Monday, August 7

part 1: William the Hero

Most of the boys of his age would have been more than satisfied to be the last standing fighter on the field of scrimmage, cheered on by the score of his friends that lay propped up on their elbows in the summer grass and claiming various invisible wounds inflicted by blunted training weapons. Instead, he stood above his adversary in a worried and unhappy victory, wooden sword poised steadily until the admission of defeat.

"Get up!" he cried, his voice breaking with sudden panic. "Adam, you must get up!"

"Dead! Ibe dead! Williab god be!" yelled Adam, rolling over and getting shakily to his feet. Blood streamed from his nose. "Show be how do do thad?" He grinned a bloody grin and spat a mouthful of gore onto the grass.

"Sure." Slightly nauseated by the smell of his friend's blood, William probably would have agreed to anything his friend had asked.

The boys that lay sprawled nearby cheered William's victory and the end of the game. It had been tiring work, but they still reviewed and reenacted the fight as they struggled to their feet and made their way back towards a postern gate near the stables. The yeomen who had been judging their performance began to follow the boys lazily, picking up neglected weapons as they walked. One of them stopped to check that Adam's wound was no more than a bloody nose; their game had gone on longer than was their wont and it was difficult to see through the dimness of the dusk.

"You're alright." The yeoman held the boy's chin and looked into his face. "Just wash that before you go home, or we'll catch the death from your mother."

William laughed nervously and Adam chuckled. The younger boy ran on ahead to join his comrades, and William started into action, keeping stride with the men as they reached the warmed stones of the outer walls.

That evening at meat William served his father at the high table. The table subjects turned to the most promising pages and squires among those on the scrimmage fields, and William wished they would quit talking about it. His name was spoken of favorably, and his father gave him one quick appraising glance before a messenger came into the hall with a piece of parchment wrapped in oilskin. Such a small piece of paper created a silent wonder in the hall that turned to muffled chaos when the William's father abruptly quit his lordly seat to retire into an inner room with his closest advisors.

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