Il y a longtemps..

It was on one of those crisp, perfect, February mornings. He walked along the short path by the gurgling stream. The green sprouts of the springtime bulbs, standing a few inches above the earth. Soon there would be flowers. The sharp morning air made mist out of his breath.

He opened the heavy wooden door to the church, the iron ring thudded as he closed it. In the main part he genuflected and crossed himself. He went to the small chapel in the Eastern wing and knelt on the kneeling stool. The morning light filtered through the window and he could see flecks of dust in the sunbeams. It bathed him. He bowed his head and began to recite and pray. At this time of day, he was alone, and his voice was the only noise above his breathing. After a while he could hear the faint noise of riders approaching the settlement. As they got closer he could discern seven horses, six ridden by men and one not. By the sound the men were heavy, probably armed. As they got closer, he sensed that they were coming for him. Instinctively his left hand reached down to his side to feel the scar tissue under his hessian. It still ached from time to time and the skin was taught and rough. At his touch the noises of before flooded in to his mind.

He heard the men halt and speak to the stable lad, who held the horses as they dismounted. Some went to the stream to drink and refresh. From the sound of the horses they had been riding long and fast. Soon he could hear footsteps approaching the church it was one man, armed and mailed. The door slowly opened and in came the knight. He was not afraid, because he could recognise that gait anywhere and he knew, oh how he knew, why they had come. He finished praying, crossed himself and turned to meet his old friend.

“It’s time”, the knight said.

“I know, I have expected you these last few weeks.”

They hugged like the brothers in arms they were.

“We must ride fast, for the ships are leaving soon. Take just what you need, we will kit you out when you get to port.”

He walked back along the stream, past the water mill and to his dwelling. At the back in the cupboard was his tunic, his belt and his sword. Slowly he unfurled the tunic and blew the dust into the air. He placed it over his cassock, the white stark against the hessian, the red cross still bright. He took his belt and wrapped it round hanging his sword by his side. Further back in the cupboard were his daggers, one for the boot and one for the belt. Into his sack he put two books, a rosary and phial. In a heavy chest there was his library, he locked this and hung the key around his neck.

He turned swiftly and walked out the door. He retraced his steps past the water wheel. The woman and child were there. He waved at them, they knew. They too had been waiting.

When he got to the courtyard the six were already mounted. They swore and cursed at him in welcome. He mounted and then they were off.  There lay ahead many days ride to the southern coast…..