On the road
Melkin respected and revered lord Amig in many ways and had done so ever since he was very small. Amig was an excellent swordsman, a dutiful knight both prudent and trusting, qualities that Melkin wished to have for himself in the long run. Between him and his stepbrother, Cadry had always been closer to Amig than Melkin was. There were many reasons for this. They were both proud, they were both pagans and also Amig was married to Cadry’s sister which connected them by blood. Amig and Cadry did talk a lot and Melkin liked to listen in on their conversations, but did not contribute to their discussions very often. The fact that Melkin had been raised as a modest christen was probably why Amig over the years decided to go riding alone with Melkin from time to time, during which Melkin normally was more outspoken.
This was such an occasion, when Cadry had been given an assignment and Melkin got to accompany Amig alone.
“I would say that they complement each other,” Melkin answered slightly surprised by the question. “They are both motivated, but where Gamond is angry Maelgwyn is calm and they have different strengths that make them a good team.”
“A better team than you and Cadry?”
“That is fully possible, at least when Gamond isn’t too hungry or tired, but on the other hand Cadry could give them both a challenge having many strong qualities that both makes him an excellent fighter and a good hunter.”
Amig waited for a second before calmly continuing:
“And what about yourself?”
A bit uneasy Melkin tried to sound confident.
“Well, Cadry is my brother and I know how to work alongside of him. I… am more strategic than he is and… more remissive which is why we don’t fight so much and why it’s mostly me breaking up the fights between the others.”
“Yet you were fighting with Maelgwyn over a certain maid recently,” commented Amig and his voice had that certain tone of disappointment in it that only Amig could muster.
“I… we… didn’t fight my lord, over her… or at all really. We were mostly being… very confused about the situation.”
Melkin stuttered trying not to grow red. Amig had not let go of the sudden letter from lord Daleshome about of how both Melkin and Maelgwyn were supposedly courting his daughter. Even though Maelgwyn had managed to explain to lord Elad that Aneria seemed to have jumped to conclusions about whether Melkin and Maelgwyn were intent on marrying the girl, Melkin wasn’t as innocent as the fellow squire. Thus Amig made sure to remind Melkin about the situation which, every single time, embarrassed Melkin greatly.
“I wasn’t intent on courting her, my lord,” Melkin promised. “I just… tried to talk to her, with some confidence,” he added eventually.
“You are certainly awkward when you try. At your age you shouldn’t be this uncomfortable talking to women,” noted Amig and Melkin knew that his blush was showing… again.
“It’s just… I always seem to mess up around them.”
The comment actually made Amig laugh, but it wasn’t a laugh completely filled with distain. There was some part of amusement in it.
“That is a truth if I ever heard one. But,” continued Amig thoughtfully, ”you are not the first one with that problem. Mistakes have been made around women before your time even by me once or twice.”
“Really?” said Melkin unable to believe it.
“These are of course situations of which I won’t tell you,” Amig added seeing Melkin’s hopeful face. “But it can be tricky for a young man to interact with a young woman as you yourself have proven. I will now give you an important advice about talking to women that you should consider from now on.”
“What advice, my lord?”
“Know when to walk away.”
The one legged man
“We are going to meet a kin of yours who fought in the battle of Bedegraine, and then escort him to Hindon,” said Amig when Melkin finally asked him where they were going.
Getting the feeling that this answer somehow was a test Melkin asked: “Has he been injured?”
“He has,” answered Amig and studied Melkin. “Much like yourself he now has a wound that restrains his movement.”
Melkin’s hand instinctively touched his wound. His neck movement had been reduced after the rat bite, and he could no longer turn his head as far to the left as before. He wondered what had happened to the man they were about to meet.
By noon that day they reached the camp where Victus, a cousin of Melkin’s father Bryn, was waiting for them. Seeing him Melkin realised that the man was old, probably in his 50s, and also why he hadn’t been moved earlier. Victus had lost a leg in the battle and with that his life as a household knight had ended.
“Come close boy so I can take a look at you,” said Victus and got up on one elbow despite the severe injury.
Melkin sat down on the edge of the bed next to the man.
