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Sir Eberhart's Age of Ascendancy

Eberhart devoted himself to the writing of poems of love. When he emerged from the secluded chamber in which he wrote, he was surprised to that his sister Katherine had modified her opinion of Evangeline after meeting this brightest star in heaven. Katherine appeared to be encouraging him in his suit although he suspected that she hoped that he would come to despair of winning the lady's hand and would engage more fully with the mundane. Malvo was keen that Eberhart should show well in the lists at the forthcoming tourney. The two men repaired to the practice field where Eberhart mounted the fine horse that he had received from Marguerite. Recognising Malvo's lesser skill, Eberhart adopted an unfamiliar French grip upon the lance instead of his usual grip. In each of two bouts, Eberhart struck first but was unable to meet the riposte and was unhorsed. Clearly, the French grip was not for him.

The young page Brosius was charming, attentive, and rewarding company for the young lord. He seemed most eager to fulfill his duties as herald to the tourney. Eberhart left Brosius and Malvo planning the celebrations as he saw his old friend Jack coming out of the woods. Jack was trying to choose between a life with the woman he loves and that with a man whom he feels to be unjustly accused. He must comfort his beloved or aid his new master; Eberhart could not help him to find a way. As they talked, the fair Evangeline came upon them. She is a confidante of Jack's beloved but she does not recognise Jack's role in her friend's life. She asked the men's counsel, little knowing how close was the subject to their hearts. She felt that piety was needed to guide love so Eberhart summoned a bard to tell a tale that might illuminate their understanding.

King Garavan held a birthday feast to which he invited throngs of guests but he was a king of Northern France and his tastes differed greatly from those of his Saxon neighbours. Most were courteous and had at least one bite of the delicacies presented to them although many declined when the dishes were described as they were offered. Garavan's generosity of spirit prevented him from recognising his guests' distaste. When spat the quails eggs in cattle urine into the platter of fried pigs lips in custard, he assumed this to be a local custom and emulated it with enthusiasm. Likewise, the entertainments offered by Bertram the lugubrious minstrel were welcome by none but the king. At length Bertram told how the maiden Medianne lay unrescued when captured by a dragon and was devoured slowly from the periphery of her limbs as the dragon starved through want of juicy knights upon whom to feast. Both the king and Bertram saw the murmurings as praise and were cheered that the comments swelled during the story of the victorious knight who slipped unnoticed into a castle midden and drowned in the deep cess. Bishop Alden upbraided Bertram and with great piety bid him to choose a story more appropriate to a birthday celebration; Bertram responded by restricting the plague of Glanders to a single province instead of the entire boil-stricken nation. It was too much for the guests, who left in droves but Alden stayed to show Bertram his error. Garavan never did fully understand just how he had failed his guests but Bertram came to realise that concern for the sensibilities of ones fellows was gentler than forcing them to confront despair.

Struck by the power of piety, Eberhart immersed himself in a tale that showed that it must be alloyed with wisdom. Silenus was a wandering blacksmith peddler who had come across three clerics beset by infidels in Antioch. The three men had mere staves against the curved swords of the brass-helmed Saracens and even with Silenus' help only one of them survived. Too badly wounded to travel, the spared monk gave him a piece of the True Cross to return to England. Realising that the value of this remarkable relic would be increased if it was broken into many pieces, Silenus returned home, selling fragments as he went. He was a persuasive man and found no shortage of takers although some were reluctant to encourage the sacrilege of a commercial transaction for such a holy thing. The Lady Marguerite charged him with donating a piece to the Cloister of St Benedict in memory of her late father. The nuns were most gratified by this generosity. Leaving the convent Silenus was travelling north through Gervane Forest when he found two women in floods of tears. As he heard the sad tale of a woman banished by her husband, Sir Owain arrived with the penitent man and reunited the couple. Such a pious man was an obvious customer, who readily fed, clothed and equipped the peddler in exchange for his piece of The Rood. Jack the Woodman was convinced that its sanctity might lend him clarity of purpose. Evangeline was so entranced by the the knowledge that the relic might have been in the presence of her late husband that she too bought a piece and some farmers enraged by the venality of local priests bought a piece to remind the clergy of their holy duty. The clergy too were amenable to buying apiece in the hope that it might lift the curse on their chapel.

Silenus still had some fragments left to sell when he accosted by a group of knights in fine array. Among them sat King Arthur in a suit of plate mail badly scarred and crushed. Silenus unslung his hammer and bellows, improvised an anvil from a tree stump and, upon a makeshift forge, refashioned the armour to shining splendour studded in lethal spikes. Arthur used this masterwork to defeat the dragon that had bested him and Silenus saw an opportunity to meet more wealthy customers at the royal court. He had, after all, built a compartment in the mail just of a size to take a wooden fragment. A knight named Geoffrey was too wise, however, to swallow the story unchallenged. He soon had Silenus confessing of his division of the original piece and chose to ensure that no harm had come from this. Silenus was saddened to learn that the church of Brother Paul had not been cleansed by the relic and was now a mere pile of rubble. Dividing the Rood had weakened its power. Filled with contrition Silenus atoned for his error by making a fine suit of armour for Paul's patron Sir Godwin (although this too included a fragment of the relic 'just in case'). When Sir Pendaris approached him asking to buy a fragment he made sure that the young lord knew of the many other fragments and understood that it might be powerless.

Just one piece remained unsold when Silenus met Sir Owain again. Owain was more sceptical than some customers and had inspected the wood carefully. Hid immediately below the nose, the relic smelled faintly of vinegar. I was artificially aged; a mere forgery. Silenus had been duped and had inadvertently misled others in his avarice. He and Owain prayed for forgiveness and guidance. In all conscience Silenus could not sell the last piece. Nor could he keep the profits of his sales. He donated his earnings to the convent and retired to a hermit's life in the forest with the one remaining fragment to remind him always of his foolishness.

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grin

September 2015

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