Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Dark Ages Book 1: Chapter 1, Part 3

(Continued from Chapter 1, Part 2.)

When the mill came into view, Glenn’s tears had long since dried up. Mother was taking down the laundry in the late afternoon sun, and she greeted Glenn warmly as he made his way toward her. He helped her finish taking down the clothes, then went to help the hands shut the mill down for the day.
It was one of the busiest mills in the area, servicing the baron and his keep, as well as much of the town. Mother had been loathe to let Glenn go to town today, since the baron’s servants were pressuring the mill for extra grain while the keep hosted the king’s men. Sure enough, there was still much to be done. Glenn focused on his chores, and the mindless physical activity felt good.

“I heard that Ser Devon gave a lesson to the stablemaster’s son this morning,” said Mother over dinner that night. Glenn was ravenous after an exhausting day of travel and fighting and chores, only half listening as Mother prattled on about the day’s gossip from the baron’s household. At this, however, he stopped to listen. “Can you imagine?” she continued. “The boy is not highborn, he shouldn’t be given a sword. Leave the fighting to the lords and let the smallfolk to their own, I say.”
Glenn set his fork down and wiped his mouth. “How did he manage to convince Ser Devon to give him a lesson?” he asked.
Mother sighed. “Friendship, I suppose. The stablemaster’s son is the only boy in the keep close in age to the baron’s heir. Lord Geralt is very much against having his nephew consorting with servants and has tried several times to convince our lord baron to take on a ward from another holding, to give the young lord a proper friend. The baron has not, though, for reasons of his own. The stablemaster merely suggested that the young lord’s friends ought to be able to help defend his future lord should the time come, and the baron consented.” Mother shook her head.
“I met him today,” said Glenn, after a short pause.
Mother was startled. “Met who? The young lord?”
“No, Mother, not the baron’s son. The stablemaster’s son. He was in town today. His name is Cyrus.”
“How odd. The servants of the keep rarely go to town, least of all when the baron is hosting. What was he doing there?”
Glenn chose his words carefully. He didn’t like to worry her with his troubles in town. Nobody was as aware of Glenn’s peculiarity as she was, and it would break her heart to know how much it weighed on Glenn’s mind and affected his daily life.
“He was showing some of the other boys his lessons, teaching them how to be knights.”
Mother shook her head again. “Well, then, I’m sure Ser Devon wouldn’t appreciate that. Teaching hoodlums on the street to wield a blade! Honestly, how irresponsible. I do hope you had the good sense not to get involved, Glenn.”
Glenn turned his attention back to his bowl, trying not to look guilty. He knew Mother wasn’t fooled, and prepared for a scolding.
But Mother was silent for several long moments. When she spoke, there was a tenseness in her voice that Glenn had only heard a few times before. Like when Glenn would ask about his father.
“Did you fight?”
Glenn nodded. There was no point in trying to deceive her. Mother could always tell.
“Were you hit?”
Glenn nodded again.
“Did… you hit someone else?”
The last question was almost a whisper. Mother asked the question, but it seemed like she didn’t want to know the answer.
Glenn nodded anyway.
He heard Mother’s chair slide away from the table, heard her walk toward him. She grabbed him by the arms, and when Glenn looked up he was shocked to see tears in her eyes.
“Glenn,” she said, resolutely, and with all the authority she could muster, “I never want you to hurt anyone else, ever again.”
“But, Mother-”
“Promise me, Glenn. Do you know what it’s like to be beaten? To be hurt and battered? If you did, you would never want to bring such pain upon another person.”
“Mother, please-”
“Promise me, Glenn!”
He turned his head down, looking away. He couldn’t make this promise. What of knighthood? How could he be a valiant warrior if he never fought anyone?
Mother released her grip on him and walked away. She left their small living quarters, heading out into the night without a word.
Glenn sat there thinking for some time. Finally, he cleared the table and lay down in his bed, thinking about Mother’s words. Yes, he did know what it was like to be hurt. Did nobody deserve to be hurt back? He thought of his bullies, of Jovey and his like. He thought of them laughing at him, kicking him, teasing him, and he wanted nothing more than to smash each of their faces in.
And then he thought about what it would be like to have his own face smashed in. He thought about how they would feel in his situation. When he thought of them as people, the anger drained out of him.
To hurt them back would be like becoming them. To act as they do would be like telling them they’re right, that their way is the right way.
When Glenn heard Mother return, he pretended to be asleep. While he laid there breathing softly, he felt her watching him. She seemed to stand there, watching over him, forever. Eventually she walked to her own bed, and Glenn heard her lie down.
If it means that much to her, he thought, then perhaps she’s right. Glenn thought for a long time about the meaning of pain, of his dreams of knighthood, of swords, of Cyrus.
Then, as sleep seemed ready to steal upon him, Glenn remembered that he’d forgotten to ask Mother about the problem between knights and the people of Porre.
Oh, well. It seemed like an important question, and Glenn would surely remember to bring it up tomorrow.

(Continued in Chapter 2, Part 1.)

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