Outside the monk’s good sanctuary, Piérrin took out a perfect aubergine from his musette, cleaved atwain it with exsanguinette, and crumbled off some salt upon a piece, a precious sumptuary for a lowman like the Abbott, who did sit below the salt. He drank him deeply from his red wine-filled decanter. Was blind he in this blackest hour, save for precious, the good stars above him. Le chemin de Saint-Jacques had arisen recently to Father’s right, above the poplar trees his predecessors planted at St. Florentin’s fair founding back in eight-and-seventy, ninth century, while excellent King Rollo still athwarted throne of our sweet Normandy, the upper part. Also did a certain visitor, celestial, mark omen most corrupt and monstrous abid the fraught milieu!
God showed to Father Piérrin what needed him to see. It benignant, but discouraging: three horsemen riding on the western path. Ere, held they above the murk then torches high aloft. And as they neared within a quarter-lieu de poste, he saw the double lion rampant on the bloody field, the blazon of the Duke of Normandy, the Bastard William, and he knew the time drew dear; conclusionary actments were the near.
He drank up deep again and tossed the empty vessel to the yard, so chasing off some vermin scavenging who had come close, the carrion they thought would come to come for them to feed. The aubergine as well he dashed out to these snakes and vermin for his fill he’d take’d, from filling up on mortal victuals make, and further had he no more need where his path lead him trake.
He breathed a’deep and stood, now leaning on his staff of yew, what taller than himself, and straighter did it hew.
He walked deliberately to them as these three horsemen turned up Floren’s path and through the little gate of stone then front to shew the congregants withstand. Behind him he could hear upraising voices of his men and boys, and some kind of commotion aural bright and troubling made he there out to note that night.
The vanguard rider halted next to Piérrin. He had a blond mustache. “We almost could not find you in the dark. Have you run out of tallow for your candles, little fellow? Yes, it must be so. You would not hide from Baron Hamelin. No one who lives long as you could be so simple. Foolish alderman!”
“I have no need your brand of wisdom, Sir. The Lord dost guideth me, as he guides every one. Sir Knight, what shall I call you? For I wish to speak with you tonight at length.”
The knight said, “Thierry of Falaise, the second of the name, me Son of Thierry, son of Rollo. Do address me with my title for I earned it: I am Sir. I fought beside the Duke in two campaigns. I’m quite notorious within the conquered Lowland states.”
“Then why would you be as the errand boy the Bastard treat you nigh? William, Bastard be the Duke, has he you banished to the hinterlands because your mustache makes remind of nothing else but two thin pine cones with stem betwine?” The other riding men could not suppress a laugh. So Thierry glared to them at aft.
“I see that insolence runs in the communy, old man. Why, has your branded wether turned to manger, or now is he hiding still, perhaps beneath some petticoats within the nunnery? For so now, that is how we three took leave of him this afternoon behind: he hiding hind two drunkard women, throwing skirts traversely so that we would pause our interrogatories of his puny brain, conversely. Should tied around his neck a bell of brass so everyone could hear him pass. But he did bleat so, we thought not to expect to have this trouble.”
“Yes, he is a loud one,” Piérrin conceded. “And your thinking got you into this, so, mayhap, you leave thinking to your aldermen to get you out?” And Piérrin raised brow and met the gaze of Thierry proud, awaiting Thierry to ring out. But Thierry, he did not.
So on, our Piérrin: “But now, the younger man. Now, you may hear him, even ere now, making quite the racket in the doors of my fair little church. He plays there with his little friends, and well beneath that trouble for the Baron you to send. They play in dark when I am not around there to admonish them to be austere and keep their playthings rudimentary and stark.”
Now Thierry, did he out. “No more of this. Shall not you tease me any longer! Here: I have a writ from Baron Hamelin, and sealed by the Archbishop, giving way two men from every 40 from each monastery, from the service of the Scepter to service of the Crown. We are to conquer England and we’ll do it in this very year! It will be glorious, for William, and for God. They’ve heathens in the wilderness and pagans in the north. Harold, phony king himself, consorts with pagans down from Danish Marches and the Norse. This so our spies have told us, feeble man. Please now away, so we may take your lamb and just three more. And, of course, the oafish goon we see fled here before.”
Behind them, Father heard the breaking of a door frame. So he hastened.
“I have n’ether man for you.
“No, let me think. There is no oafish goon about but that which saddles on a jackass, overgrown, in front of me. I think he called his carcass Thierry, by the Lord! By Od! Ha ha!” He spun about his yew pole in a silly little jig.
