Points of Departure, Chapter 22

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

𝔗he 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 “Goëmagot,” 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.

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Points of Departure, Chapter 21

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

𝔗he next few days passed easily and well. The green-clad man allowed himself to be entertained as a valued, honored guest, the Lord Deleiere seeing to his whims and many people from the town calling on him in his chambers at odd hours. The Lord Deleiere seemed increasingly to skulk about his own home, moving more and more furtively through its halls and between its chambers, as if sneaking through a place he knew he should not be. Preparations for the founding festival continued, and the mail-clad man continued to observe them as the people of the town continued to eye him with suspicion.

He also made to practice with his sword again, as he had hardly done since his days as squire to Sir Erflet. In those days, he had drilled relentlessly with the sword. Several days, in fact, he had worked from not long after dawn to not long before dusk on a single stroke, lifting the sword and bringing it straight down again and again and again, until blisters formed and burst upon the palm of his hand and the leather in which the hilt of his sword was wrapped was slick with blood from them it. Other days saw similar focus on other simple strikes–some days, an angled backhand slash, hundreds or thousands of times until his elbow creaked with the motion; other days, a slow and arcing cut that aimed towards an opponent’s knees, just blow the rim of the shield. Even when he worked on more complicated techniques, with Sir Erflet guiding him through long evolutions of swordplay, the simple, basic strokes were practiced over and over and over again.

And now, with a few days of idleness to spare, the knight fell back upon the old practice, tying stout branches to the blade to increase its weight and lifting the sword straight up again and again and again, bringing it down straight and true each time, and the force of it was like a smith’s hammer on the anvil, like a stone falling from high atop a wall onto the heads of attackers in siege. Yet the mail-clad man stopped the blade each time when it was level with his waist, not letting the point dip past that line before lifting it again. Dozens and scores and hundreds of times he did so, yet no blisters formed upon his palm, and if the hilt of his sword was slickened by sweat, his grip upon it did not falter.

From there, the knight changed to rehearsing again and again other simple strokes, working back and forth from the vertical, from backhand to forehand, from angled downward to lateral to arcing low cuts to thrusts and back again, every time swinging the weighted blade with certainty and truly, and shifting the shield that he carried to cover himself against the most likely evasions and replied. Soon, the shoulder of his mail was polished to a sheen from the rubbing of the shield against it, and the handle of the shield was slicked with sweat no less than that of his sword, yet still did his grip remain firm, and still was his shield held high, and still did his sword swing true.

When the knight was still a squire and riding alongside Sir Erflet in his service, he had often wondered why so much of the time that they were in one place had the older knight spent having him swing his sword so. Sir Erflet had always replied that it was upon such motions that much was decided, and the years since had shown those words true. For though the knight knew many ways to swing his sword, many patterns to apply to separate sinews and rend flesh, it was most often a simple stroke that won the day, most often an attack a child could make that unmade the one so attacked. There were opponents, true, whom subterfuge was needed to defeat, who could and did parry blows as quickly as they could be made so long as they could see them, and so took complex motions that evaded the easy understanding of eyes to make the telling touch. And there were circumstances in which the simple strokes that worked well against a single foe would not work well, for there is only so much that one sword can attack and from which one shield can defend, but the proper application of technique can make of one many, the better to face many in turn. But there were many more times that it took but one well swung blow to end a fight, and even the most intricate and arcane works of the sword often ended in one of the simplest strokes.

So it was that the knight found himself taking the time that was given to him to hone and refine his craft once again. He rose before the sun and did the penance appointed to him, praying and making ready to fast throughout the day. Then he tended to his weapons as he had been taught by Sir Erflet long before, and he worked again and again through simple strokes in abundance. Then again he tended to his arms, honing the edge of his sword and oiling it, ensuring that the shield he carried–for he found himself given another by the Lord Deleiere who still skulked about the place–shone in the sun as if a mirror bright and clear. As dusk settled, he secured his arms and prayed, and he broke his fast with reverence, but also with relish, for the work he did to improve upon his work was mighty, indeed, and a great hunger fell upon him. Yet he spoke little, even as he knew that he was watched by many eyes, and he watched in turn as preparations for the festival of the town’s founding reached their completion. And he waited for the festivities to come.

