mail-clad man started ahead again, but he did not speak, riding in silence as he turned over in his mind what had been said. And he recalled his dream, remembering how he had spoken to himself of deceit and despair. For all the green-clad man’s words that sought to put him at ease, he could not find it for himself. When, therefore, at the end of the day, he and the green-clad man stopped to rest, making camp under the thinning boughs of the lingering forest, he offered up another prayer, asking for the Lord to guide his steps and lead him through to righteousness and away from any evil that would seek to have him follow it. And he did his daily penance, as he had been bidden to do, ate and drank, and found his way again to sleep.
Alms for the poor? Please click here.