Continued from the previous chapter, here.
𝔗he green-clad man and the mail-clad man who followed him camped near the swollen stream, off the road and above its level, and they waited for the waters to recede that had grown from the rains that had fallen not long before. That night, as had been true for most of the day, there was little speech between the two; they had not much to discuss at that point, in truth, or, at least, little enough that the man in green was willing to share with the knight who followed him. But the knight, at least, had somewhat to do, for there is always much with a man of arms that needs attention, and he had no squire for to do for him as he had done for Sir Erflet in years gone by.
Indeed, as he tended to his mail, carefully wiping it dry and oiling it once again, so that it might stay proof against blade and rust not more in the damp, he recalled doing so for himself and his old master while he was yet in his youth. Sir Erflet had had him doing such things long before letting him swing a blade even in practice, noting that the use of a thing meant the care of that thing, and that the care was what allowed the use to continue. So it was that the care was more important than the use, and so it had to be the thing known first and best. “For,” he said, “what good is skill with a sword if there is no sword with which to ply that skill? And what sword will remain if not kept clean and sharp and oiled? Be sure of that before you will be sure of your blow, young one, and matters will be the better for you.”
It was with glad heart, therefore, that the knight of gules, on a bend argent a baton gules wavy, did the many menial tasks of keeping up his arms and armor. He did not stint at oiling his mail, nor yet at honing the edges of his sword and his several knives–and he well knew the value of such blades, remembering as he put the stone to one of them that he had fought one fight in a noble hall that had been closely packed, with neither room to swing a sword nor armor on body. In that, the very knife whose edge he now tended had served him well, drinking deeply of the blood of those who would have slain him and opening enough of a path for him to find a better tactical position. And there was, too, the value of the blade in the hunt, as well as many times along the road for one task or another, the myriad things that must be done but receive no comment in song, for they are daily done and seen by all who can look and care to do so.
While the knight attended to the tools of his trade, the green-clad man tended the fire. It burned badly, for the rains had made the wood wet, and it smoked much, but it grew and gave heat and light. In its hazy flicker, the face of the green-clad man seemed strange, seeming at times to reflect the flames back again as if it were of flame itself, at others to drink in all the light as if it were a hole formed at the end of a stream. And all throughout did the green-clad man’s eyes shine out, seeming brighter than the flame or even the stars that could be seen in the sky. Always did he stare towards Anderitum, across the swollen stream, and it seemed that he neither breathed nor blinked, but sat as a carved column of stone, rooted deeply and pointing the way to another destination.
The night passed with little ado, and in the morning, after the mail-clad man had risen and eaten and prayed, he and the green-clad man looked at the stream and was that it was much reduced, although still high and brown and full of debris. The green-clad man considered it a while, and he drew his horse back from the side of the stream, going off a ways. Then he charged toward it, galloping his steed as if tilting with a spear in hand, and the mail-clad man began to call out for him to stop, for he was certain that the one he followed would fling himself headfirst into water that could yet bear him far away. But the green-clad man leapt his horse, jumping the stream, and only its one back hoof touched the water, and that only briefly.
From across the stream, the green-clad man gestured, urging the knight to attempt the feat himself. For a moment, the mail-clad man demurred, for he knew himself of heavier build than the green-clad man, and his horse heavier than the other’s horse, and it seemed to him that the one he followed had not made the jump with much room for error. But then he recalled words that had been spoken to him, words that reminded him the challenges placed before him were instead gifts to be accepted gladly, and he made his trial at the feat. He drew back further than had the green-clad man, running at the bank longer than his companion had, and he waited just a moment longer before jumping.
His landing was the same; the one back hoof of the horse he rode touched the water of the stream, and the horse bounded forward, getting clear of the still-swollen water. The green-clad man smiled as he did, and the two continued towards Anderitum in their increasingly familiar silence. Save for one thing that the green-clad man said:
“We should be there tomorrow, and what will be done will then be done soon. The waiting continues to annoy, but it is better to wait there than elsewhere–at least for this.”
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