Wednesday, December 21

Following the tunic.

The "squire" was actually a glorified page, whose name happened to be something from which the diminutive was Nolly. It may have originally been "Oliver", but who can tell? Oh, you mean you want to know why I called him a "glorified page". Well, the champion of the past fortnight's combat was to become a knight in a year's time; he'd been nominally granted his knighthood but the ceremony was not to take place until the period of mourning for his father had passed. That was at the man's request--and an odd request it was!--but most people already treated him as a knight since he was altogether worthy of the place.

Since it was still Nolly's duty to act as page, he dutifully and dolefully ran messages and carried things back and forth, but one of the maids had seen his method of laundering clothes and at the last moment decided to have pity on the other guests and wash the champion's clothes with the rest of the batch that was going in at the moment. You know of course Nolly wouldn't mind that, so when he brought back the tunic and chausses for his master, he was expecting surprise or praise for finally having mastered the art of laundry.

However, he was disappointed. His master was preoccupied and distant, and rather cold from sitting in the stables in his old, patched clothes (the only clean ones at present) while his court-clothes had been prepared. In a fit of frivolity he laid his chausses (the equivalent of pants) on a hook by the broad stone hearth before putting them on, warmed. The brocade tunic he put on absent-mindedly over a linen under-tunic, then untangled his hair with his fingers, tying it back with a leather cord.

"I miss my gambeson," he mumbled, feeling oddly bereft. (A gambeson is the padded jacket that a fighter wears under his armor.) He took his cloak from a now sulky Nolly and stepped out into the cold towards the hall.

The feast was a rather homely affair of root vegetables and stewed meats, and baked fruits--all things to fill and warm those feasting, but still lavish enough to be called a feast. The dais was full of royalty with a few additions of the token Knight of the Golden Wren, the champion whose judgment and reward would be called after the feast had ended, and a traveling riddler that chanced to be overly clever and won a bet with the King in his own hall.

The light from the hearths in the hall glittered off of jewels and hair and the ruddy faces of those who had recently come in from the cold. The room was soon warmed from the talking and jostling of one and a half, maybe two hundred people, with the tapestries and fires in the hall insulating the feeling of cheerful isolation from the world outside.

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