Points of Departure, Chapter 22

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

đť”—he day of the founding festival dawned bright and clear, and it found the mail-clad man awake to greet it. He had already done his morning prayer, and he had bathed himself, for he wished to meet the festival in as fine a form as he had, and that meant a clean one. New clothes had been laid out for him, and finest among them was a surcoat to go over his mail, and it was in the green that the green-clad man would wear, but on its breast was an embroidered escutcheon of gules, on a bend argent a baton gules wavy. The knight donned it, and he girded his sword about him, and he went out into the town from the house of the Lord Deleiere.

As he did, he found himself surrounded by smiles and laughter and song and dance, for the people of the town made merry and marked with mirth the making of their town, the award of the charter that placed it under the protection of the king’s own person and his deputy rather than any baron, earl, or duke that might arise, then or ever. Already were there contests underway between the burghers, feats of throwing of things both high and far, and of racing for short distances and long. The wrestling whose fate had been in jeopardy was going on, as well, with other competitors having wagered with the two thought best scared out of it; the mail-clad man delighted in seeing that it was so. And he was tempted to distraction by the cakes and pies, the pastries and meats and savory breads with fruits and nuts baked into them that were all about, but he kept his measure and walked past them.

Instead, the knight came before the stage he had seen built, and he stood in front of it; the crowd of people milling about made way for him when they marked who he was. The lessons of days before had not been lost upon them, and the mail-clad man enjoyed a view of it unobstructed. He did ask one of the burghers–a cooper by trade, he proudly announced–what would go on, and he was told that there would be a show with members of the town playing roles “as was done in the olden days of Rome and before, or so they say.” He nodded, confused by the thought and wondering how such a man as the cooper could know of Rome save as the seat of the Pope and the home of the Church, but such thoughts soon left him as men clad strangely strode onto the stage and spoke words that were clearly not their own, enacting some scene or another from the history of a far away land. The speech was strange, but the mail-clad man caught words such as “Eneas” and “Brutus” among them, as well as “Albion,” from time to time, and he adjudged that they spoke of the founding of the island.

When he heard one speak of “GoĂ«magot,” he recalled stories he had been told as a boy in Ternyllwg, stories of the giants that had roamed across the land in the days when the stories were not yet told. He remembered how he had thrilled to them, how he had both hoped and feared to find a giant–hoped, because he would best it or befriend it and with it best others; feared, because he knew that giants made quick work and quicker meals of boys such as he had been and was no longer. And he saw that the children of the town were as enraptured by the tales as he had been, although telling from many voices on the stage was a strange way of doing it to his eye and ear, not at all like the single view of a single voice accompanied by a harp or drum had been for him in his own youth. Be he know that the customs of one place are not always like another, and he knew himself a guest in the town, so he held his peace and made no comment about the strangeness of the thing. And, indeed, there was a pleasure about the affair.

At length, those on the stage stopped and bowed, and the burghers clapped their hands and cheered The mail-clad man followed suit, doing as the others did and hoping in so doing that he did right. Others began to shift onto the stage then, and their clothes were more normal to the knight’s eyes, and their words to his ears, although there was an oldness to both, as if they were how his grandfather’s father might have dressed and spoken. And they told in their many voices and played at in their mimicry of deeds from the days of Constantine King, coming from the earliest founder of the lands to the lord whose munificence had issued the charter upon which the town relied for its rights and its freedoms. The knight nodded in understanding of the pride of such a thing, for a royal gift from kings gone by is not thing to be regarded lightly. Well could he appreciate the jealous guardianship of such privilege, and better, then, did he understand the people among whom he stood then.

Yet their performance did not range to the award of the charter, but stopped not long after Constantine had come to power–a rousing tale of wrath and wonder. The players halted and made clear the stage, and they called to the priest and the Lord Deleiere to come and read the charter once again, as was done every year to remind the people of what they had been given and the grace of God that allowed it to endure. The priest of the town came readily, but the Lord Deleiere was slower, and the green-clad man was with him. Together, they mounted the stage and faced out to the crowd that gathered there, waiting for their words.

Alms for the poor? Please click here.

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