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Points of Departure, Chapter 20

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

𝔚hen, that evening, after the mail-clad man had done the penance prescribed for him–having lost track of how many days he had done and how many he had left to do–he returned out into the town, he noticed that the people who noticed him gave way as the commons in manor towns had been wont to do. The lesson of the day had not been lost upon them, that he was a man both fierce and strong, and that while he might have stinted in the use of his sword in their town, he had drawn it and might well again, and there would be no stopping such a man as he had been shown to be. Yet the knight smiled and waved to people, and although they were wary and watched him, he kept of good cheer to them, and he drank to their health and the health of their town, and the people began to be at watchful ease with him in their midst again.

Indeed, as he drank and ate, for there were tables out for just such things in advance of the coming celebration, children came up to him, some nervously, some brazenly, and they asked him about himself and his travels and what he had done and if he could show them the strength that their parents had said that he had and that had scared them so much. He answered the questions as best as he could, and the answer to the last that he gave was “No, for that is a thing that should not be used in sport, but only at need, and I did badly to use it as I did today. For it is not fitting that a knight should seek to feared, save by those who will do evil, and I would not have it said that I think the folk of this town foul unless I am shown that they are, in truth.” At this, the children were disappointed, as children always are who hope for a new thing and do not see it, but they accepted the answer and drifted back into the general revelry and towards the arms of their mothers who waited nervously nearby.

Such festivities as there were that night did not last long. More was being done to prepare for the festival to come than to celebrate it early, as was fitting, although there were games played by children and some by adults, idle things, indeed. The knight did hear murmurings of the intended wrestling matches, for which a ram had been made ready, being let slide for fear of his interference therewith, and the mail-clad man did somewhat to hide his face behind his drink, for he knew that he had acted badly earlier in the day and deserved the rebuke, but few folk revel in public shame and censure, even from the commons when they are ennobled. And fear in the faces of those who should be protected is far from pleasant to see–and the knight saw it yet.

Among what was rising in the midst of the town was a platform of timbers built waist-high. Planking was being nailed to it, and a frame rose high at its back; a carpenter, evidently skilled and wise with the years thin gray hair bespeaks, directed younger workers as they clambered across the structure with hammers in hands and coils of good rope. They tied and they swung, and the older man called out commands to them, and all moved as if one body with one purpose–for they indeed had but the one purpose, and they pursued it diligently. The mail-clad man found himself watching with awe, for never before had he looked so closely at the work of building as it was done as he did then, and never before had he seen that in the swing of the hammer there is as much skill as in the swing of the sword, in the lifting of timbers as much as the lifting of shields–and the works done made things anew, while the work of the sword only tore things away. Yet it was still to the sword that the knight was sworn, and he knew that he could not depart from that oath for so long as other obligations weighed upon him.

The words of the priest returned to him again, and he thought on how that which he carried was a blessing, but the thinking was not easy. For while the work of the knight in dealing death to the enemies of those to whom he was sworn weighed upon him, far less did it burden him than the work done by many, the toil of the fields and of the crafts–however well conducted and masterful to the view. And there was at least in the doing of the work of the sword the opportunity for renown and worship, and to go to new places and see new things and people, the which could not be said for the commons of the manors, bound to the land, or even the free burghers who held rights by charter but could not count upon them in the world outside. Nor were they more likely to die at the words of lords than commons, who were often trodden down and under by those of his own sort. And there was the order that God had imposed that put those who fought in the service of lords above those who did not, so that it was clear his burden was the badge of his office and of the greater gifts with which he was endowed–and endowed again, in his new-found strength.

The mail-clad man smiled at the resolution of his quandary, and he made to return to the home of the Lord Deleiere and the chamber therein that was his. He had what he needed for the day, and he sought no more than that.