And then as if to play him to remember through the fog of years he faked down now to gull the bull upon the courser here, with best men Occs and Oriental: “Ah! You mean the boy! The little boy inside who plays with cock-horse and his wooden soldiers! He’s the one you mean to march him off to war! He’s just a toddler, teether, but a biter be! A whelp! A wet! A teary little thing! Or maybe you believe there’s mice inside, who with your commandeering them, will fight aside your pretty ponies and ward off the Angle-ish of Harold, who did win the throne whilst William sat bemoaning?”
Thierry watched the jig with mouth agape and did not know what of our Piérrin to make!
“Yes! Ye wish to march the mice, to march on English marches and their fens and moors, for with your brave vociferating yawping, they will rise up to the stature of a mercenary man and take them over, these our mice!
“But mice doth drown in wetlands, do they not? You’re wet, you are the wet one, Thierry, knight benighted of the Bastard! Nary do you ken what dost ye wrought! These mice be men? Do you believe your orders can? They can’t! Your bullying will come to naught!” teased Piérrin.
Now Piérrin stopped jigging baldly and presented up quite serious and stern. “For my boys in the commune are no soldiers. Not a one. They are not equal, ere, to peasant men who work the fields and trod the grooves behind an ox until their epoch has been done. They sit in quiet contemplation, Thierry, Sir Abomination! Never do their hands become as rough as peasants’, for they sit in hierarchy nearer to the Duke than earthworm workers in the mud and dust who feedeth you unprofitable eaters there within the upper crust!”
Thierry was gobsmacked. He had not been dressed this way by lowborn Abbots or their charges in his history!
“Pray, let me see that paper, good ye towheaded and mustached and side-burnished Sir Thierry. I wish to see the seal upon it with mine own yeux anciens, so I can be sure Archbishop has so blessed your holy expedition into Kent and Mercia and Wessex and Northumberland.”
“Very well, Gra’mpère.”
The knight brought down the writ to Piérrin’s eye level.
Father struck his fateful beat within the heart of goodly Son of Man, a little prayer he whispered out!
And quickly then did Piérrin strike Thierry reaching low, square in the head with staff of quarter yew! So well-astonished was the knight buffoon, the blow unhorsed him there in midnight’s gloom!
Using unseen thin and horny plate, shaved in the springtime from a palfrey’s hoof that needed shoe, embedded secretly by Piérrin within the quarter yew, the Father pierced this courser’s eye and slapped it in the head as well with yew he fell, sending it arrearing back into the other knights. Like ninepins as they flew! Father stepped beneath the beast of eighteen hands, a creature marvelous in peace or war. Marvelous the beast in stature and in majesty, but in the moment spooked and injured, reared it, and good Piérrin did roll and duck beneath. Brought he quarterstaff again upon Sir Thierry’s naked jaw, again and to the other side his yellow, hare lipped maw.
Piérrin, he grabbed the torch and set the tabard of this knight alight! And Father also rolled away and back up to his knee. His heart did race and blood came up into its proper case. For it had been a half a score of years and nine since he had fought another man so properly in crucial time.
Sir Thierry howled and rolled about. His courser came around again from scaring both the others, and its hoof came down quite squarely ‘pon the prone knight’s chest. No maille can yet protect a man from hoof that falls from such a mammoth beast. A case of iron or Italian steel might work, but he had owned, nor worn it not. And so Sir Thierry’s chest cracked sickly as the hoof did meet quite neatly with the ground beneath. It was a horrid sound! Red blood shot forth from Thierry’s mouth, alit there in the gloaming by the flames consuming Thierry in his body and his clothing. Some of Thierry’s blood hit Piérrin right in the eyes. The courser, riderless, insensate, bolted back the path to town and Piérrin did watch it go, its red and gold rump-cover now alight as well, and aft the beast it chased, the courser’s course directed by unruly Fate and running now, it galloped at amazing pace. It surely flew! Father breathèd heavily and leaned up upon the yew. Adrenaline began to drain. He used his browning cowl-sleeve to wipe the blood off from his face and brow.
He stood, but then was doubled over with exertion. Turned he fast away from pyre there, and then turned back to Thierry, snatched the writ up from his hand, and burned it in the fire that was even then consuming up the dying knight. He was to Hell.
Sir Thierry’s masque de mort was that of utter shock. His face was coated with his own black blood and bile, and his phlegm and yellow bile did erupt from him from time to time. Some wet thing there inside Sir Thierry popped and hissed repeatedly, like cackling of firewood the sound so wicked be.
Then Piérrin knelt down near Sir and tell’d the dying fellow,
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword, and piercing even to dividing up asunder soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; is discerner of the thoughts, intents and malintents of heart. So goes the Word of God, Sirrah.”
He then could barely see through pyre’s burn the brothers finally freed themselves and running to his aid. He stood to greet them, open armed and shewing he was well to all his babes.
 A knife.
 The Milky Way.
 Halley’s Comet again.
 Occs and Oriental: East and West,
 Hebrews 4:12.