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“I don’t get it,” Derek said, interrupting Gareth’s narrative.
“Get what?” Gwyn asked.
“If this talisman is a Silmaril, how did it end up in the hilt of a knife? It would be rather large, wouldn’t it?”
“Eärendil wears the Silmaril on his brow when he is not using it to fly Vingilot,” Finrod said.
“Hmph. Well, it sure gives off a lot of light for being that small, yet, you guys say that it didn’t glow all the time and if I’m not mistaken even your parents had never actually seen one, so how did you know or at least suspect that it was a Silmaril and not just an ordinary diamond?”
“It is rather hard to explain,” Gwyn said. “Somehow we just knew that it was no ordinary gemstone, that it was of elvish crafting. No Mortal had a hand in its creation.”
“I’d like to know how and where it was found and by whom and why did they stick it into the hilt of a knife,” Alex interjected.
“We would all like to know that,” Glorfindel said with a smile. “You say the knife was made of meteoric iron.” He directed his enquiry to Gwyn who nodded.
“Yes, we knew it was no ordinary piece of steel.”
“How large a knife are we talking about?” Finrod asked.
“Probably the size of a typical hunting knife today, perhaps slightly larger,” Gwyn answered. “My impression of the knife has been that it was more ceremonial than functional, though there is nothing to say otherwise for the blade is sharp and has never become dull. In seven hundred years I have never had to sharpen its edge and I have no idea how old it actually is. How or where the Mortals discovered it, I have no idea. So many temples and holy places have been raided by one group or another over the long ages that it could have come from anywhere.”
“Well, perhaps we will learn its history someday, but in the meantime, why don’t you continue your tale,” Glorfindel suggested.
The brothers nodded and Gareth spoke. “Whether the jewel in the hilt was a Silmaril or not, ultimately didn’t matter. When we explained to our parents how we came to possess the knife they were naturally concerned….”
For a long, agonizing moment, no one moved or spoke as they all stared down at the knife and the gem embedded in the hilt. In the fitful light of candles, the blade gleamed dully black while the jewel glowed mutely, refracting the light about it in a veritable rainbow of color.
“Quickly,” Tristan ordered. “Shutter the window lest Mortals notice the glow and wonder.”
Gareth, who was still standing, went to the room’s single window which looked out upon the street and, taking a quick look to see that there appeared to be no one about, closed the shutters and then returned to the table and sat beside his brother. Tristan ran a hand down the center of the blade.
“Careful, Da,” Gwyn warned. “The edge is very sharp.”
Tristan just nodded. His brow furrowed and he bent over the knife to examine it more closely. “There appears to be something etched into the blade.”
“We noticed,” Gwyn said with a shrug. “Just some type of decorative motif we decided. It’s very hard to make out.”
“Bring the lamp over,” Tristan commanded and Gwyn got up and went to where the oil lamp hung from the rafter shedding its light and brought it to the table. Tristan adjusted its wick to glow brighter and then, using the velvet to hold the knife, brought it as close as possible so that the lamplight shone upon the blade.
“See,” Gareth pointed. “It’s very decorative but meaningless. I have seen old swords carried by some of the knights, heirlooms of their families. On some you can still see ancient runes etched upon them, though none now can read them, but these are no runes.”
“No, in that you are correct, my son,” Tristan said softly, still staring at the blade, twisting it in one direction or another as he attempted to see what was etched there. “This appears to be tengwar, but I cannot read it.”
“Tengwar!” Iseult exclaimed. “Are you sure, my love? It has been long since you and I have set eyes upon any writing by our people and we never bothered to teach you two, so it’s no wonder that you simply thought it decorative with no real meaning.”
Tristan nodded. “This looks like rómen,” he said, touching the blade with a finger, “and I think here is anga or perhaps ñoldo. It is very hard to read these for they are not deeply etched and this is not the best light. I would take it outside in the brightness of the day but that would be too dangerous.”
“We have never exposed it to direct sunlight for fear that the jewel would glow brightly and attract attention from the Mortals,” Gwyn said.
“Well, I am glad that you obtained some measure of sense, my sons,” Tristan exclaimed as he laid the knife back on the table. “It is bad enough that you dishonored your pledge to the Templars by leaving them as you did, but to steal from them? And now you say you are being sought for?”
“We would have left regardless,” Gwyn shot back, scowling. “Gareth’s… stupidity was just an excuse.”
Gareth cringed at the words but did not contradict his brother. Iseult came and wrapped her arms around him from behind and kissed the top of his head. “It’s all right, my son. I do not blame you for what you did, for I deem that you and your brother were meant to find it as you did and bring it forth from its hiding place.”
“Why do you say that?” Tristan asked.
“Because it always struck me odd that, once the original threat they faced ended with Saladin’s death, the Templars did not release them from their vows and allow them to return home. Did you not attempt to leave?”