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Points of Departure, Chapter 19

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

𝔄s the mail-clad man emerged from the town church, he was surrounded by tumult at the heart of the town. The source thereof was soon evident; two men were arguing with great intent and vigor, standing near to an overturned cart and pointing at it. Around them, the people of the town thronged, looking on and shouting their own imprecations at first one man, then the other, or standing and talking to one another with frequent glances at the two who were at debate. The knight sighed heavily and moved towards the pair, at first threading his way through the people, but soon having to push his way past them–and meeting with their resistance, for they were free people and careful of their rights at all times. And he met with foul glances and fouler words, and some did shove against him, but the mail-clad man, knowing himself a guest in the town and new to it and its ways, drew not his sword, although he shoved back when he was shoved, and he did not stint in the use of his strength.

At last, he came to the two men who bickered, and he heard their words in which each accused the other of fault for the overturning of the cart and the spilling of that which had been in it. But just as the knight was about to speak to the resolution of the matter, having heard enough to know that the one was at fault but the other was not blameless, a rock sailed in from somewhere behind him and smote the one man on the head, that it bloodied him and dropped him to the ground. Then there was much upset, and the sounds of fighting were heard all around, and a melee of fists and feet and sticks broke out in the midst of the town around the knight. More rocks flew about, and several struck the mail-clad man where the mail did not cover him, and at the blows, he grew angry. Then did he draw his sword and called out for the melee to cease, but none of those around him heeded his words. Indeed, more rocks flew, and more of them hit the knight, cast as if in despite of him and his words.

Then the knight made to lay about him with his sword, but the words of the priest not long before rang again in his ears, speaking of bearing patiently the burdens placed upon him. And so did the knight sheathe again his sword, and with his own fists and feet he laid about, and with every blow he dealt, one of the townsfolk fell to the ground stunned. Soon enough, the knight stood alone, surrounded by those he had felled, and the throwing or rocks and shouting and fracas died down. And the two whose argument had begun the whole affair yet wrestled on the ground nearby, and the knight went to them and dragged both up to their feet, holding each by the front of the shirt tightly.

When he held them thus, he spoke to them in anger, upbraiding them for their disturbance of the peace and for inciting others to act against the peace, and he shook them vigorously as does a dog with a scrap of rag or a small beast taken in the hunt as he did, so that their teeth chattered in their heads. And all gathered around knew the knight then to be a mighty man and strong, strong in a way they had never seen, for the one man was a smith and the other a teamster, and both were large men and strong. So when the knight lifted them up and shook them as if with ease, the people marveled, for the mail-clad man was not overly large, but rather of average size. And it was not long until he himself realized the oddity of what he had done, and he set the men on their feet on the ground again and dropped his hands.

When he looked about himself, he saw that those there gathered all looked at him with fear and awe, and some looked at the sword on his hip, and there was terror in their faces. The knight saw such things only as he turned about, and his face flushed with shame that he should be so regarded, even by the commons of the town, and he returned in haste to the house of the Lord Deleiere, where he resumed the chamber that had been assigned to him. And there he knelt in prayer, and in his prayers he asked the Lord for guidance in the matter and sought to know the cause wherefore he had grown so strong in so short a time, for he had not had such strength in battle before.

From behind him, the green-clad man spoke–and he stood as if he had been long waiting for the knight to return, although the mail-clad man had not seen him when he came in. And the man in green said “Has it not been said to you, and more than once, that you have been strengthened in the task to which you are obliged? Should you not take the sudden swelling of your strength as a sign that you are acting as you ought? Rejoice, then, in being given a gift that many would dearly buy, that your work hereafter may be the easier.”

“I seek to do so,” said the mail-clad man, “although it is strange to me to be so strong now. And if I think ahead a bit, as I try to do more and more, it seems to me that if I am being strengthened against tasks to come that those tasks are likely to be mighty and dire, and I may be forgiven for being worried when even the Lord for a moment quailed at what was to come for him–and I am not so mighty as he, so I must be more concerned.”

