Historical setting: 563 C.E., on the western shore of Gaul
The vendor seems cautious about Nic’s helmet for trade. He’s noticing the grimy leather at the neck edge, the slight bend in the cheek plate and particularly, he frowns at the fade and wilt of the tattered plume. Nic yanks the plume from it’s fitting.
“I choose to keep my plume of glory.” Nic announces.
Then the vendor offers his assessment of the helmet. “It’s very old, before the time of the emperor’s refurbishing of the troops.”
“It was my father’s. It is hammered from bronze and inscribed with the flourishes of our tribe by the hand of a true artist. You don’t see this kind of workmanship in the Roman conscription helmets.”
The vendor doesn’t argue. He asks what trade Nic wants for it.
Nic asks to see caplets and cloaks suitable for an Iberian journey in the summertime. The vendor presents an array of fabrics, and I am aware that Nic’s helmet was something of great value. Nic is not surprised. But clearly he is grieving this loss.
Nic carefully chooses a caplet broad enough to span his shoulders even while wearing his iron shirt. It has lacing loops on the inside to secure a cloak under the caplet, in case he should choose to wear the cloak in the soldier’s style.
My thoughts and my eyes are on Nic, feeling with him the grief of his sacrifice. He notices my concern and brushes it away with the quip. “To Old Nicodemus Jesus said, ‘ye must be born again!’ (Jn. 3:7 KJV)”
Nic and the vendor bartered away his Roman cloak and shield, all the while the vendor eyed Nic’s chainmail and sword. The dagger was hidden away in his new pack. The trading ended this day with new britches and tunics for us both – the kinds of tunics with a bit of length to give us a look of scholarship or wisdom. And I now also have a girdle and a pack.
And furthermore, my pack is large enough that I may carry a heavy load; for example, that weighty shirt of chainmail. Should I be walking a mile with a Roman soldier and I offer to carry his load the next mile. So we are both fit for travel and Nic still has his iron shirt and his sword. As we are walking off the vendor shouts his “final offer” of a gold coin for the sword. Nic doesn’t turn back.