Examining him closely, Melkin watched as Deian rode past him and turned the horse sharply around a post coming back up the hill. “Not too bad,” Melkin commented. “Remember what I told you about leaning forward more and to tug the rains less when you turn. Shift your weight to show the horse and he will know where you’re headed. Go again”.
Panting, Deian nodded, and rode off towards the post again. He made a slightly worse turn this time, and Melkin concluded that they were done for the day. Deian was getting tired and after that point he would only perform worse for each drill he was put through. Melkin knew the boy all too well now to make him go an extra turn. It was as if Deian put all his energy into training during the first forty minutes, so that after that he couldn’t keep his concentration. Some of it was part of a will to master the drill perfectly, and some was more connected to the wish not to make a fool of himself. When he got tired he played it safer, and thus continuous training would only set him back into the habits that Melkin was trying to change.
“Take the horses to the stable and head for supper,” Melkin said as Deian rode up to him. “We can work more on this tomorrow, when the…”
A shout from the manor made them both turn. Riding swiftly they both arrived as two men led a man seemingly covered in blood into the courtyard. It took Melkin a second to realise that it was Doged that they were helping. He jumped out of his saddle and ran across to his old chaplain.
“My god,” he cried out as he saw Doged’s face. “Deian! Prepare clean cloth and hot water! Hurry!” Melkin took his old friend and teacher into his arms. The old man shook, as if he would fall any second. His eyes had been carved out and he was bleeding from the mouth.
Melkin did what he could for Doged before turning to the men who had brought the old chaplain. They explained that they had met the old man on the road to Saint Evasius’ monastery, wandering blindly on the road. Melkin knew that Doged had visited the monks at the abbey that day to check in on their work and ask how they had reinstituted the artefact that they had regained last summer. Melkin demanded to know what had happened, but the men only shook their heads answering that they did not know.
“It was a knight”. Doged’s voice was broken and the words a bit unclear from the split tongue he had been dealt, but Melkin heard it load and clear. “He had a black shield with bones on it”.
Doged had been Melkin’s chaplain since childhood. The man had been kind to him, uncomfortable around women, which had led to a lot of incidents on Melkin’s own part, but he knew that Doged had loved him for all of Melkin’s own faults, as he loved Doged. It was painful to watch the wounds lead to one infection after the other, as the old man tossed and turned in fever. Melkin would sit and hold his hand and talk until the venerable monk fell asleep during the evenings. It hadn’t been long though before Doged passed away.
Deian had asked if Melkin thought this to be some sort of revenge by the Knight of Ribs, a revenge for killing off the bandits last year. Melkin said that he wasn’t sure, but he recognised the injuries and he didn’t doubt the cruelty of the Knight of Ribs. In fact, Melkin was quite sure that this was his work.
During the burial of Doged quite a few people were gathered. More than expected had arrived from the Roman part of Melkin’s family. After hearing about the cruel murder, they had decided that it was time for six lineage men to move in at Hindon to help out at the manor, all capable fighters if need arose. Melkin was surprised and taken aback by this gesture; naturally it was a generous offer, but also one that made it seem like he couldn’t defend his own people. On the other hand, he hadn’t. It made Melkin feel ashamed; to have let his chaplain get into a situation that had led to torture and death.
Another guest at the burial that was unexpected was lord Elad. He was resolute, and only watched silently as the burial took place. They exchanged a couple of brief pleasantries and then lord Elad left before the feast even had started.