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Points of Departure, Chapter 18

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

𝔄s the mail-clad man recalled his perfidy and the obligation to penance still upon him, he thought it would behoove him to offer prayers in a church once again. The time of day for his formal penitential act was not come again yet, but he found no small solace in quiet contemplation, and he had known churches to be places to offer such. So he went across the open space of the town center, where there were many people bustling about to conduct the business of the day and to work to make ready for the coming celebration, and he went into the church, crossing himself as he crossed the threshold and kneeling at the steps to the altar to pray.

When he rose, he found the local priest standing not far off, watching him. The knight nodded his head to the clergyman, saying “God’s peace, Father.”

The priest raised his hand in benediction, replying “And upon you, my son.” He lowered his hand and continued. “It is not often that this church has in it a man of the sword. What brings you hither, and whence do you come?”

The knight answered him, saying “I came today as all ought to do, Father, for I came to find a moment of peace and perhaps to hear the echoes of the still, small voice of which I have been told from the lectern. And I came because it is good and right that I offer up thanks to God, from whom I have much. But as to whence I come, I must say that I am but a guest in this town, although I am a happy one, for I have been treated well. And I am come from away west most recently, where I was healed despite being wounded to the death; the one who healed me heads for Anderitum, and so I go with him, being charged to that end.”

“It seems a good thing, my son, that you do so, for it is fitting that the kindnesses done be repaid in measure as they may be. But who is it who healed you? For I know of neither chirurgeon nor physician in this place, and all the care for wounds and illness is done by the midwives and me, and I, at least, am not so skilled as I would be to do such work as well as might be done.”

“It is as I said, Father, that the one I follow here and who is bound for Anderitum healed me. The Lord Deleiere also asked him if he might tarry, in large part to see if he might tend to Sir Falias who governs this place in the name of the king, but he said that he might not for overly long. And if he cannot stay to heal a man, I think he will not be able to stay to teach a man to heal another. I know that the dealing of wounds takes longer to learn than to do, and I cannot but think that the healing of them is similar in that regard.”

“That is unfortunate for us, then, but it is no doubt as God has made it to be, and so I shall work to accept it gladly.”

“You say it is unfortunate, Father. Why say you so? Is there aught amiss in this town?”

“Nothing of particular import, my son. But any place where people dwell in this fallen world will have its share of mischance and misadventure, of animals stepping where they ought not or kicking those who tend them, of children’s play that presses too vigorously, of falls and simple illness. There is always need of healing, and so there is always need of a healer.”

“It is as you say, Father, that such need is ever present, and I sorrow that I cannot help you meet it. But it may be that I learn somewhat of healing from him whom I follow, and when my obligations to him are discharged, I may perhaps then return hither, if I would be welcomed, and I could apply that craft or art here then. But if I do encounter a healer, whether chirurgeon or physician, upon the road and that one is looking for a place to settle, I will let that person know of this town and its need.”

“That would be to the good, my son, although I cannot think that there are so many healers who wander in the ways it seems knights are prone to do. Indeed, I had not thought ever to see one, for what lord could allow so great a boon to slip away as one skilled in mending the hurts the world inflicts upon the body? Yet seeing that one has come here, and in company that attests to the healing ability, gives the hope that there are others. And perhaps it will be the case that the Lord will steer the feet of such as wander to this town, that we may all be the better for it. But if not, then it will be as the Lord wills it, and that must be held to be to the good.”

The mail-clad man bowed his head to the wisdom of the priest and recalled his own burdens and the questions he had about them. As he did, his heart was strangely gladdened, for he heard in the words that were spoken to him a balm for his own soul. For he knew himself to have concerns about what he was doing, but if what the priest had said was true, then matters unfolded according to the plan devised on high by the God who loved the world. And that meant they could not help but lead to good, even if the road was rough and the path long that reaching it would take.

He smiled again as he went back out into the town.

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Points of Departure, Chapter 17

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

𝔗he mail-clad man pondered what the green-clad had told him of his complicity in taking advantage of the weaknesses of others. He said to him “Something somehow feels wrong in this, that you would seize upon the weaknesses of others to your own profit, and that I would benefit therefrom, as well.”

