Points of Departure, Chapter 14

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

đť”—he next morning dawned, finding the mail-clad man already fed and ready to depart. The green-clad man he accompanied was somewhat slower in making ready, but he was soon mounted, and he led the mail-clad man slightly south of eastward along the road through the forest. The trees continued to thin, and the road continued to improve, and they began once again to encounter travelers along the way. With most, they exchanged but few words, mostly of greeting and of kindness, and with a few, they stopped and shared news. From it, they learned that matters were settling in Logres, with a man called Custennin from Cornwall taking the throne and beginning to stamp out the remnants of the war between the two kings that had preceded his ascent. Word was that fighting continued in the east and south, less so in the west and north, and that banditry had begun to spring up with the news of the two kings’ fall. The mail-clad man touched his side where he had been pierced but was no longer, and the green-clad man spoke his thanks to those from whom he heard the news.

As they rode on, after leaving some travelers behind, the green-clad man asked the mail-clad what he thought of the matter. The reply he received was thus: “It is only sense that there would be something of a vacuum of rule arise when the kings both fell. The one was the evident heir of the other, being his closest kin, but although he was anointed and crowned, solemnized in office under the Lord, he was crowned king of a kingdom that already had a king. I know of no heirs of his body, although there might be such–for it is the case that many are born to parents unwed, and some of them do great things, although others do perfidy and shame. But with none such known, and two kings slain, it might well be thought that smaller lords could rise to power, and that lords from outside might think to come in. But if the Cornish king can keep matters secure, then it is to the good. Lawless lands are bad for those who must live in them, all out of accord with the will of the Lord.”

He paused for a moment, then said “It is clear to me that you are a man of no mean power and skill. By your attire and your conduct, I know you to be a man of some eminence. Will you not then go to where dwells the new king and offer your respects to him? For even if you will not be his subject, the land is under his rule, and he has an interest in knowing who is in it and what business those who are in it may be about.”

The green-clad man answered him, saying “It may be that we do so after our business near Anderitum is done. But it is that business that concerns me most closely, and so it concerns you who must follow me. When we have finished there, if matters are such as permit our doing so, we will find where the king reigns, and there we will greet him with seemly words and perhaps gifts. For you are correct in that I am not a subject of the king here, and I have no desire to be one such–but it seems that you would be one, and that you have the desire to be one such. And I would know why it is that you would take such a thing on yourself.”

The mail-clad man responded in turn, saying “You know me to be a knight. Knights are made by other knights, so there is a long chain and unbroken that connects each of us back to the beginning–and that making places each of us under another. It is part of knighthood that we are in service, and having that service shapes us and our days. It gives structure to our lives amid the world that is still being reclaimed from its first fall, and it helps others to be able to do the work of reclamation. I do well that which I know how to do, but there is more that must be done than that I know how to do, and because I do not know it but know that others do, I would be in service. And as for being the subject of the king, I have been sworn to the king since I was of age to make such swearing, and it is the case that the oaths given to one must be given again to that one’s successor, until the debt is discharged. If this new king is the successor of the old, just and appointed, then I am already a subject to him–and if it is the case that he is not, then I owe my old king the duty of overthrowing one who takes his throne unjustly.”

“Is that, then, why you fought for the one king against the other? Or that you sought to do so, in any event?”

The mail-clad man nodded. “It is, indeed. For I had benefited greatly from my service to that reign, and if it had been the case that the one king had died and the other succeeded him–as would have been righteous, for he was his nearest kin–then I would have served the second willingly and well. But because he did as he did, he rose unjustly, and the king to whom I was sworn through many swearings was in the right to return to what was his and take it back again. Nor was I one whose memory was so short as to think so little of what had come from the king who was.

“But now he is gone away As for what replaces him, that remains to be seen. But I think that I will look for it to be to the good. I would not have a lawless land be what my own becomes, and a good king and wise will help it to remain as it should be.”

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