Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain; Vol. 2: Fields Running Red--Part 43

Sir Sylvester’s hands flipped idly through the dispatches from around the camp. “Let us see… an armiger was murdered last night…”

Sir Georges snorted as his squires helped him into his armor. “Only one? I find that simultaneously comforting and disappointing. If only the men would kill a dozen or so of them. It would be the greatest victory for our side that we’ve had in this entire war so far.” He gave an elaborate yawn. “So which one was it, and how did he die?”

“Gautier de Fleur Rouge,” began Sylvester.

Georges slapped his hands together in satisfaction. “Excellent!” he declared brightly. “Why that’s almost as good as killing a dozen or so at a go! I’m half-inclined to bring the man who did it to this very tent for a handshake, and possibly a medal, before his hanging.”

Sylvester gave a rueful sigh. “Well, there would be some difficulties in that. We cannot find him. Sir Gautier was found stabbed to death in his tent.”

Georges blinked. “My--that is a daring one.” He motioned for his squires to step back. “Let me think on this…” He turned towards Sylvester. “How was he stabbed?”

“Multiple times, in the back and front,” said Sylvester. “We suspect it was several people, who sneaked into his tent after he had spent the night drinking and…”

“Oh, made a proper little party of it, did they?” laughed Georges. He shook his head. “You are looking for one man, Sylvester. One daring, clever man. Mark me on this.” Georges took a deep breath. “I will have to hold you to that, in the last extremity.”

Sylvester frowned at his superior. “You are going through with this…”

“The men need to be shown that their commander is not a poltroon,” answered Georges. A smile touched his pale, drawn face. “And after the last few months, I need to hit something with a sword.” He gave a shrug. “Or try to, at least.”

“You’re only acting commander…” began Sylvester.

“I’m as close to actual commander as they’ll get, with the Archon being in his--condition,” said Georges.

“And that’s why we can’t afford to lose you,” spat out Sylvester. “By the Seven, sir, in the week you’ve been here, I’ve been watching as you brought… order to this damned monstrosity of a siege…”

Georges motioned for his squires to leave--the two young men exited quietly. “You’re a former Sacristan, as I understand it, Sir Sylvester.” The younger man nodded. “We knights of the Hermitage are… different from the knights of the Sacristy, Sylvester. We do not serve a kingdom, but the whole of the Faith. And we do so in humility.” He gestured to his garb. “Our armor is unmarked, our weapons simple, our very names held in common with our brothers of the Order. We live or die as needed, for we are the humble hermits of the Seven, our lives in Their hands, our deaths in Their grace.” Georges placed a hand on Sylvester’s shoulder. “In their service, I will show no fear. And I ask you to do the same.”

Sylvester shut his eyes, and took a deep breath. “And what if we die? And even worse… fail?”

“Then we did so as They willed,” replied Georges, with a shrug. “And that being so, I will not go to the Seven a coward, filled with doubt, but a triumphant warrior, like the saint I serve, and the saint for whom I am named.” He smiled. “Trust me in this much, young Sylvester--live or die, I know that this day will not see the triumph of evil.”

Sylvester nodded. “I am sorry for… doubting, sir. I… I am sure you are right, it is just--” He looked up, his face desperate. “So much death…”

“That is the world we live in, Sir Sylvester,” answered Sir Georges. “Do not demand it act as the world that is to come. Simply--be brave.” He smiled at the younger man, and walked out of his tent.

Sylvester found himself hoping that he would see that smile again.

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