Still in writer's block and feeling grim about POS. The more I dig through my materials, the more daunting the whole story seems. But I can't find a hook back inside...so I'm diverting myself with another section of "David Martin."
The next day’s travels took the group through a forest lush with trees of every shade of green and filled with the chattering of squirrels and chirping of sparrows. The sky was as blue as a robin’s egg and the drifting clouds were of the purest whispers. There was just enough sun to warm the day with just enough breeze to cool the skin. Though David had slept only fitfully, the beauty of the morning lightened his mood and his mind lazily wandered.
He noticed a mother sparrow teaching her now-grown chicks how to forage for themselves. She’d flit to the ground and peck at the dirt, and the little ones would follow, peeping loudly to be fed. He smiled and remembered the time his mother had brought home a sparrow chick that had fallen from its nest. With tenderness and care, she had nursed it to good health and helped it grow into a strong happy bird. It stayed with them, flying about the house or perching on the window sill, but never ventured outside unless it was on her shoulder, where it would stay as she did her chores. Then one morning, it flew away with another sparrow. But still it remained near the house and would begin to chirp the moment the sun rose, waking them.
At first, David had been irritated by the sparrow’s early call, but then his mother had said, “Listen closely. This fine lad brings us a song to charm us from our sleep.” Her eyes had danced with laughter as she said it, and he had loved the sparrow’s chirp ever since.
He was still lost in his thoughts when a cry for “Help!” exploded from deep in the forest! With it came the sounds of a struggle! The knight spurred his stallion and raced in the direction of the fight. David galloped after him, the soldiers hurrying up from behind.
Within moments, the knight and David came upon a glen where several thieves were attacking the married couple. The knight pulled his sword and cried, “Stand fast!”
Surprised, the men scattered and most ran off. But some drew weapons to fight back. Instantly, the knight thundered into their midst, his eyes ablaze with fury.
David was at a loss for what to do. He had no sword, nothing but his paring knife to help the knight. Then he noticed a thief loading a crossbow, scowling with evil intent. He aimed to shoot the knight in the back!
David looked around. The soldiers were still too far away to stop the thief. All David could think to do was kick his pony and race at the man and knock him down before he could let the arrow fly. The man scrambled back to his feet and seemed ready to fire his crossbow at David now -- but then the soldiers swarmed in to stop him and all of the thieves were captured.
“Our thanks, Sir Knight,” said the wife, wiping her face with shaking hands. Her husband just stood behind her, silent and bewildered.
“Take care where you travel in the future,” snapped the knight. “Had you remained upon the main path, this might not have happened.” Then he charged his soldiers to march the men back to town for justice and led David back to the road to continue their journey.
David was taken aback at how the couple had completely ignored his assistance in defending them. Why, even the town master, who did not really like David, would have been polite enough to thank him. And Nana would have made a huge fuss over his bravery and let him feel so wonderful. He had to remind himself that his sole purpose had been to support the knight, who was bound by honor to protect Sir Richard’s citizens, even if they were ill-bred people. And if David wished to be a knight, he must follow the same code – that when you swear to protect someone they must be protected, no matter what. But then he wondered – was it wrong to feel slighted? Would the knight have felt the same if David had been praised instead of him?
Before he could answer himself, the knight motioned for David to ride beside him. And he cast the boy a look that said, “Well done.” And David’s heart sang with pride. He straightened up and answered with a smile that said, “It was nothing.”
The sun was just dipping below the trees when they approached a farmhouse and were offered a meal and bedding by the farmer and his family. After all, any knight of Sir Richard’s was welcome in any home, even if he did have a scraggly-haired boy with him. As they ate, the farmer told them of the time Sir Richard saved the local priest’s life.
“The father had grown old,” said the farmer, “and let his horse wander from the trail, where he soon found himself stalked by three starving wolves.”
“I think I’ve heard this one,” said David. “But wasn’t it about a Bishop?”
“That’s probably a different story,” said the farmer, tousling the boy’s hair. “There’s so many you hear, these days; so many of then silly tales. Anyhow, Sir Richard was camped nearby – could it be you were with him, Sir Knight?”
“I will not know until you tell the story,” he answered.
“Of course,” said the farmer. “Anyway, Sir Richard heard our priest’s cries for help and raced to find him. Now wolves ain’t stupid creatures; when they saw Sir Richard, two of them ran. But the third was mad from hunger. He jumped for Sir Richard’s throat and they fought and they fought, the wolf’s teeth just inches away from tearing into our king’s skin! And all he had was his dagger to protect him. Well, they fought for close to an hour before Sir Richard was able to plunge his dagger deep into the wolf’s heart and our priest was saved. And to this day, that wolf’s pelt hangs above the rectory door.”
David was confused. “But it was a Bishop,” he said. “And what about the sorcerer...whose intent was to...to capture him...and...?”
His voice trailed off amidst the laughter of the farmer and his family.
“From how far west are you?” the man chuckled.
The knight leaned forward and said, “I’m certain the story Master David knows is different from yours.”
“Yes, yes, of course, sir Knight,” said the farmer. But still his chuckles continued.
David’s face grew hot and his eyes stung with tears of embarrassment. Again, he was being seen as a fool. He would have slunk into a shadow had not the knight stood and put a final end to the merriment.
“Come, lad,” he said. “We must retire. We’ve still four days journey ahead of us.” He led David to the door as the farmer scurried beside him.
“You may stay as long as you wish, Sir Knight,” he said. “You’re more than welcome.”
“We are expected by a certain time,” the knight replied, “and have already been delayed. But I do thank you for this evening’s hospitality.” With that, he led David outside.
They slept in the barn...at least, the knight seemed to sleep. David found himself unable to put aside the sudden torrent of questions pounding inside his head.
His entire life was built around the belief that he, his grandmother and his friends were protected by Sir Richard. When the town master went to the castle on business, David knew he was safe because no one would dare to bother one of Sir Richard’s servants. And when Nana’s hand-tatted wraps were sold at market, he knew she received a fair price because no one would dare cheat one of Sir Richard’s subjects. And when he and his friends went into the woods and played at battle, fighting with their wooden swords and staffs then recounting the “heroic” tales of their adventures around a blazing campfire, even then they felt safer against all evil because Sir Richard watched over the land. This was how David had always seen the world.
But now? Now he had seen robbers attack a helpless couple and heard people scoff at stories about their king. And he had said nothing and done little, in answer – only felt ashamed and foolish, and now felt as though he no longer knew the truth of anything.
“But how could I think I ever knew it?” he softly asked himself. “I’ve never been away from Whitlock.” Finally he had to know something. “Sir Knight?”
“Yes?” came the sleepy reply.
“Do you know why Whitlock joined Sir Richard’s realm?”
"I told you, lad, I may not – ."
"Please, this is about my town and the lands around it, not Sir Richard. Do you know why we joined with his kingdom?"
The knight sighed then finally said, “Invaders from the sea, as I recall.”
“Oh. Thank you.”
“Get some sleep, lad.”
So the dragon story was wrong. Was nothing but a silly tale for silly boys. David accepted it with little more than a nod and let himself drift into a restless sleep, absently pulling the blanket tighter around his body.
A bit later, the knight looked over at David and noticed his feet were uncovered. The man gently smiled, arranged the blanket around them then lay back on the straw.