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Sir Eberhart's Age of Resolution

Eberhart was at a crossroads. He felt that he must choose between love and war. It seemed there that there was little chance that Evangeline might relent and grant his dearest wish. He resolved to see how she felt once she had the news that she awaited so keenly. Meanwhile, at Castle Beneth, his household was disharmonious. His friend Kelvin had arrived and Katherine was making dishonourable demands that the guest should be turfed out. "If that man stays, I go", she ultimated. Eberhart explained the rules that bound them; he could not understand why she was being so discourteous. At length, she admitted that Kelvin had forced his way into her chamber and importuned her upon his previous visit. Eberhart instructed Malvo to ensure that Kelvin was watched and that the household women were protected from Kelvin's drunken advances. "He is sating his appetites with the tavern women" said Malvo, intending this as a comfort.

Jack the Woodsman had found the courage to reveal himself as Sir John, Eberhart's friend who had murdered the new husband of his true love immediately after their wedding. He sought Eberhart's support to present himself at the castle and confess his crime. A court hearing was arranged immediately. An impassioned witness described how John had struck down his unarmed victim. Surely there could be no excuse. A man's life had been taken outside the field of battle. Eberhart argued that his friend's crime was one of passion, that he responded with an honourable rage when the old man had spoken ill of his young wife. Then Rosaline spoke of the foul behaviour of her new husband and the pure love of John. It sounded to less partial ears as if her new husband's greatest crimes were being old and ugly but her fresh beauty overwhelmed the king and it was determined that John was absolved of any stain upon him and need do no more than pay blood gold to the dead man's family before marrying Rosaline.

Lady Evangeline had decided to travel to Antioch the learn for herself the true disposition of her husband Neville. The monk Paul, caught between the need for truth and a desire to foment joy, was reluctant to tell Eberhart any news of Neville in Antioch. Knowing that it may not serve his desires but sure of the nobility of his path, Eberhart chose to accompany Evangeline on her journey. First, however, he had domestic duties to fulfil. He agreed that Sir John, Katherine, and Malvo would manage the combined estates of Colbury and Rath in his absence. He then stood in for the family of Lady Beatrix to give her away to Lord Otho in marriage while her father fought in the war to the north. When Bishop Alden asked for the impediment a man strode down the nave shouting that the wedding was a forced one not of the maid's choosing. "Oh Giles, why do you this to me now?" asked the bride. "Because we have loved each other since childhood and I cannot see you trapped in a loveless marriage". With tears she explained that the marriage was her free choice to secure the future of her family holdings, more dear to her than life or love. When Giles threatened to challenge the groom, she chided him that she could never love him if he killed her hopes. "Then there is no hope for me" cried Giles and threw himself upon his sword. As the love lovelorn suitor died before the altar, Eberhart realised that he too was without hope in love. This dancing chimera had seduced him with its promise of joy but it was a mere sham. The Lady Evangeline would never accept him as more than a friend and his life stretched before him as the bleakest of landscapes. His cheeks were wet with tears as the ceremony concluded and he stumbled into the sunlight seeing nothing but clouds ahead.

With his heart breaking and all joy withered within him, Eberhart travelled with Evangeline, Brother Paul, and Sir Theodore to seek Sir Neville. They sailed with the crusaders to Rome and then on to Antioch seeing much slaughter, theft, and horror upon the way. There was nobility too and great courage. Most of the army continued to Jerusalem to lift the siege there but Eberhart's party hunted for Neville within Antioch. They found him; a bloated drunken wreck, foulmouthed and near death. He greeted Evangeline with vile words and cursed the gentle Brother Paull. Neville had never recognised Evangeline's love; he saw as a cold withdrawn woman who despised his values. He railed against her, denying the love that she professed. Eberhart's heart hardened within him as he watched a coward die because he could not have the love he wanted. And Evangeline too had been fooling herself that her husband had the virtues that love conjured in her eyes. Eberhart saw two more lives blighted by love and knew that there was no pleasure to be taken there.

Neville's corpse was buried in Antioch and his wretched widow returned home with her doleful friend. They found an England still under the rule of Arthur despite the weakness that was consequent upon Gawain's foul blow in their final battle. Their own lands, however, had flourished under the management of their stewards. Eberhart sponsored Malvo's investiture as a knight and would have taken the page Brosius as his son had the lad not hied to Palestine for glory. Bereft of love, Eberhart pondered a marriage of convenience to ensure the continuity of his line and the economic strength of his domain. He was considering offering marriage to his old friend Marguerite when Evangeline came to him. She had noticed the benefits of operating the two domains under combined management and she knew that Eberhart had finally abandoned all hope of marrying her. Would he perhaps consider an economic alliance based on friendship... and affection? Eberhart had been discussing love and hope with Brother Paul. He would not be persuaded that optimism was anything other than foolishness but he knew his duty. He agreed to marry Evangeline and although he could not see them himself, she recognised the first signs of rekindling of his whilom joy.

Years later with his children around him, Eberhart would learn that Brosius had been a maiden posing as boy. Her shocking secret had only been revealed when she sustained a great wound and by then her reputation as a warrior had been assured. Old Mary could then reveal that it was Brosius who fallen in love with Eberhart and considered revealing both this and her gender before deciding that he would never abandon his dreams of Evangeline. And Marguerite, who was driven only by the will to do good, had decided too late that life was passing her by and that Eberhart might be a suitable companion for her in life and in love. Katherine and Evangeline became firm friends and through the beginnings of the Pendragon dynasty the new combined house prospered.

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grin

September 2015

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