The green-clad man turned to face the knight. “Why would it so?” he asked. “Do you not, amid battle, swing your sword to where your foe’s shield is not? If his left side is all unarmored, is it not thereto that you direct your blade? And if it is there, is it not to the weakness of your opponent that you apply your strength, hiding your own weakness from the one you face? Why, then, would you begrudge me acting as you yourself do?”

The mail-clad man bowed his head. “It is as you say, truly, and if the one is as the other, then I do not rebuke you for it. Yet I would point out that there are many, and many of the most worshipful, who matched their strength to their opponent’s strength, fighting their utmost at their opponent’s utmost.”

“And that is as you say, I am sure. Yet I know that there are many such who failed in the doing, and then to what account can we claim them? And those who pit their strength against the weaknesses of those they face remain and endure, and their names are remembered and their deeds held in mind, while those who are beaten cannot claim so much.”

“Ah, but those who work against the strengths of their opponents and defeat them are held in higher regard.”

“Say you so, Sir Knight, being a follower of the Nazarene, who very much did not pit strength against strength, but bowed to strength and suffered by it? Would you rather have had it done that the one you worship unsheathed sword and flame? Yet what would that avail to faith? And it is so for the one who wins with strength against strength; the awe that proceeds therefrom is of fear, and people will soon hate that which they fear. And rightly, for it is a threat to them, and it is only prudence that will say that that which is a threat must be eliminated. Why, then, would the two kings have been at odds who fought on the day that I found you, unless they each thought the other a threat?”

“I will not presume to speak for the thoughts of kings, being far below that rank and unworthy to guess at such things therefore. But I will say this, that I have seen many fall to fighting who did not hold one another fearful. There are matters of honor to redeem, as well as the aid and succor of ladies and gentlewomen, whether or not they have been done outrage.”

“Yet even in matters of honor, Sir Knight, there is fear–fear that allowing matters to stand will mean a loss of worship. And in the defense of ladies and gentlewomen, there is a similar fear–and likely a greed for the women thus saved, an expectation of gratitude that leads from public to private assignations. And greed itself is an aspect of the fear of lack, so fear does once again drive matters towards unworth and is a response to a threat perceived.”

The mail-clad man found that he had no response to what the green-clad said then, so he held his peace and bowed his head. The green-clad man saw it and smiled, saying “I have had long and long to think on such things, as you have not, being busied with other matters. It is not to your shame that you know not how to respond. But for now, I would be alone. That you have asked me such questions prompts thoughts within me, and I must work them out in peace. Perhaps the matters of the festival in preparation will attract your interest and offer you time to reflect in another way entirely.”

“Perhaps they will.” The mail-clad man made his courtesies and left the chamber. It was only as he walked out into the sun and the sounds of the town making ready to celebrate its founding by charter that he remembered the question he had meant to ask the man in green. Namely, how he had done to the Lord Deleiere what he had done, changing his mind by looking into his eyes. And he recalled what had been done to him before, when he had earlier thought to raise his voice in question to the man to whom he was obligated. He had then found himself oddly altered, his mind changed such that it did not oppose the man in green, but obeyed him and agreed with him.

And he had been so easily dismissed just moments ago.

The fire of his anger began to rise as the mail-clad man thought he had been ensorcelled, yet so swiftly as it rose, a wet blanket inside the mind pressed down upon it, snuffing the flames. For it was sure to be a test from on high that such as had befallen him had done so, and he could not set aside such, not while his penance yet lasted.

And with that though, his mind returned to the home of the Lady Maelis and the servingwoman he had there known. He smiled at the thought, recalling what he had seen and felt and smelled and tasted and heard, turning his face up to the sun and letting its warmth fill him as the town bustled around. The commons avoided him in the main, thinking him somewhat daft for standing in the street and smiling at the sky, but he recked them now, turning over in his mind what he had done before–and he recalled that his penance was not yet done.

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Points of Departure, Chapter 16

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

𝔗he Lord Deleiere looked at the green-clad man and the mail-clad man who sat before him, pondering the refusal of the former to lay out his purposes just moments previously. The green-clad man returned the gaze coolly, his face bland and relaxed. The mail-clad man, though, grew tense at Deleiere’s regard, thinking that he might once again have to come to the defense of the man in green–and that the strange healings he had experienced either might or might not prove efficacious again. For they had been peculiar, and the one had happened when he was unaware of it, and such oddness can be fleeting, indeed.