“We did,” Gwyn replied. “In fact, when news came to us that Saladin was dead, we went to de Sablé and asked for our release, but for some reason he refused, saying only that he valued our service to the Order too much to do so. Then de Sablé died later that same year and the new Grand Master, Gilbert Horal, had little liking for us and for what we were, but he had accepted the… the burden of our presence. We tried repeatedly to obtain our release with each new Grand Master, but for some reason, though most had no true liking for us, none would let us go and we had no chance to simply leave until now. Tell me, Ada, Nana, would you have wanted us to remain with the Templars even unto death?”
“Of course not!” Tristan exclaimed. “Yet, the manner of you leaving—”
“It was either that or face death for stealing from their treasury,” Gwyn countered. “Frankly, I don’t know how they even knew that we took the knife. There was no inventory made. We were simply told to pack everything up.”
“And yet, there must have been a record somewhere of what treasure they held,” Tristan pointed out, “else they would only be hunting you for desertion.”
“Well, I think none of us should remain in Shrewsbury for too long. Perhaps we should head west into Wales,” Gwyn said with a sigh.
“We had not planned to leave yet,” Tristan said. “At least, not for another decade, but certainly you and Gareth should not remain here. You might even consider going north to Scotland. It might be safer there than even Wales, at least until this present generation has passed on. Those who are looking for you will be dead soon enough and after a time the writ will no longer be considered valid.”
“We will stay here for a time, though,” Gwyn said. “We will just lie low for a time. My main concern is this knife. It is far too dangerous to just leave lying about.”
“No. In that you are correct and I will give it some thought,” Tristan said, frowning slightly, “but for now, you will stay here. We’ll set up a couple of pallets downstairs for when you desire to sleep.”
“We also need to find employment,” Gwyn said. “We will not burden you—”
“Son, you and your brother are not a burden but a joy,” Tristan said firmly. “As for employment… hmm… you know, just the other day, Cenred Beringar was here obtaining some medicaments and he was saying as how he despaired of ever finding suitable help for his farm.”
“And who is Cenred Beringar and why should we care?” Gwyn asked with a thin smile on his lips.
“What? Oh, of course, you wouldn’t know. He’s a moderately wealthy farmer whose farm lies south of here, halfway between Thornbury in the Long Forest and Beistan. Family’s been here for generations to hear tell. He’s a decent sort for a Mortal. There’s been a great deal of intermarriage in his family over the centuries and this being a border-march, he’s got as much Welsh blood in him as he does Saxon and Norman. At any rate, he’s looking to hire likely lads who will help him run his farm as the ones he had apparently did not work out. I don’t know the whole story. He’s a widower, you see. Wife long dead and he has no desire to remarry. No sons were added to his house, just a couple of daughters, both of whom are married and live elsewhere, neither son-in-law interested in working the farm and his two grandsons are too young yet. The farm is not so far that you would not be able to visit us on occasion.”
Gwyn and Gareth exchanged glances and Gareth shrugged. “It’s worth looking into. We’ll be rather crowded if we stay here.”
Gwyn nodded in agreement. “Well, perhaps you can contact Beringar and then we will go from there. In the meantime, what do we do with the knife?”
“Keep it with you for now,” Tristan suggested. “Give me a day or three to think about it and we’ll see. You are right that it should not remain here for too long, but I don’t like the idea of you carrying it about with you even if hidden away.”
“Yet, we cannot just abandon it,” Gareth stated. “I firmly believe that we were meant to find it and to take it with us. For what purpose, I do not know, but it has already saved our lives once. Whether it is a Silmaril or not, no Mortal should lay hands on it.”
“I agree with Gareth,” Gwyn said. “Eru knows I was tempted to just throw it into the waters of the Mediterranean as we made our way home but something always stayed me from my purpose. I am reluctant to go so far as to say we were meant to have the knife, but now that it has come into our possession, I will guard it from the Mortals at any cost. It does not belong to them.”
“Nor does it belong to us,” Tristan said, “but for now you and your brother have been chosen to be its guardian.”
“Chosen?” Gareth echoed, paling somewhat at the thought. “Do you really think so, and chosen by whom?”
“Chosen by the One,” his father replied, “for ultimately, He is the Mover of all our lives.”
“Well, for now, let us forget about the knife,” Iseult said. “Put it away, Gareth. Let us spend the rest of the evening enjoying one another’s company and catching up with our news. Tristan, perhaps some more wine?”
“Indeed, my love,” Tristan said with a smile as he stood and went to the cupboard and retrieved another jug. “Let us forget about the knife and trade tales instead.”
Both Gwyn and Gareth readily fell in with the plan and the rest of the evening was spent in describing all that they had seen and experienced while in the Holy Land and their parents told them something of their own lives as well. It was well after midnight before they ceased their tales and the four retired to their beds with the brothers sleeping downstairs before the banked fireplace, but they were all up at dawn to greet the day. Gwyn and Gareth helped their parents in the shop, mostly remaining in the back out of sight helping to mix the various herbs as directed. Tristan, meanwhile, sent a message to Cenred Beringar and later that afternoon they received a reply: the brothers were to come to Beringar’s farm the next day two hours after matins.
“If you leave right at matins, you should be there in good time,” Tristan told them when he relayed the news to them.
