A Defense of My Deeds – Chapter Two


(Story by Lord Dante della Luna (Matt Broadway) with permission to post it here.)

By Sir Guy of Warwickshire

To Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Aquitaine,

 The Greatest of the Black Boars, does your lowly servant Sir Guy of Warwickshire

Sendeth his most humble of greetings,

May this missive find you in most excellent health my Prince.  I would entreat you to set thy gaze once again upon my most humble writings. As you may recall, I, Sir Guy of Warwickshire do find myself most erroneously imprisoned within the vile confines of Maxstoke Castle. I beg you to lend an ear to my case, for I do stand most falsely accused on all counts.

I find myself facing the unendurable second month of imprisonment, and have finished this, my most recent account of my innocence.  Please bear in mind that as I lie stagnant in this meager cell I am not able to fulfill my oath as your most humble servant.  Please bear witness to my cause.

2  –  Concerning the most unfortunate fire at Chipping Sodbury.

I must admit that I remember not the date, but the most unfortunate, but necessary, fire at Chipping Sodbury occurred at some point several months after the Michaelmas Tourney near Norwich.  If I recall correctly, I was traveling south on the road betwixt Wickwar and Chipping Sodbury about two days shy of Midsummer’s Eve.  The day was blustery and overcast, but what else would one suspect of your fair Kingdom in June?

I found myself in the most esteemed company of one Sir Peyton de Mowbray. I believe you yourself graced him with Knighthood shortly after Poitiers. I remember that he did catch the eye of all when he single handedly dispatched at least seven French men-at-arms upon the field during the battle. I never knew a man so skilled with the lance.

We rode abreast one another that day, whilst Sir Peyton’s squire Donald quick marched between us.  I remember the day with fondness.  Donald had secured a silver serving platter from an inn in Wickwar and was holding it on high.  Sir Peyton and myself were rolling bones upon its surface.  It was a sort of gambling game which Sir Peyton had learned from a wandering Jew the year before. We each took turns in rolling the dice and the leader in points after twenty throws won the privilege of having his squire hold the silver tray on high.  I found myself in a constant state of loss, and my squire Symon therefore found himself driving the luggage cart instead of holding the place of honor between Sir Peyton and myself.

“I say, Sir Peyton,” I said. “Fortune finds us within uncommonly chill weather for the month of June.  Prove me wrong.”

“Alas, Sir Guy, I cannot prove your statement to be false,” he said.  “I would find relief from this torturous drizzle of rain that has been tormenting my bald pate all day.”

“Perhaps upon the road we shall happen upon a quaint tavern,” I said.  “It has been many long years since I have travelled this road, and I recall not what lies upon it.”

“Donald,” said Sir Peyton to his faithful squire. “Stow away that platter and the set of dice, and run ahead and see if you might find any shelter from this horrible weather.”

Attending to the words of his knight, Donald hurried back to the pack wagon, and slid the platter and dice bag in among our worldly goods.  He then proceeded to run ahead of our group down the road and around a bend.  He was soon obscured by a copse of ash trees.

“Sir Peyton,” I said. “Concerning the fate of your bald pate.  Why not follow my lead and simply wear a hood.  It certainly is of a fashion, and it would also serve in function.”

“Nay, good Sir Guy, I cannot heed thy most wise council,” he said. “I have sworn penance that I shall not cover my head until high noon upon Lammas Day.”

“Indeed!” I exclaimed. “What fell deed was committed by thy person which induced this most harsh of penances?”

“Ah, Sir Guy,” he said. “Did you perhaps hear that whilst the first snow fell upon the fields of Newberry that I did apprehend the most vile and evil villain Joseph Pickenpaugh?”

“I am familiar with the tale,” I said. “But Joseph Pickenpaugh did lay with the wife of the Lord Marshal, and he was a rustler of other men’s cattle. How could capturing such a man warrant penance?”

At this point Sir Peyton hung his head low and stared at the saddle he rode upon.  I could tell that grave words were soon to escape his mouth.  He inhaled deeply and began to tell his most dreadful tale.

“During the course of the hunt, I found myself interrogating a third servant of the Lord Marshal. The first two having given up no information and did lie in pools of blood upon the floor.  Unfortunately,  while cutting the left ear off the third servant, my dagger slipped and by the most unfortunate of chances, I did slay the Lord Marshal’s dog.  Which had been nipping at my knees the entire afternoon.”

“The Lord Marshal’s greyhound?” I asked.

“Aye,” he replied. “I swore upon my sword that I would leave my head bare to the sun and moon till the following Lammas Day celebration, and the Lord Marshal said it was a noble penance and that he was most appreciative.”

“But the slaying of a dog?” I asked. “Surely there would be lesser penance more appropriate.  I might have worn an eye patch or an uncomfortable bracelet for the stretch of two moons.”

“I contemplated taking residence in a hermitage on the Lord Marshal’s estate for the stretch of a month and a day. I would don the brown robe and apply the cat of nine tails to my body thrice daily.”

“But a grand penance that would have been,” I said.