At length, the master of the house spoke. “Would that I could accept on the face of it the word you have spoken, traveler,” said he. “But you have not named yourself to me, and you are not known to me, and I cannot say in faith that I have discharged my office if I let matters pass as they currently stand. So I must ask you again what the business is that you are about, or else to be shown some token of faith that I may trust and therefore trust in the one who bears it. Otherwise, I cannot take the risk with the lands and people of my lord, and I shall have to ask you to depart in haste, lord though you yourself might well be.”

The green-clad man stood suddenly and advanced towards the Lord Deleiere, looking him full in the face as he did. The mail-clad man rose, as well, readying himself for a fight he was sure would come–for he knew there were guardsmen about, and no guard could readily see such an advance and not act in turn. For his part, the master of the place rose and made ready to fight, as well, but he stopped suddenly, and his hand lowered slowly to his side. After a moment, his face relaxed, as well, and he quietly resumed his seat. The green-clad man returned to his own in turn, and the mail-clad man was left standing, confused at what he had just seen. But he did not stand long, only glancing around to see that no other threat sought to present itself, and, when comforted that none arose, he resumed his seat.

As he did so, the Lord Deleiere continued, although his voice was somewhat changed as he said “Of course you are welcome to stay here so long as you might like. Indeed, we hope that you will participate in the festival that we will be having that celebrates the founding of our town. It is not often that we have such guests as you with us at any time, much less on the day when we commemorate the town’s founding by royal charter. For we do, indeed, have such a charter, so that while we are governed by Sir Falias in the name of the king, we owe fealty to no lords else. But we do have requirements for being a person of the town, to be sure. A person has to be born here to parents who were born here, or else appointed to the town by the royal governor–and Sir Falias has been chary of making such appointments, for which we praise him. I think he would offer such to you, did you want such things, but I know that you do not, for you have business elsewhere, as you say.”

The green-clad man nodded. “We do, but we will stay for the festival. It is good to see people in joy together, and we would partake in it if we may. When will it be?”

“Within five days. Preparations are still underway, but the day is coming, as the priest says who keeps the calendar. The church stood when this place was a village only and beholden to a most foul lord who had usurped it unjustly. The records the priests have kept for long attest to such matters–which is another thing we have to celebrate in this town. For many places have not such memory, kept inviolate in writing, and their sense of who and what they are is changeable as the seasons. We remember because we are given words to look upon again and again, if we will, and so we remain as we have been, honored by kings and by the God who has emplaced them. And for it we are grateful in great measure.”

“As you should be. But for now,” and the green-clad man stood, followed by the knight and shortly by Deleiere, “we would rest, for the journey has been long so far. And then we would see what manner of place this town is, and why it has so much to celebrate these five days to come.” Deleiere nodded to the request, and it was not long before the green-clad man and the mail-clad were led to chambers in the house that were richly appointed and comfortable for so small a town.

The mail-clad man commented to that effect, and the green-clad man replied “It is a part of town life that there is wealth in it. Because the people are free, they have not the taxes to the lord and to the king to pay, so more of what they have is their own. Too, because they are free, they tend to benefit from trade, even in so small a town as this–but you will note how many people are in it and how many come through it, or did you not note the numbers of wagons of diverse types in the town as we entered? For they have come from different places, and they will to them return, but their goods and moneys may well not. And the commons, like the noble, will spend their wealth on such comforts as are available to them. It is a truth that most will do so without thought to the future, which has not seldom been to my benefit–and now to yours.”

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Points of Departure, Chapter 15

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

𝔗he mail-clad man followed the green-clad man into a town east of the woods. When they arrived, they found it gaily bedecked, as if for a festival. Banners in many colors hung from the many buildings, particularly from those of stone in the midst of the town–a church, a house for a nobleman of some rank, a tavern, and a pavilion that had been turned into a market. People were in the streets, and there was a joy about their movements that moved the mail-clad man to smile as he followed the green-clad man through the throng towards the noble house.

