I’ve taken orders all my life. As I told eques Maelgwyn earlier this year, I might not always agree with the decisions taken, but I know how to do my duty. To me, it’s stranger that I now give orders myself. I don’t mind that either, but I’m unaccustomed to it. No, my problem lies with other men’s cowardice, incompetence and with my own blasted mouth. Holding back my own thoughts or actions is hard, and failing to do so has put me in many stupidus situations.
This summer I accompanied a young dominus, the leader of house Ironwheel, on border duties to the north of Salisbury. Me and fifteen or so other men were looking for a Saxon party that had been spotted in the area.
The first weeks we found nothing; neither traces nor signs of pillage. During the evenings we would talk, drink and laugh and I remember thinking how true the words of Cicero are in these dark times. Where there’s life, there’s hope but, life is truly nothing without friendship. Sad that not more men feel the same.
It was one of these nights dominus Ironwheel asked: “I’ve heard that you, sir Ennis, practice chirurgy, is this true?”
I saw the men around me snigger, and thought that this might be a hard one to get out off.
“Well, it’s a useful skill to know,” I said trying to deflect the question.
“For women,” laughed the dominus, “yes, and Romans I suppose.”
Some of the knights simply shrugged, others clearly saw the parable and smirked. The opening to the dominus’ argument, however, was so obvious that I laughed despite the scornful looks.
“Ah, yes,” I agreed, “a boy who has have never been wounded in battle, nor seen his friends die around him would say such a thing. But surely we knights know better than that.” I looked around at the other men who grudgingly were nodding, and then meeting the young dominus’ argy eyes I continued: “Don’t you agree, dominus?” I let my gaze drop to his bristly stubble on his chin.
He had no comeback from that, and I ate in pace with no further comments on my skills.
The next day the scouts found tracks. As the day progressed the scouts reported seeing an armed group of Saxons moving west. When we came upon them dominus Ironwheel ordered us into a line for a charge. To pull our lances in the woods? What was the man thinking? Some of the men flew from their horses as their lances got stuck between the trees. As we fought the saxons I had little or no view of the situation, and not until the last of the wretched vermin had fallen did I see that dominus Ironwheel had been badly wounded.
I asked two of the other men help me hold him down as I burned the wound clean. Pretty good work for an assistant surgeon. The poor man hadn’t the sense to lose consciousness however, and was screaming between his clenched teeth. I could see the hate in his eyes as I did my duty, but I knew that the worst part wasn’t the pain, it was that I’d proven him the boy he was trying not to be.
As Plato would put it: “Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable.” He will try to get revenge on me, of that I’m certain.