During the summer of the year 480, Melkin realised that he knew less than nothing about the politics around women. Having grown up in a pagan home he had somewhat gotten a rather different view upon relationships and how they were meant to emerge. His roman family had sent him a chaplain who had taught him many things, but upon the subject of women the monk had always become a bit flustered and avoided to talk plainly about the matter. It thus became abundantly clear to Melkin that there were a lot of rules that he had never understood, and that they were complicated.
The first incident happened when a vassal knight came to lord Amig’s court when the knight himself was out on business. Trying his best to uphold hospitality Melkin worked hard to make sure that the sire and the daughter in his company were treated valorously and honourably. In the end he managed better with the valour than the honour.
The girl, Aneria was Melkins own age, and she smiled at him more than once during the first day of their stay. Melkin being unaccustomed to a young woman’s favour found her very attractive. Cadry always got the girls gazes, and Melkin decided he wanted to have a conquest of his own, just maybe to brag about to the other squires. He started talking to the girl, nervously at first but then more confidently. He told her about the ways pagans made love during the summer, running around naked dressed as animals.
“It seems like a wicked thing to do,” said Aneria with a smile at Melkin.
“It might be,” answered Melkin, “but my chaplain would never let me join so I couldn’t say for sure.”
She laughed at him.
“And what would you chaplain tell you?”
Melkin rolled his eyes.
“Doged would say that it is a sin, and that an honourable christian would avert his eyes from such filth.”
“But you don’t?”
Melkin leaned in a little bit closer, just a little bit, he didn’t dare to lean in more. She was a woman after all, but he was trying to seem knowledgeable and interesting.
“I always thought it was kind of beautiful,” he whispered. "Many find love during that summer feast and isn’t love of God?”
Melkin did think that their conversation went pretty well. He wasn’t sure he was flirting, he wasn’t really sure what he was doing at all, and apparently he had been doing something completely different than he thought he was. The next day Aneria’s father sat Melkin down and had very serous conversation with him about what he would expect from Melkin if he was to court his daughter. Being very surprised by the conversation Melkin was suddenly talking about possible wedding plans without knowing how he had ended up in that discussion.
That was the first incident. The other one happened when he suddenly was contacted by a distant roman relative who was interested in a cousin of Melkin’s in Britain. Melkin was confused by the proposal that if he made the arrangement so that she would become a courtesan of the roman relative he would be rewarded with a horse. Thinking that this relative of his must be quite desperate and in love with the woman Melkin eventually agreed. If he was ready to give Melkin a horse to be able to court the lady it couldn’t be a bad thing. It turned out that “to court“ a lady does not mean that she becomes a courtesan. It is as one might say something quite different, and Melkin hadn’t cared enough to ask since he had been offered a horse for the trade of favours.
His chaplain, Doged had been horrified by Melkins decision and lectured him for over an hour when Melking came home during the winter. Doged was even more horrified when Melkin didn’t seem to fully understand what he had done.
“Courtesan means mistress, you understand that don’t you Melkin?”
Melkin looked at his chaplain his head lowered, but he felt irritated.
“I’m sorry chaplain,” he said, “but how was I supposed to know that? Courtesan should be someone who attends a court or, is courted. It’s an illogical word.”
His chaplain stared at him, took a step forward and slapped him. It wasn’t a hard slap, but Doged had rarely slapped Melkin during all the years the old monk had taught the boy. It only hurt because it meant that Dogen was truly disappointed in Melkin. When the old man spoke again his voice was smooth, almost like honey, but deep in it Melkin could feel the chaplains anger:
“Are you an imbecile Melkin? I always thought you were quite the clever one, but maybe I have overestimated you. No one in their right mind would say the word mistress in any conversation if they would try to achieve one. It is implied in the word, because it is a sinful thing. Now,” he paused and looked at Melkin, “are you an imbecile, or do you understand?”
Melkin shut his mouth and lowered his head even more. It was a scandal, and his chaplain had received word from a number of irritated family members. Yet it was to late for Melkin to back from his word. However he handled the situation from now he would be caught in a political trap. It was done and both he and Doged knew it.
“I understand,” he said finally.
“And do you understand what you have done?”
There was a brief paus.
“And what about this girl Aneria,” continued the old man “I hear you talked to her about the pagan’s summer feast. I suppose you thought you could excite her and maybe lure her into sinful behavior?”
“I’m sorry chaplain,” said Melkin and this time he truly meant it. He felt regretful that he had angered his dare friend and teacher for many a year because of his behavior. He cursed himself for his lack of knowledge and recklessness. Had he thought that he knew what he was doing talking to a woman? About a woman? In politics? As of this moment it seemed more risky than fighting the Imber bear that he Cardy, Maelgwin and Gamond had killed in the forest of gloom.
“Well, I suppose it’s Cadry who have filled your head with these wicked thoughts. He is a pagan and you are a christian Melkin, I do not know how many times I have told you this before.”
“Are you going to treat this woman properly from now on?”
Doged sat down beside the boy, for Melkin truly felt like a boy again.
“Your father was an honorable man, and his love for his family was endless. You would not be sitting here if he hadn’t been a true Christian, sacrificing himself fighting the vicious Saxons. You will have to try to restore your own honour from now on, and caring for your family is a fine way to do it.”
Melkin sighed. He wondered if he would ever dare to talk to a girl again. Making decisions around them surely seemed dangerous.