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Wednesday, 23 December 2009
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A Ghost Story of King’s Sleep
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even year had passed to the day -on the same ominous day our saviour Gilles le Breton was born so long ago- since the lord of the land, a cruel and avaricious man by the name of Jacques de Marlais, had died in a revolt of the people he had so unrelentingly extorted for his own greed, and finally to his own ruin. Having no heirs or living relatives the land was handed down by the sovereign into the care of the charge of the previous lord, a man who was his brother by rites of marriage, Pierre d'Aide Avare. True to his guardian, his was an even more harsh rule; the revolt bloodily thrown down, heavier taxes, he even punished the household for their supposedly inability to safeguard their lord. All knights and family had abandoned him over the years -which he did not rue: for now he had less mouths to feed. And now, being an old bitter man, he would reach a cornerstone of his life.

The harsh wind vainly tried to rip the shutters open in order to let in the wrath of winter. The land had been harrowed with waves of unrelenting snows which now covered the frozen earth. In a room with scant furnishings and bereft of everything safe for the most basic needs; the lord of the land sat at a simple wooden table with his master of coin, Robert de Cratchis, meticulously going over all expenditures and income. The entire table was littered with parchments and neat stacks of coins. A lone candle threw long shifting shadows against the walls. The sudden knocking on the door startled both men. The few guards and servants still working in the keep would ever try to stay away from their lord unless it was necessary. Indeed, even guests were near unheard of in Castle Londain as they received no more than the compulsory welcome from the greedy lord.
Pierre grumbled with indignant voice: "Find out who dares to disturb me this evening and send them back into the storm."
The poor Robert instantly rose from his seat, grateful to leave the table as they had sat there since noon trying to discern where two measly coppers had disappeared to. Behind the door stood a handsome young knight with a courtly smile. Frederick was one of the few visitors the castle ever received a year. And every year he would invite his uncle for dinner on King's Sleep Day and every year the latter would refuse. Surprisingly he still seemed to like his uncle ever since he underwent his years as a squire at the castle. "Good evening, Robert." With a glance at the table he added. "Still working this late?" Robert's tired eyes was as good an answer as any. The nephew then addressed his relative. "My esteemed uncle, by this light you are prone to make more errors. Your gold will be there on the morrow."
"At this rate, Frederick, it won't." The old man didn't even look up from the list of detailed rows to greet his favourite (and only) nephew. "Some-one has dared to steal from me. And if I find out who, they won't enjoy one more blissful day on this earth."
Frederick merely arched his brow at this cold welcome. "Surely no-one would have dared after what happened to the last poor sod who tried." Frederick's riding boots resounded through the chambers as he stood next to his uncle. "But I'm here for another matter. Elise was wondering whether you'd be interested in coming to dinner the day after tomorrow. We have rounded up some of the family to celebrate King's Sleep together. We'd be honoured if you'd come."
"Celebrate the birth of Gilles? Bah, nonsense!" His eyes narrowed and he impatiently waved his hand as if to dispel the notion. "Why would you waste time and money for that? The man has been dead for over a thousand years now. Nay, you'd be better off saving your money, Frederick."
The disappointment was clear in the eyes of the young knight but Pierre didn't even deign it necessary to look up from his taxes. "So you won't come?"
"Nah, that way you'll be better off." He barely heard the slam of the door as his nephew departed, engulfed as he by then was in some unclear calculations.

The flame of the candle slowly dwarfed on to reach the wax-crested chandelier and still lord d'Aide Avare occupied the time of his unfortunate master of coin who wished dearly to be with his family on this holy night. Pierre ignored the first knock on the door, hoping whoever it was would go away. Robert however walked over by the second knock to open the door. A group of knights stood at the door, their cloaks drenched by the snow and bearing simple armour. "Evening's greetings, master, are you the lord of this keep?"
Robert shook his head and brought the guests to his master, wary of his reaction. For a while Pierre seemed adamant to not acknowledge them so they'd disappear as ghosts. But the eldest of them addressed him. "Blessings of the Lady upon you, sir. We are knights of the Order of the Gillits who strive to improve the unfortunate poverty of the commoners. We ourselves have sworn an oath of penury so to better aid those..."
"And I gather you want some kind of stipend." Pierre grumbled, impatient for the knight's long and winding speech.
"It is our duty as righteous knights to give something back to those who have given us their loyalty and obedience, especially on the eve of the most holy day of the land: our holy saviour Gilles did not overcome the greenskinned horde by himself."
The old man's thin patience with people who disturbed him was no completely gone and he put them into their place. "By law these are my lands and I'll have you not confuse the minds of the mud-born, you hear? Their lives are owned by their lords who decide how to treat them. It is not your right to meddle in our affairs. Anything I leave them, that ought to be enough. Even more; they ought to be grateful!"
"And if the roles were reversed? Would you not want some way to alleviate your suffering?"
"I'd rather die than to suffer the dishonour of some knight's help without having earned it! In fact, so should they! At least that way there would be less of them and their breeding would be under control." The eldest did not dignify to reply as he stormed out of the room, followed by his two companions.

As Robert returned to the table to take his place but his lord interrupted him. "It's best we call it a day, Robert, those fools broke my concentration with their nonsense and I'm weary now. I'll see you on the morrow."
Gathering all his courage that was left to him, he asked his lord a question  to which he could already guess the answer. "Milord, if it graces you, I'd like to have the day off tomorrow. Castle life is slow at the moment and the tithes will be here the day after. I haven't asked you for much this year but I'd like to spent a day with the family."
Pierre had almost replied to deny him his leave but he hesitated. A sudden whimsical feeling had overwhelmed him which he quickly shrugged off but which he could not dismiss entirely. Even more so he didn't feel so great, a cold had crept up to him as wolf in the night. "Sure, Robert, have a day off."
"Yes, sir, I understand." Robert sullenly started to reply until the message drove through. "I... Thank you, milord."
"But you better be here by the fourth bell on Boxing Day or I'll have your hide."

Last Updated ( Thursday, 24 December 2009 )
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