All Things Are Lights – Day 64 of 200

Roland used his shield to throw Amalric back. He stepped away to gather his strength, and over the top of the shield he saw glistening red streams on Amalric’s mailed arms and red stains on the purple surcoat’s shoulders. I have hurt him. I have given him more wounds than he has given me.

He swung the sharpened sword at Amalric’s head, but it clanged harmlessly on his shield.

If he lets his guard down just once, I shall have him.

A high, shrill series of trumpet blasts cut into his consciousness. The call to stop fighting.

“No!” Roland roared. His fury burned white-hot.

He struck one last, unlawful blow at Amalric’s neck.

Amalric’s sword stopped his blade with a clang that rang like a church bell.

“Messires!” a voice called.

Roland and Amalric looked toward the gallery. King Louis was standing before his chair of state.

“Each of you has won high honor this day. Do not, I beg you, tarnish the pleasure we feel in your strength and skill by giving each other grievous wounds. Desist, Messires, your King commands you.”

There was an angry muttering throughout the arena. The crowd wanted more fighting and more blood.

Roland’s back felt as if it had been laid open by a whip. A reminder of his failure, it enraged him all the more.

“Let all gallant knights now arm themselves and enter the lists,” Louis said, as if to placate the spectators. “We call for a grand melee. “

From all parts of the field Roland heard cries of approval. Roland thrust the point of Amalric’s sharpened sword into the trampled dirt. Amalric threw Roland’s sword to the ground, seized his own, and strode away without taking off the helmet that hid his face.

Roland stared after him, longing to run at him and strike him down.

A team of oxen dragged away the carcass of Amalric’s horse. A dozen poor families in Paris selected by the King would have meat on the table for days to come.

Perrin came into the lists, picked up Roland’s sword, and handed it to him. Together they led Alezan from the field. The chestnut destrier rolled his eyes and snorted, frightened by the death of the other horse.

They walked past the tents of the contestants, clustered at the end of the lists. All around them rose the shouts of excited men and the jangle of arms as the hundred-odd knights entered in the tournament readied themselves for the melee.

“Nine chargers!” Perrin exclaimed. “You could trade that many chargers for a castle. Where are you going to keep nine big horses, master?”

“Do not collect them now, Perrin,” said Roland. “Let their owners have the feeding and care of them till I am ready to dispose of them.”

“Can we stop now, master? Take our winnings and go? You have earned honor enough today.”

Roland stopped dead and stared at Perrin. “What the Devil do you mean? Did you not hear the King call for a melee?”

“Yes, but I think you should stay out of it, master,” said Perrin. “God’s bones, the Count de Gobignon is trying to kill you. You have nothing to gain by giving him another chance.”

“Nothing to gain!” Roland shouted, still furious. “Can I not try to kill him?”

“Kill him? What for?” said Perrin angrily. “He is the injured party. It is his wife you have paid court to. This dueling is foolishness, master. “

Ah, Perrin, Roland thought, you know it not, but thanks to Amalric it is you who are the injured party, and it is to avenge you, most of all, that I want to kill him.

But how good to see Perrin’s eyes bright and his cheeks flushed with the excitement of the tournament. If he knew of Amalric’s role in his castration, he would be eaten up with the need for revenge right now. His spirit would not have healed as it did. Let him go on thinking the highwaymen did the thing out of their own brute, spiteful impulse. Now they are dead. He can forget revenge.

But I cannot.

“I have good reason for wanting to kill him,” Roland said, squeezing Perrin’s arm. “Trust me, and when I can, I shall tell you why.”

Roland searched out his black and white striped tent. Telling Perrin to give Alezan a good rubdown, Roland went into the tent.

To his surprise, a pair of large green eyes met his in the cool shadow of the pavilion.

“Diane! What are you doing here?” He feared for her safety whenever she was outside the walls of his house.

“Did you think I could stay away, knowing that I might never see you alive again? You are wounded, are you not? Take off your hauberk and let me help you.”

Roland carefully untied the scarf. He held it lovingly in his hands, then folded it and laid it on the lid of his arms chest.

Diane helped him roll up the chain mail shirt and lift it over his head. When he raised his arms the wound felt as if it were tearing open again. Stripping off his quilted undercoat to bare his back, he sat on the floor of the tent.

“It is just a bad cut,” he said. “It did not go deep. The dog was using a sharpened sword.”

“He might have killed you,” she said, a tremor in her voice. “If he had, what good would that have done Perrin? Or the countess?” She rested her cool palm on his back.

He did not answer, just luxuriated in the relief from pain as she wound the bandage tightly around his chest and back.

The flaps of his tent parted, letting in bright light that momentarily blinded him. Squinting, Roland saw in the opening a broad-shouldered figure in a long white surcoat.

“Ah, a tender moment between brother and sister. Forgive my intrusion.”

Roland heard the mockery in Guido Bruchesi’s voice, but it was a kindly mockery, as if Guido knew their secret but would keep it safe. Guido had done everything he could for Roland in the weeks leading up to the tournament, working with him daily in the Templars’ practice yard. The Templar could do nothing more now, but the sight of him cheered Roland. Even the eight-pointed blood-red cross on the chest of his surcoat no longer seemed threatening.

But Diane shivered slightly and lowered her eyes. A deep scarlet flush appeared on her cheeks. Quickly she finished tying the bandage.

Roland stood up and moved away from her.

“Have you not had enough, Orlando?” Guido asked. “I admit you are much better at jousting than I expected you to be. But in the lists Amalric is still your master. You did your best to kill him, and it was not enough.”

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)