Friday, December 16

Delicate situations require ceremonial scripts.

I wish I could say it was a beautiful fight, or that the fighters moved with the grace and decorum of their years' experience--that their swords glittered in the glare of a righteous sun--but it was a cold and muddy, cloudy day and the fighters were not even well matched. There was a fair crowd of onlookers because the gauntlet had been thrown on account of a matter of honor--some said it was an irrelevant matter and counted both men fools but there were those that recognized how very solemn the matter might have become had not the challenge been accepted.

In the end, it was the younger of the two that won even though he'd had less experience and followed a higher standard of chivalry that without he might have been able to end the fight earlier in the day. As it was, the defeated had to be taken off the field on account of a twisted ankle. Nobody was sorry for him because he was trying to execute an illegal move when it happened; they hardly waited to see if he was examined before throwing a cheer of victory for the victorious youth. For a moment he stood triumphant, the righteous defender victorious; then those who knew him could see his shoulder slump a little.

The King himself stepped forward from his chair on the dais and with a startling grace, walked across the yielding ground as if it were the stones of his own hall. As he stepped forward to congratulate the champion, a breeze lifted the air and the sun shot a shaft of light across his shoulders. Smiling, he stepped aside to let the natural glory of the sun reflect on the winner. Still trying to catch his breath, the youth removed his helmet and knelt before the King.

The King announced the winner to the assembled crowd in a loud voice, and the crowd cheered again before dispersing slowly towards the hall and outbuildings. The rest of the judgment would be settled in court sometime within the next fortnight, and the day was wet and cold, after all was fought and won. The King and his guards remained, as did a nondescript secretary or two. A page was sent to the gate to help carry the youth's armor and weaponry back to their quarters and the armory.

"I owe you a very deep gratitude, as does the entirety of the court, for not shedding blood on this especially beautiful day." The King looked gravely down at his subject, who looked up, startled. The maille on their shoulders clinked as both men laughed softly and blinked in the sunlight. "As a father, too, I must thank you," continued the King a little more hesitantly; "as you must know it is difficult to be a leader of men when one's own family is threatened by the very same men." The King removed his armored glove and held his bare hand out to the youth, who removed his glove in turn, and accepted the assistance to stand.

"Sire, I beg you not to single me out for this; it is what any man would have done in my place had there been another present." Indecorously putting his glove inside his helmet the better to carry it, he flexed his fingers awkwardly and tried with many stammers and stutters to explain himself.

"Assuredly they should have, but none did." The King had a quiet and confident voice, as sure as his steady step as they walked back to rejoin his retinue at the edge of the enclosure. "I hope you will at least dine with us tonight," said the King. "I am--that is, I would be honored to join you," returned the youth, and bowed and the King smiled and began the trek back to the dry, warm throne room.

The sun once again retreated behind dark masses of clouds, and the wind once again began to lift. He finally felt the cold, and turned back to prepare for the evening.

No comments: