Continued from the previous chapter, here.
𝔄s the Lord Deleiere, the priest of the town, and the green-clad man mounted the stage, a hush fell over the crowd. The sun approached its zenith in a clear sky, looking down upon those gathered, and the church bells rang for midday. When their pealing ceased, the priest gestured to an altar boy who had come with him to come forward, and he bore a closed case not unlike that used to carry the Scriptures. The altar boy opened the case, and the priest reached into it and withdrew from it a large paper, showing its age but still whole, and it was written in ink still dark despite the years. Then the priest did turn to the Lord Deleiere and said to him, “Lord Deleiere, if it would please you, the charter royal which is sent to this town, naming it free forever under the aegis of the king and of God above. Receive it again in the name of those here gathered, and proclaim its proclamation aloud, that all may know the goodness of the kind and the grace of God under whom he is anointed!” And he offered the paper to the lord, who took it slowly and with a hand that seemed to shake in the sunlight.
But yet the Lord Deleiere stepped forward with the paper in hand, and he unfolded it that he could read it the better, and he lifted up his voice and said aloud the words that were written on it. Then did those there gathered, the burghers and their visitors, old and young, man and woman alike, and members of all three estates, hear of the founding of the town, and of the year and the day of its chartering, and of the privileges accorded to it, all under the seal of the king who had been and commended to the kings that would come after, to maintain in perpetuity, so long as the world would last, by the grace and pleasure of God Almighty. And when he had done, there was applause and cheering from the people, and the mail-clad man joined them in it. And well he should, for it is right and proper to glory in the glory of others.
When the applause and cheering died away, the Lord Deleiere returned the paper to the priest, bidding him keep it in the fastness of the church, where God might keep it safe and clear so that all might read it who had the skill, and the pleasure of God in maintaining the freedom of the town be manifest. And the priest received it again humbly and folded it with reverence before he placed it back in the case the altar by bore and closed it back up again. And then he prayed, and all bowed their heads who were in attendance, and the priest blessed the town in the name of God and all those who dwelt in it, as well as those who stood in it but for a time and were passing on to other places. And he prayed that the king would live long in health and wisdom, and that there would be peace in the land and in all lands, for now and forever.
But when the priest had done, there was a sound as of approaching thunder, although the sky remained clear. But those who looked about themselves saw that clouds of dust arose and approached in haste, and it could soon be seen that there were riders leading them, and many, and they were dressed in many hues and strange shapes. Them the mail-clad man recalled from his days in service to Sir Erflet and since, and he knew that those who bore such shields and such designs upon their surcoats were reprobate and apostate from the high ideals of knighthood, and that they would not stint to take what they desired–and he well knew that they desired. So he loosened his sword in its scabbard and made his way to the stage where stood the green-clad man, and he said to him “We must away, for I know who they are who ride this way, and no good do they mean for any they here find. And if I am obligated to you, then I must act in your defense, and that will be the easier if we are away and ahorse than amid the people and afoot.”
The green-clad man looked at the knight and said to him “Surely you are not afraid of those who ride here. For I know you to be a warrior of skill, and I hear that you are become a warrior of greater might than when we met. I had not thought to hear you speak of fleeing from a field of battle that presents itself to you, nor yet to hear you say such things as might make may think you a coward.”
“Say as you will, and think it,” replied the mail-clad man, “yet I know whereof I speak, and I do not say I do not seek to fight, but only that if I will fight, I would fight as I know how best to do, and not to offer my weakness to my enemy’s strength. For if it is the case as you have said that even the most worshipful knight puts strength to weakness, still I need not make the task easier for my foes. And the fight is never lost that is never fought, in any wise.”
As they debated, the riders grew closer, and the sounds of their shouts began to be heard. Then there was panic in the town, for those shouts carried words most vile, promising all manner of harm to come and to endure for long, and none would be excused from it, if the riders had their way. But the mail-clad man knew he would not sway the green-clad to act in his own defense, and he drew his sword and made ready to face those who would attack them all.
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