Points of Departure, Chapter 19

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

𝔄s the mail-clad man emerged from the town church, he was surrounded by tumult at the heart of the town. The source thereof was soon evident; two men were arguing with great intent and vigor, standing near to an overturned cart and pointing at it. Around them, the people of the town thronged, looking on and shouting their own imprecations at first one man, then the other, or standing and talking to one another with frequent glances at the two who were at debate. The knight sighed heavily and moved towards the pair, at first threading his way through the people, but soon having to push his way past them–and meeting with their resistance, for they were free people and careful of their rights at all times. And he met with foul glances and fouler words, and some did shove against him, but the mail-clad man, knowing himself a guest in the town and new to it and its ways, drew not his sword, although he shoved back when he was shoved, and he did not stint in the use of his strength.

At last, he came to the two men who bickered, and he heard their words in which each accused the other of fault for the overturning of the cart and the spilling of that which had been in it. But just as the knight was about to speak to the resolution of the matter, having heard enough to know that the one was at fault but the other was not blameless, a rock sailed in from somewhere behind him and smote the one man on the head, that it bloodied him and dropped him to the ground. Then there was much upset, and the sounds of fighting were heard all around, and a melee of fists and feet and sticks broke out in the midst of the town around the knight. More rocks flew about, and several struck the mail-clad man where the mail did not cover him, and at the blows, he grew angry. Then did he draw his sword and called out for the melee to cease, but none of those around him heeded his words. Indeed, more rocks flew, and more of them hit the knight, cast as if in despite of him and his words.

Then the knight made to lay about him with his sword, but the words of the priest not long before rang again in his ears, speaking of bearing patiently the burdens placed upon him. And so did the knight sheathe again his sword, and with his own fists and feet he laid about, and with every blow he dealt, one of the townsfolk fell to the ground stunned. Soon enough, the knight stood alone, surrounded by those he had felled, and the throwing or rocks and shouting and fracas died down. And the two whose argument had begun the whole affair yet wrestled on the ground nearby, and the knight went to them and dragged both up to their feet, holding each by the front of the shirt tightly.

When he held them thus, he spoke to them in anger, upbraiding them for their disturbance of the peace and for inciting others to act against the peace, and he shook them vigorously as does a dog with a scrap of rag or a small beast taken in the hunt as he did, so that their teeth chattered in their heads. And all gathered around knew the knight then to be a mighty man and strong, strong in a way they had never seen, for the one man was a smith and the other a teamster, and both were large men and strong. So when the knight lifted them up and shook them as if with ease, the people marveled, for the mail-clad man was not overly large, but rather of average size. And it was not long until he himself realized the oddity of what he had done, and he set the men on their feet on the ground again and dropped his hands.

When he looked about himself, he saw that those there gathered all looked at him with fear and awe, and some looked at the sword on his hip, and there was terror in their faces. The knight saw such things only as he turned about, and his face flushed with shame that he should be so regarded, even by the commons of the town, and he returned in haste to the house of the Lord Deleiere, where he resumed the chamber that had been assigned to him. And there he knelt in prayer, and in his prayers he asked the Lord for guidance in the matter and sought to know the cause wherefore he had grown so strong in so short a time, for he had not had such strength in battle before.

From behind him, the green-clad man spoke–and he stood as if he had been long waiting for the knight to return, although the mail-clad man had not seen him when he came in. And the man in green said “Has it not been said to you, and more than once, that you have been strengthened in the task to which you are obliged? Should you not take the sudden swelling of your strength as a sign that you are acting as you ought? Rejoice, then, in being given a gift that many would dearly buy, that your work hereafter may be the easier.”

“I seek to do so,” said the mail-clad man, “although it is strange to me to be so strong now. And if I think ahead a bit, as I try to do more and more, it seems to me that if I am being strengthened against tasks to come that those tasks are likely to be mighty and dire, and I may be forgiven for being worried when even the Lord for a moment quailed at what was to come for him–and I am not so mighty as he, so I must be more concerned.”

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