In front of the house, the two were soon greeted by a guard at its door. He hailed them, saying “Travelers, the peace of the Lord be with you! What brings you to the doors of the Lord Deleiere? For he is happy to greet visitors to the town he holds in charge, but he meets with ire those who would harm his people or their homes.”

The green-clad man nodded his head slightly. “We are but travelers, as you see, who are headed towards the town that has been called Anderitum. We trade in no wares and, although my companion is armed, it is only because there are perils on the roads. We thought but to pay our respects to the master of the lands through which we proceed–although now that we see there is revelry to be made, we would perhaps be happy to stay, if we may. For joy found un-looked-for is doubly pleasing, and we would hope to be happy with you and your folk.”

The guard made reply, saying “I know of no reason why you would not be welcome to celebrate with us, for we soon commemorate the founding of the town. If you stay, you will hear the story of it, to be sure, and many times. But you seem to be richly kept and of no mean rank, so I am sure the Lord Deleiere will be happy to speak with you. If you are travelers, you will have news, and he will be happy to hear it, I’ve no doubt. We but await word from within the home that you are to be admitted.”

The word soon came, and a groom took the horses the mail-clad man and the green-clad he followed, while a servitor took the men into the home. There, they were offered food and drink. The mail-clad man refused, for though his penance was nearly done, it was not fully accomplished as yet, but the green-clad man partook in even measure. They were also offered the chance to wash the dust of the roads from their faces and hands, and that did the mail-clad man do as well as the green-clad. And when these things were done, they were taken to the chamber where the Lord Deleiere sat, and he stood to greet them. When he did, the mail-clad man bowed and the green-clad man nodded, and the lord of the home bade them welcome and had chairs set for them before him.

When the two had seated themselves, Deleiere asked them whence they had come and what they had seen, for he was eager to hear of the world outside his town and its lands, as his duties to his own lord–Sir Falias, who had fought well in years past but could ride no more for an arrow wound through his knee–constrained him thereto. The green-clad man readily assented, and he spun out the tale of their travels together, relaying much of what had happened since the battle between kings from which he had saved the mail-clad man. He said that he had done so, salving such wounds as the knight had there suffered and leading him eastward from the battle. He spoke of the Lady Maelis and their calling upon her, as well as of the town before and the stop in the woods. He said also that the knight had fought valiantly under the trees to defend him, although he said nothing of the wounds that had been taken and mysteriously healed, and he spoke of merchants and other travelers on the roads they had followed, carrying news of the new king.

To all this, the lord replied “News had reached us that a new king had taken the throne with approval of the Church and thus of God on high. Sir Falias no doubt sent a missive with his congratulations to the new king and his oath of fealty renewed to the Crown–and if he is so sworn, then those who are sworn to his service are so sworn, as well. Yet it seems to me that if you are so mighty a healer as to redeem the wounds a man suffered in so grave and hard a battle as I have heard that between the two kings must have been, my own lord Sir Falias will want to see you. The wound through his knee pains him greatly each day, and he sorrows that he cannot ride for the hurt of it. Indeed, walking is a torment to him, though he still forces himself to stride about his home and much of his holdings. But if it were the case that you could do him service of healing, I am certain he would hold himself in your debt and greatly, and the favor of a lord is no small thing.”

The green-clad man said in reply “I will consider your words, for it is as you say, that the favor of a lord is no small thing. But no healing is certain that mortal hands can render. And there are other concerns I have of which I may not speak, save to say that they take me to Anderitum and the knight here with me. They will not work to the harm of your lord or you, but they are not matters I may set aside for any cause.”

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A Letter about Points of Departure

Dear Readers,

I appreciate that you’ve continued to read what all I have written–and I appreciate that many of you note liking it. I mean to continue, of course, but I have a lot going on at the moment. I’ve made no secret that I’m working four jobs at the moment; three of them are picking up right now. Too, I’ve got another adventure brewing in my life (it’s nothing bad; quite the opposite, really). So things are busy, indeed.

