A Defense of my Deeds – Chapter Three


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

A Defense of My Deeds While Wrongly Imprisoned in Maxstoke Castle

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,

The month of April caresses spring’s embrace.  I find that the Lord of Maxstoke is more than willing to allow me access to the castle grounds and the surrounding pastures. I have given him my word of honor that I will not attempt escape from his most noble estate and he has taken my word for truth. Many days have I meandered among the wild flowers which propagate the fields that he has let lie fallow.

My imprisonment has allowed my mind to wander my Prince.  I find myself reflecting upon events which I have put out of my thoughts for many years.  I do not find this state agreeable.

I beg of you to pardon me of these lies which have imprisoned me thusly.  Let me be your able sword of justice once again.

3  –  Concerning the slaughter of 2 stout hogs belonging to Clemente Wythevede.

Clemente Wythevede was a gentle man who lived in the Village of Winterbourne.  He was kind and fair and honest. His stature was grand and his movement graceful. If he wasn’t base born and had somehow gotten the proper training I would hazard a guess that he would have made a valiant addition to your Highness’ Knights.  I was told of his passing recently by his daughter Juliana.  I found her last Saturday upon the grounds of Maxstoke.  She had set before her a pilgrimage from St. Michael’s Church to pray upon the relics of Eadburh, Abbess of Repton and daughter of Ealdwulf whose remains lie at Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire.  Maxstoke castle made for a good waypoint in her journey.

I met Juliana in passing within the gardens.  While walking southerly toward Maxstoke’s hedge maze I set myself to contemplating the various crimes of which I have been convicted. I took the maze by the method taught to me by my former mentor, Sir Roland.  Most mazes may be managed by keeping one hand or the other to a wall.  So as I strolled through the hedge I kept my left hand upon the left wall and the leaves of the hedge slid between my outstretched fingers.

I was told that the maze itself was no more than 3 acres but I knew not what type of shrubbery Lord Maxstoke’s gardener used to create the labyrinth.  It started at the south side of the eastern Manor house and had three exits.   The eastern archway led towards the pastures where the horse were kept and exercised, while the southern and western exits opened upon a slope which was covered in manicured evergreen trees.  I was familiar with the maze, as it was my practice to walk it prior to the late afternoon meal, and I knew that my current route would lead me to the eastern outlet.

I ducked my head under the low archway of English ivy and was nearly struck dumb when I raised my eyes to what lay before me.   For out in the center of the glade stood a woman so beautiful that the sun’s rays piercing through the clouds shied away from her, envious of her inner radiance.  She did not simply glow, but shone as if the Lord Almighty had touched the earth under her feet.  Her golden curls flowed across silken shoulders which were bare to the world in her austere dress. I admit that I had to avert my gaze momentarily to avoid spontaneous combustion.

She stood by a stream which flowed through the vale.  Her gentle hands held a string of four  horses who were drinking from the creek. My hands set forth to straightening my tunic and tightening my sword belt.  I tossed my hair back from my face, cocked my mouth into a haughty grin, and turned my face ever so slightly to the right, for I knew my left to be my better side. Then I tried my best to stand tall in my boots and strode forth towards the maiden with all the confidence I could muster.

“And what Knight is this that charges forth to steal me away to his castle?” she asked me in French as I drew close to her.

“Not a Knight my Lady,” I replied in her native tongue. “Simply a squire in service to Sir Roland of Exeter. My name is Guy.”

“Guy,” she said. “A strong name.  And does the olifant hang from thy master’s neck?”

“Nay,” I replied. “Sir Roland is a fair troubadour but cannot play a note upon any musical instrument. But you have me at a disadvantage my Lady. What name did you’re parents grace such an angel who walks upon the earth?”

“Oh perfect!” she exclaimed.  “But you have guessed my name.”

“You are named Grace?”

“Now you are being silly.  My name is Angelina.”

I reached out, grasped her hand, and drew it to my lips for a kiss.  “My Lady Angelina, it is with great joy in my heart that I greet you this day.”

“Oh, and how you do presume too much,” she said as she dislodged her hand from my grip and patted my cheek. “What brings an Englishman to my lands by the Somme?”

“My Knight sends me upon a mission.  I am in search of new steeds for Sir Roland, my squire brother Fitzhugh, and myself.”

