Historical setting: 588 C.E.
This morning comes with a horse and an expectation that I too will ride with the count’s men. It is thought the pagans have taken back the borrowed child, burning the house, and murdering Eve.
I’ve chosen not to carry a sword. I’m here simply to make the look of more men to gleam with the full awe of avengers riling with righteous rage for my daughter’s death. I offer to carry the banner. It’s a swath of yellow silk fabric leftover from making the count a new robe. He calls it the “golden flag.” I’m relegated to riding third in this fearsome line of raging young men. Daniel and the count go first. They lead because Daniel knows the way to the cooper where he met the pagan priest, and the count is nearer the front because he has a fancy white horse.
Since we aren’t able to ford the river after yesterday’s storm we need to be ferried one horse and man at a time. It takes most of the morning, but now we are ready to assemble our line again and make this fearsome swath through the forest. When Daniel comes up this way to buy barrels he takes two days to get to the cooper and back. And we’re already a half a day behind.
Also, in this season, darkness falls faster and comes deeper into a forest, so we make camp amid the trees. Thole prepares a flame with the wicks he carries with the embers, while the others of us gather kindling and sticks — all is damp. The wads of nearly dry leaves we find under the wet make a smoky blaze but the flame is slow in finding the oaken sticks so we have lots of smoke and hardly a flame. The clearing autumn eve brings the hoary frost and seven of us crowd in a circle around our pitiful little spot of warmth with our stockings nearly in the ash. Seven we are, as the Count has made another trek to a more private place for his stink. He’s probably suffering the woes of fear in leading his men into battle.
A few logs catch flame so we move back a bit, not for the heat of it, but for the billows of smoke rising making whispy fat pillows of gray, muffling the sharp moonlight’s corpuscular rays through the pillars of trees.
Then comes the agonizing voice of terror screaming in the night!
(Continues Tuesday, November 2, 2021)