’’So lad… Tell me what happened’’ Urien had been silently watching Maelgwyn fill up his tutors watercup; his eyes resting on the fresh linen bandage that adorned the squires chest. Maelgwyn sighted and sat down next to the broken man who barely contained his gloating when he heard Maelgwyn wince from the wound.
‘’Lord Elad decided that I should accompany him when he patrolled the western border.’’
‘’Why only you? Why didn’t he bring that little pale pup as well?’’ Urien spat out the last words. The only thing he loathed more than those stronger than him were those weaker.
‘’Lord Elad argued that since I had been sick during the feast I should help out more.’’
‘’Is that so? Who wouldn’t like to have that thin rascal by his side?’’ Maelgwyn sighted and ignored his tutors malicious glee.‘’We were setting up camp when they fell upon us.’’
Did we win?
The water ran cool and clear over Maelgwyns chaffed hands as he filled the water skins. A few paces downstream the horses eagerly drank and Maelgwyn felt sympathy towards their thirst. Lord Elad had not deemed it necessary to take any longer breaks under the summer sun and as they entered the glade both men and horses were drawn to the water like bees to honey. To Maelgwyn it somehow felt strikingly communal: the entire party gathered around the flowing water, all equal in their thirst. There was of course still some hierarchy to the line of thirsty men and beast. First came a few squires, filling their water skins for the waiting knights, then a lines of soldiers and sergeants slobbering over the water like thirsty dogs and furthest downstream stood the panting horses who probably, mused Maelgwyn, had their own pecking order. But there was still something beautiful in the simple sight of all these men sharing water.
‘’Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? ’’
Perhaps that was the way to live. To simply put your trust in the Lord and let Him provide for you. The scream cut off Maelgwyns line of thought and threw his world into chaos. The arrow hit the boy next to him with such force that the boy fell forwards into the water. The squire emerged screaming, clutching his chest as the clear water around him turned crimson. More arrows pierced the drinking and resting men and as the unwounded rose, fumbling after their spears and shields, the glen was filled with Saxon war cries. Maelgwyn threw himself forward and tried to grab the screaming boy but when he finally grasped the slippery hand it had turned limp; he left the boy floating in the lazy river as the panicked horses threw up torrents of crimson water around the small body. The sergeants and veterans had been able to arm themselves, their notched weapons never far of, but the newer recruits ran as fast as they could toward the camp scrambling for armor and arms. Maelgwyn had his sword in hand and shield firmly grasped, for Elad had made it clear to him that a knight must be ever vigilant, when he rushed towards the sound of battle further into the glen. The knights had formed a tight circle as they thrust and cut their way through the Saxon raiders and even though they were hopelessly outnumbered the battle seemed to be even so far. Some of the Saxons turned as the footmen came into the glen and soon the peaceful forest was full of screams and clangs. Maelgwyn was able to spot his Lords colors as he ran through the clearing, his feet finding unsure tract in the bloodied grass, but as he was about to join the footmen in their counter charge he heard a sound that made his blood run cold: the hammering of hooves. But Maelgwyns blood ran even colder when one of the riders veered of and with eyes almost as crazed as his mount came charging towards him. He couldn’t run; not only was his Lord in danger but wherever he looked he saw British men clashing with the fur clad Saxons. Instincts ruled in Maelgwyns mind as he threw his sword to the ground and pulled a spear from a screaming Saxon at his feet. The screaming underfoot stopped as he dug in his heels and tucked the spear underneath his arm, his unpainted shield ready to receive the Saxon lance. As he stood there the noise of the battle around him grew dim and time seemed to slow down. In that moment there was only his shield and his spear; nothing else. The lance splintered, as did Maelgwyns shield, but it still tore up a gash in the squires armor. But there was no time for pain, for at that moment he felt like he lost footing but then something deep inside him moved his feet so that his spear found its target. The Saxon warrior flew of his horse as the couched spear broke his ribs and ripped his innards. As the corpse of the raider joined those already lying in the grass Maelgwyn looked around the battlefield . Saxons and brits lay amongst each other, some dead some dying, and as Maelgwyn ran towards his Lord he wondered whatever good could ever come from this.
Our Heritage Obliges
‘’After that I don’t remember much… I was able to come to Lord Elads side and assist him as we fought of the last of the raiders. He was content with my services and he… well… he said he was pleased with how I handled the rider.’’ The old man had listened patiently to the story, only now and then interrupting to ask for more details or to curse the heathens.
‘’Of course you handled it well! Not any thanks to your skills though.’’ Maelgwyn looked at the tutor in disbelief. He was used to Urien talking to him, and everyone, like they were nothing but gravel under his foot but this time Maelgwyn felt a tinge of anger from his wounded pride.
‘’I did thank the Lord, teacher.’’
‘’Satans piss are you ignorant! This was not the Lord, welp! It was that belt of yours. Take it off!’’ Maelgwyn merely looked at Urien, lost for words, but when he finally determined that the man was serious he removed his heavy sword belt and put it on the table.
‘’The leather has been replaced but the buckle and rivets are the same…’’
For the first time in many years Maelgwyn actually looked at the sword belt his father had given him. He had carried it for so long he had almost forgotten about it even though it weighed down his every step. It was an ornate piece of family history, as heavy as it was decorated. The buckle was beaten copper and carried an ancient lambda.
‘’The buckle was forged in the fires of Troy before those heathen kings of Achaea burned it to the ground… But each rivet carries its own history.’’ This was what made the belt so heavy, every inch of the belt was covered with different shapes and forms of bronze and iron, some carrying crude portraits or symbols while other had simple letters engraved on them.
‘’Each wearer studs it after their first battle… this was your fathers.’’ Urien moved his crooked fingers over the rivets and indicated a round piece of silver situated near the sword hoop. The little disc carried the engraved silhouette of a scale.
‘’Your father considered himself a Just man and thought he could embellish his legacy further.’’ Urien snorted and shook his head.
‘’Little good that did him when the Saxons cut him down… But at least he never fell.’’ And then, for the first time in many years Uriens voice softened as he spoke about their family legacy:
‘’This belt is that of the true Spartan warriors. They would never flee from a battle but stood their ground.’’ He put his hand upon Maelgwyns chest, painfully close to the aching wound.
‘’The blood of Sparta is in your veins, however diluted it might have become from years of neglectful breeding, and as long as this belt is on your hip you will always stand firm. That is the fate of the Tarrens: to die standing.’’ Uriens hand moved over the rivets as if he was stroking the scales of some large exotic fish and stopped at engraved silver plate just beneath the lamba.
‘’Agathon fastened this one when he was only seventeen years old: Hereditas nostra obliges. Our Heritage Obliges… Your father didn’t live by those words. But he did die for them.’’