“I see,” she said. “It is not me who you wish to steal away but my horses? So much for courtly love, and I see I have heard rightly about the English.”

I walked over to a white stallion that had finished drinking from the creek.   It was a proud horse with a strong back and it stood tall.  I reached up and ran my hand through its mane. The horse ignored my caress and stared to the east.

“I would give a fair price,” I said. “And if you refuse me and send me on my way, the next squire to stumble this way will simply take them.”

“Oh, so you do me favor?” Angelina asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Indeed I do.”

“Saint Maurilius likes you,” she said.

“Oh?  And how can you tell?  He seems off put by my affections.”

“He has not kicked you in the leg,” she replied. “Saint Maurilius has let no man prior to you get close to him, let alone touch him.”

“Saint Maurilius? An odd name for a horse.”

“I name all my horses after Saints. I give Saint Maurilius five apples on his feast day.”

“Who but a silly girl would do such a thing?”

“Being silly has naught to do with it,” she said. “Horses are noble beasts, and they devote their lives to service and are often mistreated. Horses are Saints and I dare you to deny it a second time.”

I walked over to the black mare. “Which Saint is this one then?”

“Her name is Pitch.”

“Saint Pitch?”

“She is not mine,” she said. “My father does not take much time when naming his animals. She’s lucky her name isn’t Horse.”

“I see,” I said.

“Listen,” Angelina slid closer to me and put her hand upon my chest. “It grows late and we will be eating dinner within the hour. Please be my guest at our chateau tonight.”

“I would follow you to the end of time, my Lady.”

“Good,” she said, and started leading her string of horses to the north.

We discussed many diverse topics as we strolled towards the chateau. It was as if we had known each other several lifetimes yet had been without each other’s presence for several years. It felt to me like we were catching up on our lives apart from each other so that we could prepare for our lives together.   I found myself drawn to her like no other woman I ever had to the privilege of meeting. I grant you she was fine of form and nature, yet also she was quick of wit and strong of opinion. She did not simply agree to be agreeable or disagree to suit the stance taken in common society. She was graceful in both intellect and body.  Her spirit captured me as if I were a helpless vendace caught within a fisherman’s net.

The sun hung low in the western sky as we finally approached her father’s hall. She made it known to me that her father was a man of some wealth and lands but had made his fortune through commerce.  He held but an insignificant rank among the French nobility and was not in fair enough health to join the war effort against the English.  Apparently gout disfigured his left foot to such an extent that it prevented him from riding on horse or walking significant distances.

A maid rushed out to us as we grew near the chateau.

“Mistress! The hour grows late!” she squealed as she took the line of horses from Angelina. “You must make haste to the dining hall. Your father grows impatient waiting for you and you have a guest.”

“Indeed I do Jaquette,” said Angelina. “This is Guy, squire to Sir Roland of Exeter, and he will be dining with us this evening.”

“Oh, pigeon farts!” exclaimed Jaquette. “He could very well be the King of England and your father would still be inside waiting upon his steamed eels!  Hurry!”

We picked up the pace significantly on the way to the dining hall. While we walked, Angelina told me that her brother Hugo would surely be dining with us but that her mother would most likely take dinner in her private chambers. She was overcome with the bloody flux and was bedridden. Angelina mentioned that a local physician was administering daily bloodlettings but her mother was showing no signs of improving after a full week of these administrations.

“Father I would like to present,” Angelina started as we walked into the dining hall.

“You’re late!” he cut off her introduction.

The room had a low ceiling and was poorly lit.  A stunted fire flickered low within a large stone fireplace located at the far end of the room, and a scattering of candles stood upon the long, oaken table.  Angelina’s father sat at the head of the table, a foreboding silhouette, backlit by the hearth. To his right were seated two men. The furthest from him bore features of such striking similarity to Angelina that I could naught but assume he was her aforementioned brother, Hugo.  The man seated directly next to her father was unknown to me.  He was a tallish Frenchman with long dark hair which hung to his shoulders in loose ringlets.  He wore a jupon of red velvet bearing a silver hawk, rampant, embroidered upon the chest. This man was the only one in the room to stand when Angelina entered the room and approached the table.

“I apologize for my late arrival father,” she said as she bowed slightly toward the three men. “Lord Jehan le Jandre, may I present to you Guy, squire to Sir Roland of Exeter. He wishes to make purchase of three of our horses and I invited him to dinner to speak with you on the matter.”