“It is so,” he said. “However Sir Stephen of Walbrook was already in residence.  Apparently he killed the Lord Marshal’s horse in a tourney earlier in the season.”

“Vile infamy!” I exclaimed.

“Indeed.”

“Sir Peyton, I must say that I am most emboldened by your course of action.  So much so that I swear this day to lay my head open to the elements as well. Much akin to penitent monks who line themselves up and repeat the same rhythmic prayer together in effort to magnify it’s effect upon the Lord God Almighty, so shall I join you in your penance.”

I displayed my camaraderie by pulling my woolen hood from my head and tossing it aside in the muddy road.  If I were a lesser man I would have regretted my decision immediately.   The wind was chilled and the rain was buffeting against my face.  But I am not a lesser man, so I remained silent to my uncomfortable situation.

It was not long after that I began to sniffle.   Said sniffling led on to sneezing and then to coughing roughly into my mantle.  I was not alone however, for Sir Peyton was joining me and together we formed a chorus of two most sickly bards.  My squire Symon sat under a flap of our pavilion which he had pulled out of the wagon cargo.  Apparently he had no wish to join Sir Peyton in his penance.

“Sir Peyton,” I said.  “Does it appear to you that the day grows hotter even as the sun sets on yonder horizon?”

“Indeed Sir Guy,” he replied. “I am of half a mind to remove my cloak.”

“Sirs,” interrupted Symon. “It grows frigid in the twilight.  Would you like me to stop the wagon and prepare camp?”

“My God Peyton, the boy knows nothing of harsh travel,” I said. “Symon, you wouldn’t know frigid from a witch’s arse.   Besides, look yonder and see that good squire Donald returns with news.”

Sir Peyton’s squire Donald ran down the road which was turning quite muddy from the rain. His hosen were splattered brown with the mud and his cloak was soaked through and through.  It clung to him like a second skin, even in the heavy wind blowing in from the south east. He carried a small sack in one hand and a walking stick in the other.

“Donald,” said Sir Peyton.  “What news have you brought us?”

We reigned in our horses and Donald approached us.  He pulled the hood back from his face.

“Sir, the Tavern at Chipping Sodbury lies no more than one mile down this road.  We draw near our destination.  They have a roaring fire, and several rooms available for the night.”

“Excellent!  Hop into the wagon with Symon and let us make haste to yonder Inn.”

By the time we reached the tavern at Chipping Sodbury both Sir Peyton and myself had taken a drastic turn for the worse.  I was under attack by the most severe of sneezing fits and Sir Peyton was coughing so hard that it was difficult for him to speak a full sentence.  The kindly lady who ran the tavern seated us in front of the fire, and went off to prepare our rooms.  Both myself and Sir Peyton would share a room, and the boys would watch over the horses in the loft over the stable.

“I fear the ghost of the Lord Marshal’s greyhound has inflicted us with most foul humors,” I said.  Sir Peyton mumbled his agreement between fits of coughing.

“Excuse me,” said Donald to Sir Peyton. “If it would please you Sir, I could make a stew with the mushrooms I found by the roadside while I was looking for the tavern.  My good mother used to make  mushroom soup for my brothers and me when we were kids.  She always said that mushrooms were powerful medicine and could cure all ills.”

Donald poured the contents of his small sack on the table which stood before Sir Peyton and myself.  Several red mushrooms covered in small white specks littered the table.  They were very vibrant and pretty. I was reminded  of a sunset I observed once while I was both young and in love. Alas, the fair maid who did capture my heart died in a most unfortunate incident that I care not to discuss at the moment.

It was at this point that my squire Symon decided to speak up, “Sir! These mushrooms do not resemble the type that I am accustomed to eating.  I have heard that some wild mushrooms are full of evil spirits and can do great harm to any who would eat them.”

“Symon, my young buck,” I said. “You are as a young ram, battering your head into the sense of the world. Donald speaks truth, and it has been many years since I’ve enjoyed a good mushroom soup. Please go tend to the horses.  And please see to it that Saint Dominic gets two apples today.  He had a hard ride.”

“But Sir!” exclaimed Symon.

I must take a moment to relate just how intolerable it is sometimes to deal with squires.  It seems that every time I give an order that they begin to second guess my ideas.  It is like they always know better and try to actually steer me!  Steer me in the direction they wish things to flow!  The audacity of pride simply irks me at times.  Symon in particular was the most stubborn squire to ever cross my path.  It seems that he wished to butt heads at every given opportunity.  It was with all this in mind that I cut him off before he could finish his protestation.

“Symon!” I yelled. “I said Saint Dominic will get two apples, and he will get two apples.  I do not care if you have to traverse the length of the entire town in search of said apples, it will happen, and I will not discuss this matter any longer. Be gone with you!”

Symon made a sad little gesture towards the mushrooms.  Like he wanted to feed our mushrooms to Saint Dominic!  But then he simply lowered his head and walked out the door.

