Continued from the previous chapter, here.
𝔗he mail-clad man pondered what the green-clad had told him of his complicity in taking advantage of the weaknesses of others. He said to him “Something somehow feels wrong in this, that you would seize upon the weaknesses of others to your own profit, and that I would benefit therefrom, as well.”
The green-clad man turned to face the knight. “Why would it so?” he asked. “Do you not, amid battle, swing your sword to where your foe’s shield is not? If his left side is all unarmored, is it not thereto that you direct your blade? And if it is there, is it not to the weakness of your opponent that you apply your strength, hiding your own weakness from the one you face? Why, then, would you begrudge me acting as you yourself do?”
The mail-clad man bowed his head. “It is as you say, truly, and if the one is as the other, then I do not rebuke you for it. Yet I would point out that there are many, and many of the most worshipful, who matched their strength to their opponent’s strength, fighting their utmost at their opponent’s utmost.”
“And that is as you say, I am sure. Yet I know that there are many such who failed in the doing, and then to what account can we claim them? And those who pit their strength against the weaknesses of those they face remain and endure, and their names are remembered and their deeds held in mind, while those who are beaten cannot claim so much.”
“Ah, but those who work against the strengths of their opponents and defeat them are held in higher regard.”
“Say you so, Sir Knight, being a follower of the Nazarene, who very much did not pit strength against strength, but bowed to strength and suffered by it? Would you rather have had it done that the one you worship unsheathed sword and flame? Yet what would that avail to faith? And it is so for the one who wins with strength against strength; the awe that proceeds therefrom is of fear, and people will soon hate that which they fear. And rightly, for it is a threat to them, and it is only prudence that will say that that which is a threat must be eliminated. Why, then, would the two kings have been at odds who fought on the day that I found you, unless they each thought the other a threat?”
“I will not presume to speak for the thoughts of kings, being far below that rank and unworthy to guess at such things therefore. But I will say this, that I have seen many fall to fighting who did not hold one another fearful. There are matters of honor to redeem, as well as the aid and succor of ladies and gentlewomen, whether or not they have been done outrage.”
“Yet even in matters of honor, Sir Knight, there is fear–fear that allowing matters to stand will mean a loss of worship. And in the defense of ladies and gentlewomen, there is a similar fear–and likely a greed for the women thus saved, an expectation of gratitude that leads from public to private assignations. And greed itself is an aspect of the fear of lack, so fear does once again drive matters towards unworth and is a response to a threat perceived.”
The mail-clad man found that he had no response to what the green-clad said then, so he held his peace and bowed his head. The green-clad man saw it and smiled, saying “I have had long and long to think on such things, as you have not, being busied with other matters. It is not to your shame that you know not how to respond. But for now, I would be alone. That you have asked me such questions prompts thoughts within me, and I must work them out in peace. Perhaps the matters of the festival in preparation will attract your interest and offer you time to reflect in another way entirely.”
“Perhaps they will.” The mail-clad man made his courtesies and left the chamber. It was only as he walked out into the sun and the sounds of the town making ready to celebrate its founding by charter that he remembered the question he had meant to ask the man in green. Namely, how he had done to the Lord Deleiere what he had done, changing his mind by looking into his eyes. And he recalled what had been done to him before, when he had earlier thought to raise his voice in question to the man to whom he was obligated. He had then found himself oddly altered, his mind changed such that it did not oppose the man in green, but obeyed him and agreed with him.
And he had been so easily dismissed just moments ago.
The fire of his anger began to rise as the mail-clad man thought he had been ensorcelled, yet so swiftly as it rose, a wet blanket inside the mind pressed down upon it, snuffing the flames. For it was sure to be a test from on high that such as had befallen him had done so, and he could not set aside such, not while his penance yet lasted.
And with that though, his mind returned to the home of the Lady Maelis and the servingwoman he had there known. He smiled at the thought, recalling what he had seen and felt and smelled and tasted and heard, turning his face up to the sun and letting its warmth fill him as the town bustled around. The commons avoided him in the main, thinking him somewhat daft for standing in the street and smiling at the sky, but he recked them now, turning over in his mind what he had done before–and he recalled that his penance was not yet done.
Alms for the poor? Please click here.