“You have your fathers eyes,” noted Victus with a squint.
“So I’ve heard,” said Melkin. “How’s you leg?”
“Gone,” muttered the man, “but it didn’t take me with it and that is always something.”
During their journey to Hillfort Melkin tended to the old man’s injury. It was still a severe one and Melkin had to be very careful handling it. Even though Victus was in great pain he seemed to be rather positive for a man who recently lost his leg and source of earning. Melkin was impressed with the old man.
“How do you keep your spirit up,” he asked one night when Victus seemed to be in an especially good mood and Melkin was redressing the wound.
“Oh, you see my boy, when you’re as old as me you know that you might lose just about any part of your body if you’re not careful enough. And I was never a very careful man.” He chuckled at his own joke.
“But, you cannot fight any longer, does that not make you, well, sad?”
“It does,” Victus admitted, “but I’ve always been good with my hands so I’m glad I didn’t lose them, and I would like to be so bold as to say that my head is especially good, for me at least, and that I’m relieved I didn’t lose it either.”
When they had left the old Victus in the hands of Doged at Hindon, Melkin was in deep thought. He knew that he probably would be the lord of the grounds soon enough, and then the old man would be his responsibility. He would have liked to talk more with Victus about the battles he had fought in, of his father and many other things, but Victus had needed his rest and had sometimes been unable to talk because of the pain.
“What do you think of sir Victus,” asked Amig who seemed to have observed Melkin for quite some time.
“He is a curious man,” said Melkin thoughtfully. “He seems to be content with his situation, even though he won’t be able to run or climb ever again.”
“Are you saying that he shouldn’t be?”
“Well, no, I just think he would be upset to be crippled that’s all.”
“Are you thinking that he is useless now when he can’t walk?”
“No, of course not!” answered Melkin taken aback by the question. “He said he was good with his hands, which is always useful, and he has a lot of knowledge about war, and fighting, which I certainly need more of. He will be a great asset to the household sharing his knowledge.”
Amig looked at him for a long moment and sighed.
“You do have a way of seeing the strengths in others while only your own weaknesses. One could say it is both a curse and a blessing, depending on the situation. Now, answer me this Melkin. If Victus, broken as his body is, isn’t useless why are you intent on thinking this about yourself?”
“I don’t think…” Melkin began fumbling with the words.
“Don’t even try it,” snapped Amig. “Answer me squire!”
Melkin met his lords stern look and said hesitantly:
“Honestly, I don’t know, my lord. I guess… it’s something that I‘ve taught myself.”
“Why?” Amig’s face was still hard, and Melkin felt defeated by the question. He shrugged.
“So I would work harder, I think. But I don’t really know anymore.”
Frowning, Amig rode up close to him and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Then stop it, you hear me? You put the blame of each situation mostly on yourself, even when that is not the case. You should be aware of your weaknesses but not focus on them. What you are is inexperienced, not weak. You need to speak up for yourself, I have told you this before.”
The lecture was both unexpected and unusual. Melkin’s thoughts went back to Maelgwyn’s discussion with Elad about Aneria. If Maelgwyn hadn’t spoken up about her Melkin himself would have been in an even worse situation by now. He was truly thankful that Maelgwyn had done what he himself couldn’t. At the same time he felt a stab for telling lord Amig about Brangwen and Cadry’s feelings for her. It surely was a mess altogether, all because he hadn’t told lord Amig about the misunderstanding right away. Realising that this also was putting the blame mostly on himself again Melkin met his lord’s gaze.
“I will speak up, my lord,” he promised with determination. “I cannot let my own silence stain the honour of my friends, family or lord any longer. I will mend my ways.”
Lord Amig’s grip on Melkin’s shoulder tightened.
“Of Elad’s squires and mine you are the one who have grown the most over the past years,” he said looking serious. “I am confident that the training I have given you has made you strong, and that you can use that head of yours to become a capable knight, once you actually start using it.”
A compliment from Amig was rare and Melkin felt pride grow in his chest from the praise. The last journey was easy and as they rode into the grounds of Castle Boarders Melkin felt himself riding with a bit more of a straightened back.
Fealty lord: +1
First aid: +1