Continued from the previous chapter, here.
𝔗he next days went by slowly. Rain fell on the mail-clad man and the green-clad man he followed, obscuring sight and hindering progress along the road toward Anderitum. They plodded onward, of course, for though they could not see far ahead, they could see that the road continued at least a short way in front of them with every step, and the green-clad man seemed to have little enough patience with any delay anymore. And so through mud and mire, they pressed on, their horses’ hooves sucking at every step as they picked their way carefully along, and they found no dry place to camp in the evening, but bivouacked under such trees as they could and did what little could be done to find a dry space under the boughs.
After a few days of rain, and a few more days of prayers and fasting for the mail-clad man, they came to a small village, and there they were able to stay with a roper who allowed them space under his roof in exchange for a coin, as well as food for another, and he did not disturb them as they rested and he went about his work of braiding together many strands into twine, then cords, then rope. The mail-clad man bought a coil from him, knowing that rope is a good thing to have at hand and knowing that his own supply was somewhat limited, but other than the speaking needed to transact their business, there were no words exchanged between the roper and his guests, or between the guests themselves. For the green-clad man sat and stared towards where their path led for long after they came into the roper’s home, and still he stared when the knight finally fell asleep.
The next morning, the mail-clad man rose early and counted on his fingers for the days that he had spent in penitence, and he knew that he was drawing near to the end of it, and he was glad of it. But he spoke not words to that effect, but ate and prayed and readied himself for another day of wet travel. And when he made to gather his horse and that of the green-clad man, he saw that the rain had ceased, and though the road was still much muddied, he would at least be able to see some ways down it, and he looked forward to moving faster as a result. It seemed to him that the green-clad man did, as well, for there was something like a smile on his face as he mounted and they began again to travel.
As with earlier days, their going was quiet. There were few on the road as they rode along, so there was little chance to hear news from others, but the green-clad man did not speak much to the mail-clad who followed him. For his own part, the mail-clad man looked at the countryside surrounding him, for he had not been in that part of the land before, and the trees and flowers and fields seemed to him to differ from what he had known. And he recalled what his old master, Sir Erflet, had said to him of such matters:
“Not many will see what the knight-errant sees, my boy, for they will be in one place long and stir little from it. And while it is true that they will know well what they know, down to the smallest jot and tittle, still will they be bounded, never knowing the world outside what can be seen from their small village. You will learn, as I have learned, that there is glory everywhere, that there is beauty in all places in God’s creation, if you but look at it aright. And you will learn, too, that some is easier to see than others, but it is for the challenge that the knight lives, and if there is a place that looks all foul to you, it is upon you to work to see what good is in it.”
The mail-clad man knew that he was in a place where the challenge was not to find the good, for the green fields and blooming buds and ample leaves and burgeoning fruit of the trees all spoke of bounty and plenty, and the good of such things is easily known. Instead, he knew that the challenge he would find would be that of remaining vigilant amid the splendor, for it would be easy for him to lose his focus amid the beauty, and he recalled the fight in the woods, when he had been taken nearly at unawares–and if he had come out of that fight well, still could he have done the better in it, as he knew, and if no mark remained on his flesh from the wounds he took, still did he recall the pain of getting them, and few relish such hurt.
Soon enough, the two found that they could go no further towards Anderitum on the road. The green-clad man had stopped his horse, and when the mail-clad man came up alongside him, he said “This is normally a small stream, easily forded, but the rains of the past few days have swollen it. It would not be wise for us to try to cross here, but other crossing points are far enough away that it might be well for us to wait. The rain has ceased–for now, at least–and we may hope that the waters will recede soon. But I still chafe at the delay. Perhaps we ought not to have stayed for the festival as we did; had we not, we would have been well across by now, and possibly in Anderitum already.”
The mail-clad man made reply, saying “It may be so, but it may also be that there will be a thing for us here and now. For I have heard such things said in many other cases, so it may well be true in this one.”
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