Still caught in writer's block on POS so going through my main info folder to get the gears moving, again.
Also, last night I got irritated with my lack of movement so sketched a possible rendition of David Martin.
Here's part 2 of the story --
The first touch of winter drifted past on a soft breeze as the company traveled down the barest of trails. Still, the sun was high and few clouds passed before it, making it seem all the brighter. David looked around at what had to be an ocean of barley, swirling and glistening for joy. Soon farmers and their workers would cover the fields to reap the golden grain. And they would fill orchards to pluck ripe red apples from the trees, and they would gather juicy grapes from vineyards to crush into wine during the harvest festival, and they would sing and joke as they labored. They were happy in their lives and content that Sir Richard had brought them many years of peace and plenty.
But an unspoken fear also lurked behind their merriment. For Sir Richard was aging and had no heir to his lands. His wife had died when both were very young, and he had refused to take another bride. Many feared what would happen when he also passed into the next world.
But these thoughts held no concern for David, not as he rode behind the knight. He still could not believe he was really on his way. After all, the castle was six days journey from Whitlock. Only the town master had ever been there, and the stories he told made it sound like nothing could surpass its beauty and grace. He knew he was very lucky to be allowed a visit.
Yet he could not help but wonder why a man as great as Sir Richard and with so wonderful a home would want to meet an orphaned peasant boy. And one from the far Westlands, at that. He wondered if it was because his father had done something heroic. He had gone off to fight with the king, once, and had never come back. David was barely a toddler at the time, so remembered little about him. Still...that could be the reason.
Or perhaps it was because his mother had done some act of kindness like she had always enjoyed doing. He could still see how gentle her eyes were, and loving and tender. When a fever had taken her away a few years ago, his only consolation had been that he knew she was still watched over him from heaven. This, too, was a possibility.
David gazed at the knight, who traveled ahead of him in silence. The man looked neither to the right nor the left, but David knew his eyes were sweeping the countryside, keeping watch for anything that might bring danger. His proud posture spoke eloquently of a certainty and knowledge of himself the boy could only hope to achieve.
What fascinated David most, however, was the sword, hanging at the man’s side. It was wrapped in a worn leather sheath, and the nicks and gouges in its handle hinted at breathtaking stories of numerous encounters with unknown enemies. How many times had that sword enforced the law and protected this land? How many times had it struck down those who had evil intent? David had often dreamed of wielding a sword like his and absently reached for his own self-made one, but then remembered the Town Master had taken it. Not that it mattered; without a doubt, David knew he was safe.
After riding in silence for some time, David trotted up to beside the knight and said, “Sir Knight, apparently you have been with Sir Richard for many years. Might you know why he has sent for me?”
“I may not speak to you of him,” said the knight.
“But has it something to do with my father?” David asked. “He went with the king to fight. Might you have an idea of what happened to him?”
“I told you, I may not offer you any information,” replied the knight, brusquely. “Please return to your place behind me.”
“But, Sir Knight...”
“Return to your place, at once!”
The knight’s cold manner stung David. He had only asked a few simple questions. He guided the pony back behind the man, confused and wondering if he had somehow offended him.
They rode in silence for another mile, David still trying to understand what he had done to deserve such a sharp rebuke, when his eye was caught by a squirrel dancing from limb to limb in a nearby grove of trees. It almost seemed to be following them, and it would stop now and then to chatter at the passing troup. The boy smiled and chattered back, delighting the squirrel into following them even farther.
The knight silently noticed this, let the hint of a frown crease his brow and continued to lead them on, in silence.
As evening drew near, they reached a town with an inn so lodged there for a meal and bed. When a married couple learned where David was going, they were struck with what he felt was a proper sense of awe and respect. They even gave him a gift for Sir Richard, which he graciously agreed to pass along. Then they spent the night telling tales of his exploits.
“Many years ago,” said the husband, “Our land was invaded by an army far greater than our own in numbers. They pillaged and burned three villages before Sir Richard could arrive with his troops, and they were sorely out-numbered. To everyone, the enemy seemed unbeatable. Yet when Sir Richard saw them, he laughed. He took only a small company of his knights and charged against the largest band of them. His attack was so fierce, the enemy scattered as leaves in the wind and he lost not a soul. The invaders quickly begged for peace, and we have been left by them to prosper, ever since.”
Then his wife added, “I heard of once, when Sir Richard was but a youth, he happened upon two men who wished to carry off a damsel. He was so enraged, he beat the men soundly and sent them packing. Then he returned the girl to her father, who was Baron of a neighboring land. It was this girl he took to wife, and he was rewarded with riches unimaginable.”
Glowing in the warmth of the fire and the pleasant talk, David offered to tell of Sir Richard’s greatest adventure.
“Many years ago, a dragon roamed the hills around my village. It burned crops, tore apart homes and slaughtered helpless people. Our land was not part of his kingdom, at that time, but when we asked for help, Sir Richard came. Alone. For days he followed a trail of destruction before he found the dragon about to devour a farm. Their battle raged for hours and was heard throughout the land. Sir Richard finally beheaded the beast, but not without many injuries to himself. My people were so grateful, we asked that our lands be joined with his so we might pay tribute to him, forever.”
The husband chuckled and said, “Now there’s a tall tale.”
“I’ve not heard that one, before,” giggled his wife.
“I thought the dragon stories died out years ago,” laughed the inn-keeper.
David was stunned. Here he was sharing a tale every person in Whitlock knew and these people were laughing. And what was worse, they were laughing at a story about Sir Richard! He had never heard of such a thing. He was about to protest when the knight rose and stretched.
“We must sleep, lad,” said the knight. “We’ve a long day’s journey, tomorrow.”
Reluctantly, David followed the knight to their room. The man took the bed; David slept on a pallet. The soldiers had already bunked in the stables.
Once settled down, David found sleep was long in coming. Not once in his entire life had he ever heard anyone speak of Sir Richard except with reverence and awe. Their king was known by all to be strong and generous and merciful, a man to be proud of and emulated. So why would anyone dismiss something he was known to have done? A deed told over and over by storytellers and shown in so many paintings and tapestries? It made no sense, none at all. When David finally did drift into slumber, he was still trying to understand.