As the first sunrays touched the rolling hills of Salisbury a band of travelers emerged from Vagon. It was a rather odd group of traveler; a large wagon flanked by two marching foot soldiers, idly chatting with each other and the monk that rode next to them. Ahead of them rode a young lady, her head fixed on the road underneath her horse’s hooves, and what seemed to be her handmaiden. They were also flanked by two footmen whom out of respect were being quite at the moment. Ahead of the motley crew, on a horse a few grooms short of a stable, rode a nervous young boy who cursed his friends libido.
Maelgwyn quickly glanced backwards on the rest of the troupe and counted them; they were all still there, good. He mustered up a stern look when one of the foot soldiers squinted towards him in the rising sun and as he turned back to face the road he prayed that this would soon be over. But of course it wouldn’t. Lord Elad and Amig had both agreed that the journey to Ambrius’ Abbey would take at least a week with this many travelers, especially with a wagon. Why did they have to bring so much food? Because they had so many guards. Why so many guards? Because of Aneria. Why bring Aneria? Because Melkin just HAD to flirt with her! But Maelgwyn also cursed himself. It was his large mouth that had alerted Lord Elad that he wished to visit Ambrius’ Abbey in the coming years. So there he was: a young man with far too much responsibility and a sour mood, grumbling his way towards Dove’s Fields.
‘’bloody idiot… should guard his own damn girl…’’
‘’Did you say somethin’ me’ lord?’’ Maelgwyn looked down on the panting foot soldier that had suddenly appeared next to his sourly mount.
‘’Nothing. Nothing… What is it?’’
‘’Well, me’ lord… It isn’t my place to plan the route and such… you young lord being the leader and all… But isn’t Doves’ Field that way?’’ Maelgwyn looked the way the bumbling man was pointing and noticed the rest of the group standing at the fork of the road he had just passed. He felt blood rush to his face when he saw the other foot soldiers whisper and snicker.
‘’I was just… I was just getting a better view of the landscape… It’s good to know what lies ahead.’’
‘’Isn’t that usually done by riding uphill me’ lord? Can’t rightly see much from down here…’’
Silently nodding Maelgwyn turned his horse and joined the others, his face burning crimson for the rest of the day.
Your Best Friends’ Girl
Aneria seemed to be a sweet girl. A bit to forward for Maelgwyn perhaps but lovely to chat with during the long summer days. He kept the conversations pleasant and the banter civil, avoiding those lingual traps that had snared Melkin.
‘’If I may say so Melkin is smarter then all of us but I’ve got a better hand with horses.’’
‘’And Cadry and ?’’
‘’Well Cadry is a great hunter and during the evenings he can tell stories for hours and Gammond… he… he can swim!’’ Maelgwyn saw Aneria, polite as she was, pretend to cough to stop her snicker but he still heard the rumbling of the foot soldiers mirth near the other campfire.
‘’Some water Maid Aneria?’’ Maelgwyn tried to ignore the slight against his dear friend and quietly filled Aneria’s cup.
‘’So what do you think it will be like? Being locked up in that cloister?’’ Maelgwyn silently filled his own cup and contemplated his answer.
‘’I’m sure it will be fine… Change is always hard and so is leaving someone you lo… like’’ In the failing light of the sun and the flickering warmth of the flame Maelgwyn saw Aneria’s eyes cloud. Her delicate mouth opened and just as the first tear was about to roll down her cheek he spoke.
‘’And even though it might seem hard now it will get easier. Besides the bible is not just lessons and virtues, there’s love to.’’ Maelgwyn cleared his throat and spoke softly:
‘’ My dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the hiding places on the mountainside,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.
Catch for us the foxes,
the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
our vineyards that are in bloom.’’
Even though Maelgwyn was not able to heal the aching heart of Aneris during their travel he felt sure he soothed it. And when the stern nuns at Ambrosius abbey escorted the young lady away he met her eyes and bowed. They were going to meet again, he was sure of it.
The Blind Monk
‘’I knew you father you know’’ Maelgwyn’s heart sank as the blind monk spoke.
‘’I was there the day he died and even though I didn’t see it myself I can swear no men have ever fought so bravely.’’
‘’Thank you, brother’’ It was now clear to Maelgwyn why the old monk had insisted on leading him to his temporary cell even though he himself needed guidance by the young acolyte at his side.
‘’Don’t thank me. Thank the Lord that gave the bannermen strength to protect both you and me.’’
‘’I thank him every day, brother.’’
‘’I hope so… Here we are.’’
The cell was as austere as Maelgwyn had anticipated. He would be spending just a few days here but he already felt the tranquility and calm of the cloister comfort his weary bones. The only sounds he heard were the calm and quite conversation between the monks and the chirping of the multitudes of birds in the orchards.
‘’I will speak to you later. The Sermon is at six and if you have any questions just ask for me.’’
‘’Thank you for your help, brother’’
When Maelgwyn lay down to rest that night he felt completely at ease. He had done his best to comfort Aneria and he had fulfilled his duty to Lord Elad and Amig, He fell asleep as only a young man with no worries can; unfortunately worries awaited him in his dreams.