Her father gazed down the length of the table and his dark black eyes stared into the very center of my soul.

“An Englishman?” Lord Jehan asked. “You would bring an Englishman into my house?”

“My Lord,” I said. “I am but a vassal to King Edward III, whose Majesty holds claim to France, granted to him by the Lord God Almighty, and who also lays claim by right of arms to the lands sandwiched between the rivers Seine and Somme. Lands, Lord Jehan le Jandre, which encompass your estate.”

“Welcome, sit by my side and feast with me this evening,” I said as I leaned forward and put my hand upon Lord Jehan’s table. “Is the proper form of greeting to a member of a vast army which sits but 2 leagues from one’s door.”

“An impeccable argument,” grumbled Angelina’s father. “Well, seeing as how you have business to discuss, and seeing that I am a man of business, I suppose you should take a seat.” He waved a hand at the seat immediately to his left.

Lord Jehan glanced at Angelina and then down at the prepared spot beside her brother. She walked over to that position at the table, but before she could take her seat, I hurried over to pull her chair out for her.  Her lips curled into the briefest of smiles as she took her seat at the table. I received no other smiles from the occupants of the room as I circled the table to sit beside Angelina’s father.

As soon as we all were seated at the table, Jaquette appeared as if by magic, bearing a large silver platter which was overflowing with sausages. “My Lords and Ladies,” she said as she placed the platter upon the table. “We start with a platter of dried sausages, smothered in honey and sprinkled with fresh pennyroyal leaves.”

Lord Jehan took one large sausage in each of his hands and started taking alternating chunks out of them. His manners at the table matched those of a tanner or a thatcher more than a noble lord. And in hindsight, that may prove to be far too insulting to tanners and thatchers.

“My Lord,” I said. “I would like to purchase three of your horses.  I have brought coin to pay for them, and would prefer to conduct the business as soon as possible for we move on with the morning light.”

“Oh?” asked the man in the red velvet jupon. “And where would the vast English forces be moving on the morn?”

“I do not think it is hidden knowledge that we seek to cross the Somme,” I replied. “You must know that is our intent. Otherwise why burn every bridge up to this point on the river?”

“They were old,” he said. “We are simply removing them so that we may build better, more reliable bridges. French bridges intended for French men.”

“I do not believe we have met,” I said to the man.

“Hah,” said Lord Jehan as small chunks of sausage sprayed out of his mouth. “This is Sir Pierre Bardou. I have arranged for him to take the hand of my daughter Angelina in marriage and he is visiting so that we may discuss a dowry.”

Angelina looked away from the table as her father pronounced the news of her impending marriage. I could not restrain the look of shock which leaped upon my face. I know that I had but met her a few small hours past but I had it set in my mind that we would be spending the rest of our days together. I restrained my visage and looked back upon Sir Pierre Bardou.

“A Knight?” I asked. “Where are your men? Why are you not with the French forces? Or did you inherit your rank along with your lands?”

The knuckles of Sir Pierre’s left hand turned white while gripping the handle of his pewter mug. “I command a contingent of Genoese crossbowmen.”

“Ah,” I said. “So you prefer to hide behind the pavise and let the real soldiers engage in honorable combat?”

Sir Pierre’s right hand shot under the table and stripped his sword free of its scabbard. The blade flung forward over the table, only to be blocked by my own sword, which I had pulled free in anticipation of this action. The sound of metal upon metal rung out through the hall.

Before we could disengage, Lord Jehan stood and crushed our blades down to the table under the length of stout hickory which he used as a walking cane.

“Enough!” he roared.

Sir Pierre glared at me across the table and I met his gaze with one of equal disgust.

“Englishman!” yelled Lord Jehan. “I suppose you have good English pounds in your pouch?”

“Yes.”

“Good,” whispered Lord Jehan. “Take twenty five pounds to Jaquette and leave with the three mares.  Leave Englishman, and do not come back.”

I did not remove my eyes from Sir Pierre as I slid my sword out from beneath Lord Jehan’s hickory cane and stepped slowly away from the table. Just prior to turning and walking into the servant’s quarters to find Jaquette I glanced over at Angelina.  She sat forlorn at the table looking at me with tears rolling down her cheeks. That was the last thing I saw before turning and leaving the hall.

In service to England,

Your most humble servant,

Sir Guy of Warwickshire

 

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