Points of Departure, Chapter 25

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

𝔄fter the cheering died down from the victory of the mail-clad man and the town over those who would assail it, the green-clad man went to his follower and said to him “You see now that it is as has been said to you, that you are made mighty to do work in the world. And I am glad of it, as are those who have seen you work, so that you need not be in worry over such things. Rejoice, rather, that you have such skill as meets the needs before you, and that you have such strength as needs to use such skills, for lacked you either, the day would not have gone so well for you as might have been hoped–although others might well have enjoyed the result.”

The mail-clad man nodded in reply and said “I am glad to have disappointed them. Yet I am amazed at the event, for it is not often that a single man can face many and not be harmed by it, and I stand unbloodied while those who faced me have fallen or fled. I had not thought that a few days of practice would make such difference as seems to have been, for even while I have known you, I have not fought so well.”

“Speak you of the encounter in the woods? Yet you yourself have said that there is no mark upon you from it, and yet there were two dead, and one an archer. So I do not know that you are improved so much as you might think in your skill, but rather in that you have been strengthened to aid in the tasks that lie before you–since they lie before me, and you must follow me, as you are charged to do.”

“I am, as I know, and I will. But first, I must see to the killing I have done, and while I need not be the one to do the burying, for there are others here to tend to it, I have taken lives and must ask forgiveness therefore. For although they would have killed me had I not them, I recall that the knight for whom I squired, Sir Erflet, said that any life taken is a sin, and I already carry enough of them without coming clean of more. So if you will excuse me, I will to the priest once again, that I may be shriven and stride ahead with less fear.”

Then the mail-clad man did as he said he would do, and he sought the town priest, finding him helping with the wounded and praying over the dead. And he agreed that he would hear the knight’s confession and absolve him once those who were in gravest need were attended to, “for I doubt me that God will send it that so worthy and worshipful a man as you will be taken at unawares after the moment of victory, and that you have acted in defense of yourself and of others will argue in your favor with the Most High even if you should be called thence between now and then. But if you will help me with such matters, I can be done with them the sooner, and then might I turn to address your need.”

So the mail-clad man did as he was bidden, and he ended up digging graves and burying bodies maugre his earlier words. But he was strong and the digging was swift, and they were laid in earth unconsecrated who had attacked the town, while those who had dwelt within it and were killed were laid out and their graves dug in the churchyard. And those who had taken hurt were eased as they might be, both by the priest and by others in the town, and the mail-clad man noted that the green-clad did not offer his healing arts readily, but only in a few cases, and then only as asked directly by the Lord Deleiere. He wondered at it, but then he thought of his own life in the short time since his own healing, and he thought it were perhaps better that others not be given the same gifts as he had received.

So it was that the town was set back to rights and swiftly, and when it was, the priest did as he had said he would, and he heard the knight’s confession, and he gave him absolution freely, saying that the labor he had done for the town was penance enough, and he blessed him openly. Then the knight continued the penance he had undertaken after the stay in the home of Lady Maelis, after which he went back into the town. For although it had been interrupted, the festival of founding still continued in some wise, having been prepared to just that end. And the mail-clad man ate and drank readily and heartily, and in each place he went in the town, he was greeted by cheers and applause, and some of the people of the town sought to have lain with him that night. All of them he rebuffed, not wanting to repeat the error for which he was already penitent, and some heard the refusal well, but others wept and fled from him when he said them no.

The night was long, and the festival went long into it, with people eating their food and drinking their drink and thanking God for the charter that made them free forever and the knight who had fought to keep them so. And the knight saw that it was of such things that peace was made and upon which kingdoms such as Logres had been at its height were founded, and he prayed that the new king would do as the old one had done in that wise. And after he prayed thus, he found his way to his lonely bed for the night, and he slept well and deeply.

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