Donald hung a pot of water from an iron hook over the fire.  Then he added the mushrooms and a small hand full of herbs and spices which he had procured from the mistress of the kitchen.  The whole concoction simmered over the fire for about ten minutes.  At that point, Donald pulled the pot of mushroom soup off the fire and set it upon the table before Sir Peyton and myself.  He procured a pair of wooden bowls and ladled equal portions of the soup into each.

The soup was warm and it held the flavor of garlic and onion and all sorts of glorious tastes which I have no words for, but let us say that it was delicious. And certainly Sir Peyton agreed for he devoured his share of the soup far faster than I was able to.

After the soup was finished we continued to warm ourselves by the fire, and Sir Peyton indulged me by describing the encounter at Aquitaine.  I know it is common knowledge, but I never really understand the whole awful story behind the deaths of Sir Gerald and the Earl of Northampton. Peyton  amazed me with the intricacies of the entire ordeal.

The soup was working magic of my sick body. I began to feel refreshed, and I stopped sneezing altogether.  Although I must admit that it did not sit very well in my stomach. The room was only about a quarter full of patrons and the Mistress of the tavern was telling them all a story about a small cat which apparently saved a woman from falling down a well the year before. I started to feel as if I were awakening from a very dull dream. The colors of everything in the room started to almost glow in intensity, and the various lights about the room started to shine brighter and flicker faster.  Indeed, the candles were burning so hotly that the wax overran their holders and pooled about the floor underneath them. And, I tell God’s own truth, the tavern keeper’s eyes started to glow red hot like embers in a fire.

“Sir Guy, this soup is not sitting well upon my stomach,” Said Sir Peyton. He followed up these words by exhuming his dinner into the pot which still lay between us.  Yet, it was not vomit which flowed forth from his mouth.  No, indeed.  Eels shot from his mouth.  Long twisted black eels with red eyes and slimy skin.  They wiggled about in the pot and several escaped over the side and slithered about our feet on the rug.  Sir Peyton was as amazed as I.

“I fear we’ve been bewitched my friend,” I said.  I was about to suggest we investigate the nature of our bewitching when I too was overcome with the urge to vomit.  My stomach twisted into a knot of pain and when it unclenched I could not hold it in. Thousands of snails shot out of my mouth and nostrils. Enough to feed a small party of Frenchmen.

“Good Sirs!” exclaimed Donald. “I have poisoned you with dinner!”

“Nay Donald, fault not thyself. I know witchcraft when I see it,” I said as I wiped a few snails from my chin with my tabard sleeve.  “Peyton, take a look at yon tavern keeper and take note of her eyes.”

“Aye Guy. She has a look most vile about her.  In fact, all the patrons of this establishment grow darker with evil as the night progresses.  I believe we have fallen into a nest of dark underlings bent on destroying us.  Donald, roust Symon and prepare the horses and wagon while Sir Guy and myself deal with these demons of the night.” Peyton growled out the last few words as he stood and drew his sword.

Donald looked about the room with a bewildered look upon his face.  He turned to us and said something, but I remember not the words.  I was too busy taking a broom from beside the fireplace and pouring oil upon it’s bristles from a nearby lamp. Donald then hurried out the door.

“Peyton, that bare blade will not kill this spawn of hell,” I said as I thrust the end of the broom into the fire. I turned with my new weapon burning brightly. “We must burn them.”

Several of the evil tavern keeper’s patrons stood to leave, but Peyton yelled at them to keep their seats.  Black leathery wings had sprouted from the back of several of the demons.  My torch burned taller than I thought it would and flames started spreading along the rafters which held up the low ceiling.  I had to threaten several of the Satan spawn with my torch for they were trying to flee the room through the front door. Smoke started to fill the room.

“Take your leave of me Sir Guy.   I will stand firm and make sure none of these demon witches escape this inferno!” Yelled Sir Peyton above the growing roar of the blaze and the incessant howls of the trapped witches and warlocks.

“I will not forget this day Sir Peyton!  May God grant you peace!”

I tossed my torch toward the curtains of a nearby window and ran out the front door of the tavern.  I made my escape moments before the front section of the building crashed in on itself, sealing the fate of both the noble Sir Peyton and the dark horde which lie within the tavern.

Donald and Symon were waiting for me about a block away from the blaze with the horses and wagon. The fire was starting to ignite the thatched roof of an adjacent building and several people were rushing toward the flames with buckets of water.

“Nay!  Let it burn! Let it consume the foul evil which infest it’s walls. And let none forget that Sir Peyton de Mowbray stood fast and hard in the face of his fate,” I said unto the gathered mob of villagers.

I had Symon guide the wagon while I, sprawled across the luggage, succumbed to sleep’s sweet embrace.  Donald, who from that day onward has been in my charge, handled the horses. I praised the Lord for stopping the rain and enjoyed drifting off to sleep in the warm June night.

So you see, the tavern had to be burned.  I blame not the relatives of those who were within the blaze for not understanding.  You see, they were obviously under the spell of the vile demons and did not see the true evil within them.  They were unlucky in the fact that they never partook of the medicinal stew that freed Sir Peyton and myself from the binders of their dark magic.

In service to England,
Your most humble servant,
Sir Guy of Warwickshire

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