Daaskmere Monk

William of Meadowsford

Book Cover

arrowShawn Postoff

Copyright © 1997 - 2009
arrowInfinitive Ink Limited


III ill title Meadowsford Dale

So with those words ended my brief childhood days,
But I was too young to then fully appraise
The truth of the matter concerning my fate:
The morning thereafter the town I’d vacate,
And travel me northward to lush, lordly lands,
Where challenging lessons and heavy demands
Did ‘wait my arrival, devotion expect.
The Order of Chivalry ‘came my new sect.

I hardly need tell you the difference I took:
My whole transformation began with my look.
I shed my old rags and assumed a new cloth,
And quickly was faded my semblance of Goth.
I had me a tunic, cut off at the knee,
Where out from its under my legs could all see.
Its colour most lively, a rich shade of blue,
And draped on my shoulders a mantle hung too.
Its clasp was of silver to fasten it tight,
And still could I hardly believe in this sight.
‘Twas I wearing silver - my mantle and belt:
They both wrapped around me so gently I felt
My body enlivened, and hope released free -
These garments now symbol’d new actions for me.

‘Tis doubtless you wonder how I could possess
Such clothes I’ve described in whose stitches I dressed.
‘Twas Father Andreas, petitioned the stores
Behind some forgotten and cellar-dark doors
That hid in the church where the townsfolk did meet
Before the cathedral was fully complete.
“Preserved,” he informed me, “from days years ago,
When youthful ambition was custom to grow.
‘Tis not in the latest of fashion, I know,
Yet still in its colour your spirit will show.”

And so came my outfit, ‘twas eagerly donned,
No longer as peasant was I to be pawned.
And now, nobly clad, did I make my depart,
From Canterbuild northward my journey did start.
My escort with Father Andreas did serve,
He guided our horses up Leighton’s west curve.
We followed the shoreline as close as we could,
Sometimes along cliffs and at others through wood.
Then meeting a river we traveled upstream,
And seeking the source of its natural theme,
We entered a valley ‘twixt high, wooded hills,
Whose essence, when thought on, my longing fulfils.
In time we encountered a thin strip of road,
And followed the markings that clearly it showed,
‘Til soon was revealed at the end of its trail,
The splendour and beauty of Meadowsford Dale.
I gazed me with wonder the mansion-made home,
Whose features were carvings of heavy, old stone,
With towers and turrets uplifted from grounds
That offered high gardens and animal sounds.

The door was then opened and outward there strode
The man who’d agreed to let share his abode.
His stature was tall, and accomplishment spoke
In each of his paces of rhythm unbroke.
“I welcome you, William,” his voice carried weight,
“To this, your new home, my respected estate.
I trust you are ready to start your new role,
And follow the lessons from which we will dole.
‘Tis I, your first Master, but others shall teach:
You’ll learn here from many who distantly reach
From deep in their wisdom, to guide and impart
The training that one day shall beat in your heart.
My name, eager novice, remains the last thing:
Sir Robert of Meadowsford, Knight to the King.”

With that was I guided to find my new space,
A room I would share with two lads in the place.
The three of us there, we would learn as a group,
Our training would bind us a brotherhood troupe.
(I’ll speak, rest assured, of their names and their traits,
But ere I do that there is more which awaits.)

Throughout all my training I’d meet many men,
Who’d light each his own face of knightly cut gem.
I’ll write first of Wimstayme, a gracious, good friend,
Whose hand in the household much service did lend.
His role was to have dual methods impart:
The aspects of chasing and falconry art.
His skill was a disciplined model to gain,
His mouth was a temple where silence did reign.
When words issued forth they were quick with a point,
And sometimes with poison they’d arrows anoint.
His features were angled, with sharp, piercing eyes,
His manner was much like the falcons he prized.
He brought me to know all the rud’ments of chase,
And also the four rules of hawking and pace:
I learned how to fly a bird, feed it in mews,
To call it on wing when a friendship I’d fused,
And fin’ly I learned how to keep it with me,
Retain it at will so it wouldn’t fly free.
Great days did I spend with my falcon well trained,
Small gaming exposure I steadily gained.

Of higher importance than birds at my hand,
Were saddles below me that had to be manned.
The art of chevalerie, riding and reins,
Of giving commands to see galloping gains,
And finding acceptance ‘twixt man and his horse,
‘Twas these the skills learning would have to enforce.
For what was a knight without rule o’er his mount?
A king missing crown, or a waterless fount.
Sir Robert made clear to each squire at the Dale,
That weakness at saddle and knighthood would fail.
So eager was I to find ease at the reins,
With hours of practice committed to pains.
In time to some confidence could I make claim,
On horses my riding saw absence of shame,
And noble my posture of stallions was made,
‘Twas even Sir Robert who praised me my grade.

So falcons on left hand and reins in my right,
I’d learned how to tame me the beasts of a knight.
But other dimensions expectantly came,
They vied for my eager attention the same.
Most obvious here is the iron and bronze:
The weapons and armour a warrior dons.
My stature was forced to accustom its frame
To heavier burdens protection would name.
A full combination of plate mail and chains -
Whose modern design gave mobility gains -
Was fitted and strapped to my body and head.