Consequently, while I enjoy doing this, and I intend to keep doing so, today, I have to skip. I hope you’ll look again come Monday (provided, of course, that I can get done what needs doing over the weekend).

Best,

Geoffrey B. Elliott

Points of Departure, Chapter 14

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

𝔗he next morning dawned, finding the mail-clad man already fed and ready to depart. The green-clad man he accompanied was somewhat slower in making ready, but he was soon mounted, and he led the mail-clad man slightly south of eastward along the road through the forest. The trees continued to thin, and the road continued to improve, and they began once again to encounter travelers along the way. With most, they exchanged but few words, mostly of greeting and of kindness, and with a few, they stopped and shared news. From it, they learned that matters were settling in Logres, with a man called Custennin from Cornwall taking the throne and beginning to stamp out the remnants of the war between the two kings that had preceded his ascent. Word was that fighting continued in the east and south, less so in the west and north, and that banditry had begun to spring up with the news of the two kings’ fall. The mail-clad man touched his side where he had been pierced but was no longer, and the green-clad man spoke his thanks to those from whom he heard the news.

As they rode on, after leaving some travelers behind, the green-clad man asked the mail-clad what he thought of the matter. The reply he received was thus: “It is only sense that there would be something of a vacuum of rule arise when the kings both fell. The one was the evident heir of the other, being his closest kin, but although he was anointed and crowned, solemnized in office under the Lord, he was crowned king of a kingdom that already had a king. I know of no heirs of his body, although there might be such–for it is the case that many are born to parents unwed, and some of them do great things, although others do perfidy and shame. But with none such known, and two kings slain, it might well be thought that smaller lords could rise to power, and that lords from outside might think to come in. But if the Cornish king can keep matters secure, then it is to the good. Lawless lands are bad for those who must live in them, all out of accord with the will of the Lord.”

He paused for a moment, then said “It is clear to me that you are a man of no mean power and skill. By your attire and your conduct, I know you to be a man of some eminence. Will you not then go to where dwells the new king and offer your respects to him? For even if you will not be his subject, the land is under his rule, and he has an interest in knowing who is in it and what business those who are in it may be about.”

The green-clad man answered him, saying “It may be that we do so after our business near Anderitum is done. But it is that business that concerns me most closely, and so it concerns you who must follow me. When we have finished there, if matters are such as permit our doing so, we will find where the king reigns, and there we will greet him with seemly words and perhaps gifts. For you are correct in that I am not a subject of the king here, and I have no desire to be one such–but it seems that you would be one, and that you have the desire to be one such. And I would know why it is that you would take such a thing on yourself.”

The mail-clad man responded in turn, saying “You know me to be a knight. Knights are made by other knights, so there is a long chain and unbroken that connects each of us back to the beginning–and that making places each of us under another. It is part of knighthood that we are in service, and having that service shapes us and our days. It gives structure to our lives amid the world that is still being reclaimed from its first fall, and it helps others to be able to do the work of reclamation. I do well that which I know how to do, but there is more that must be done than that I know how to do, and because I do not know it but know that others do, I would be in service. And as for being the subject of the king, I have been sworn to the king since I was of age to make such swearing, and it is the case that the oaths given to one must be given again to that one’s successor, until the debt is discharged. If this new king is the successor of the old, just and appointed, then I am already a subject to him–and if it is the case that he is not, then I owe my old king the duty of overthrowing one who takes his throne unjustly.”

“Is that, then, why you fought for the one king against the other? Or that you sought to do so, in any event?”

The mail-clad man nodded. “It is, indeed. For I had benefited greatly from my service to that reign, and if it had been the case that the one king had died and the other succeeded him–as would have been righteous, for he was his nearest kin–then I would have served the second willingly and well. But because he did as he did, he rose unjustly, and the king to whom I was sworn through many swearings was in the right to return to what was his and take it back again. Nor was I one whose memory was so short as to think so little of what had come from the king who was.

“But now he is gone away As for what replaces him, that remains to be seen. But I think that I will look for it to be to the good. I would not have a lawless land be what my own becomes, and a good king and wise will help it to remain as it should be.”

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