The Dream and the Cave
First came the sounds.
There was a crackling echo in the air, as if hundreds of pages of paper were being crumbled. And a low humming vibration, as if the very ears themselves produced the sound. It was a sound, not unlike that from an animal.
Then came the smells.
There was a dry, empty smell. And a smell of burning oil.
Then came the touch.
Foot on solid stone, cold and firm, like that of the ancient cave floor. It had been so long since anyone walked on it that any warmth had evaporated.
Only then, came vision.
A dark, somber room or cave, hundreds of relics, icons and holy items on the shelves, and they all felt like they were watching, judging, learning. There was many corridors, room and nooks. And whenever the eyes fell on one of them, another seemed to creep out of the field of vision. They stayed where they were supposed to be, only as long as they could be focused on. The second the eyes strayed, they were gone.
Behind two brighter shelves, appeared a strange bright light.
First came the sounds.
“Ewch wedyn brawd. Yr ydych wedi gwasanaethu tir hwn. A phan y gynffon dreigiau yn dychwelyd i’r nefoedd, byddwch yn dychwelyd.”
Then came the smells.
There was a strong sharp aroma, like iron that spent too long time being damp or wet. A thick, damp smell, like old people before they die.
Then came the touch.
Wet, moldy dirt crept up between the toes. Like when you take your first steps in a soggy pond. The earth enveloped the feet, and it did not seem like they intended to let go.
Only then, came vision.
A man, or woman, it was hard to tell. It threw something against a shining surface. Just when the object is about to touch it, a bright flash of light, touch, smell and sound. Like glass shattering the entire dream,
And the dream ended.
Only the words echoed. And the young squire realised that hundreds of smells, memories and most of all IMPORTANT things were left in the dream. If only he could remember, but the more he thought about it. The more the dream ran away. The more he thought about it, the less it made sense.
Actually, he thought he had dreamt it before many times. But… this was the first time he remembered anything more than the empty feeling of not remembering.
Conversation in the orchard
Maelgwyn pondered the dream as he walk through the blooming orchards, listening to the singing birds and the gravel crunching underfoot. It surely meant something, such dreams seldom came without meaning or hidden truths. An omen of things to come? Perhaps even a warning of approaching danger and strife? Under the gaze of the sun in the warm comfort of the orchard the dream seemed even more distant and with every step he felt like he forgot another detail, another vital clue to this omen.
’’What are you thinking of, squire?’’ The soft words startled Maelgwyn but his blood calmed when he saw the Blind Monk sitting in the shade of the old apple tree. At first Maelgwyn hesitated to answer him truthfully. Something in him wished to keep the dream a secret from the outside world, at least until he knew more about it. But to lie to a man of the cloth was a sin and lying to one within the walls of a cloister would be an especially heinous one. Uriel had drilled his lessons well into his mind.
’’I had a strange dream, brother… and I can’t seem to make any sense of it.’’
’’Perhaps it’s just a dream and nothing more then?’’ The Blind monk hade turned his hollow gaze towards Maelgwyn, his unseeing eyes fixing him in a strange glare.
’’No, brother. I wish it was just an idle dream but it seems full of… potency… ‘’
‘’Tell me about it.’’ Maelgwyn let out a long sigh and seated himself next to the monk that claimed to have known his father. There, amidst the green grass and the chirping song, Maelgwyn recounted his midnight qualms to the nodding brother.
Into the cave
‘’As soon as I heard you mention the cave I knew it was more than just a dream. The description just fit to well.’’ It was late at night and the rest of the cloister was either sleeping or sequestered to their cells for prayer. The monk was leading Maelgwyn through the inner corridors and sanctums as deftly as any seeing man.
‘’I’ve never seen it myself mind you.’’ The monk chuckled drily and as they were about to round a corner he signed for Maelgwyn to stop.
‘’I shall have a word with the guards, you just stay here.’’ Maelgwyn heard the mumbling conversation further down the corridor and after a short while two pair of boots briskly walked away. Maelgwyn understood his cue and walked up to the monk who was fiddling with the lock to a large iron door.
‘’Normally only those who have sworn the Oath are allowed in here but I’m sure Dilwyn wouldn’t deny the son of one of the Bannermen entrance… especially not in such pressing matters.’’
The door swung open and a breath of cold air with the faint smell of myrrh lapsed around Maelgwyns face.
‘’I will stay here… The guards will not be back for a while. Take whatever time you need.’’
‘’Thank you, brother.’’
The cramped stairway only accentuated the splendor and beauty of the Cave of Icons. Maelgwyn fell to his knees in the middle of the candlelit room, is young hands clasped for prayer. From every wall, corner and alcove the eyes of saints, Multitudes and the Son stared at him.
Hours passed before Maelgwyn emerged from the holy cave; pale as a ghost and without a word for the waiting monk. He would tell of what he found down there later but not now. For now it would remain a secret between him and the Divine.