“To armour,” said Robert, “Your thoughts must be wed.
A second encasement of flexible skin,
Upon you it shields from the Reaper’s old grin.
Get used to the weight it was shaped and designed,
Its hard limitations must fix in your mind.
In battle, ‘tis tragic, if raising to strike,
You find that your armour and tactics dislike.”

‘Twas also with weapons Sir Robert did teach.
The first was the sword with its treacherous reach.
I’d found, in arriving, at seven years old,
The weight of the blades could I barely uphold.
But ne’er was too early, my master assured,
So I with the heaviness tried and endured,
Till soon I grew comfort with wielding the blade,
And sparring improved as more practice was made.

On top of the broadsword, were other fine tools,
That called for adjustment of combat and rules.
The mace and the axe were a hard, brutal pair,
Designed so their wielder through armour could tear.
And given their purpose, to institute fear,
The needed defense became painfully clear:
A shield was a constant companion in war.
Without it, a knight could be hidden no more,
For now was he open to th’eyes of his foe,
And waiting, near helpless, to fall at a blow.

‘Twas after the lessons were ended each day,
With instruments stored in the armoury way,
I’d take to my horse for a ride from the Dale,
To make expeditions unburdened by mail.
But sometimes when rain from the heavens would fall,
I’d stay at the manor, and others would call.
I came to know servants and kitchen staff too,
Befriended the gard’ners and stablehand crew.
With mem’ries of Canterbuild fading away,
The teachings of Meadowsford settled to stay.

‘Tis well now to tell of the boys in my home,
Explain how this novice was rarely alone.
Good Richard I met the first day I arrived.
He greeted me kindly with words uncontrived.
We quickly grew friendship, shared laughter and play,
We practiced together our sparring each day.
‘Twas he in whose comp’ny that time did impress,
Engaging at night in long hours of chess.

Brave Duncan, the other soul there I would meet,
Was born of the peerage and felt it complete.
His skill on the horse at the chase was unmatched,
And for it, from jealousy, friends would detach.
But I kept my faith, and we often talked long,
Together we chorused a passionate song
Whose words spoke of friendship and brotherhood love:
O’er worldliest wealth soared our cov’nant above.
These two special fellows brought joy to my days,
And clearly I see them through time’s distant haze.

Together we three learned as one in a pack,
Not only of hunting, but letters and tact.
For knightly endeavour is more than the fight,
(Tho’ one can’t deny combat’s primary right.)
But still there are other things needed and taught:
To learn one of reading and writing and thought;
To know how to sign one’s right very own name;
And grasp the quill bravely like sword all the same.
Forgive me this brief upward swelling of pride,
But I learned quite quickly the parchment to ride
With letters and scriptures and dark, flowing ink.
(It was that ability then, I do think,
That had me imbibe my impressible soul
With words in whose absence I’d never be whole.)

The chaplain was strictest with those older boys
Who longed for the playtime with sparkling knights’ toys.
But us he directed a kindness and love,
No doubt as our reading skill towered above
The other impatients who thoughtlessly said,
“Such letters won’t help when the battle has bled!”

Yet thought we quite differently from all the rest:
We knew that the readings were also a test
Of worth and devotion to unworldly things,
And all the salvation that faith fully brings.
In hand with the letters, religion did teach
Of hearts truly Christian foes’ blades could not reach.
A Soldier of Christ did I yearn to attain
In status and mind, so a slave I became
To life as a damoiseau, lower in rank
Than squires, who had for their place age to thank.

And so I continued to serve my good lord.
My manners at table I ardently chored.
I learned of his household, his lady and state,
His wealth, I imagined, and power was great.

The years, they passed on, and quickly I grew,
Not only in stature, but strength and skill too.
And when I did reach the ripe age of fourteen,
My greatest ambition so visibly keen,
My status in that grand estate higher rose:
To call me a Squire Sir Robert then chose.

‘Twas then, I assure you, adventures did start.
For I was afforded a much greater part
In life of my lord, who did then recognize
That mine was a service to covet and prize.
Tho’ eager were others to come them a knight,
‘Twas I all alone who’d acquired the sight
And wisdom to see so much deeper than sword:
I had me a healthy respect of the Lord.
And so was I taken right under his wing,
To gain me a knowledge of every great thing
That went to the tourneys and battles and feasts,
I traveled with Robert and tended his beasts.

But now I must pause here this quick-moving tale.
The hour is late and the light starts to fail,
As slowly wax drips down to pool at the base
Of flickering candle that’s losing its face.
I urge you to stop here for rest and for strength,
Come back in some time to continue at length.
I’ll sleep for the evening and ‘morrow resume
My life as a squire for you to consume.
‘Tis then on this story will darker days fall:
The horrors upcoming will scare and appall.
I’ll warn you again and implore you to heed:
Beware of the words you are destined to read.