“We have horses,” Gwyn said. “They are stabled near the Foregate. It should not take us too long to reach Beringar’s.”
“Good enough,” Tristan said then took a look at his sons’ work. “Now, Gareth, remember, it’s a two-to-one ratio. You’ve put in too much feverfew. Add a bit more of the valerian and….”
The matins bell found the brothers on the road with the blessings of their parents and instructions on how to reach the farm. Thornbury lay within the Long Forest, straddling the old Roman road and one reached it by taking the road directly south to the village of Beistan, rather than the road to Bishop’s Castle, before turning west toward Thornbury. Beringar’s farm was situated on the very edge of the Forest between the two villages. They reached it in good time, and found Cenred Beringar easily enough, for he was working a nearby field.
“Tristan ap Hywel’s kin, are ye?” the Man said when the brothers introduced themselves. He was of middle height, well-muscled though not brawny, with dark hair beginning to turn gray, his eyes a startling blue that normally looked upon the world with humor and good will but now they were anxious-seeming and burdened with worry. “Aye, I can see the likeness. So, you’re looking for work, are ye? Do you know anything about farming, lads?”
“We grew up on a farm, Master Beringar,” Gwyn replied, “though we have been away to the east for a few years now fighting in the wars.”
“Rather young for that, are ye not?” Beringar asked, giving them a suspicious look.
“We’re older than we look,” Gwyn replied smoothly. “Perhaps you would give us a trial, say for a week, and if we do not meet with your approval, then there’s no harm done and we will not take any coin.”
“Well, as to that, fair wages for fair work, whether ye stay or no,” the Mortal said. “Very well. Your horses can be left in that field yonder. Stash your bags by the door of the house. We’ll sort out sleeping arrangements later. I’m behind in my harvesting, as ye can see. I need to bring in the crops this week or they will be lost.”
“Then the sooner we get started, the sooner we finish,” Gwyn said. “Here, Gareth, take the bags and I’ll see to the horses.”
Gareth did as he was bid and once the horses were seen to, he and Gwyn rejoined Beringar and together they began the harvesting. Both brothers worked with economical ease, falling back on previous experience of helping with other harvests, though they lay a hundred years or more in the past. By the time they heard the Angelus bells ringing from both Thornbury and Beistan, they had cleared a goodly portion of the fields and were glad for the break, joining Beringar in praying the Angelus before the three went to the house to eat their noon meal.
“Ye are good workers,” Beringar said as he passed out some cheese and bread and cups of ale. “I would not have been able to clear so much even in a day. I feared the coming winter would be a lean one for me.”
“Why do you not have more workers, Master?” Gareth asked. “It’s a fair farm, as any can see. Surely you would have plenty of helpers from the villages, young lads in need of employment.”
“Aye, but my foreman died of a wasting disease earlier in the summer in spite of all that Tristan did to help cure him. Then one of my workers ran off with the maid who did the cooking and the cleaning and I haven’t found a likely lass to take over for her. The other two lads decided they would prefer to apprentice themselves to a cooper or some such and off they went to Shrewsbury or perhaps they went to Chester or Birmingham. I don’t know and I don’t care.”
“A bit of bad luck for you, Master Beringar,” Gwyn said sympathetically, “but good luck for us, assuming you keep us on.”
“Oh, if ye continue working with as good a will a week hence as you have so far today, I have no doubt I’ll be keeping ye both on,” the Man said with a slight smile. “Now, finish up your meal and I will show you where you may sleep and then we should get back to the harvest.”
They quickly finished eating and then picked up their bags and followed Beringar to a small shed attached to his barn where they found a couple of cots and two clothes presses. “Privy’s over yonder,” Beringar said, pointing to where it was. “Ye’ll share meals with me. I need someone to come and cook for us, but so far I have not found anyone who is suitable.”
“Well, I daresay I can scrape something up for us if you’re willing to spare me,” Gwyn said with a smile. “It won’t be fancy, but it will be filling.”
“We need to send word to our kin that we are staying here for the next week at least,” Gareth said.
“I can do that easily enough,” Beringar said. “I had in mind to go into Beistan this afternoon anyway and shop for more staples, for I am nearly out, and with you two here, I’ll need to stock up.”
“Then do as you planned,” Gwyn offered, “and we will continue working the field. Here, we have a few coins left. Take this to pay for our share.” He dug out a few coppers and a single silver from his pouch and handed them to Beringar, but the Man waved the offer away.
“Nay, I’ll not be doing that. I am not so poor I cannot feed those who work for me. It will be part of your pay, though I will provide you with a few coppers as well out of what is earned from the harvest. So put your coin away, young sir. I will be back before vespers.”
He went to the barn and was soon hitching his horse to a cart and was away. Gwyn and Gareth watched him leave.
“Do you think he will keep us on?” Gareth asked.
“I think he will,” Gwyn said. “I am sorry though that we will not be able to remain here very long. Beringar does seem a decent sort and it’s a pity he must work this farm alone. I fear that when we must eventually leave, he will find himself in straiten circumstances once again.”
“Perhaps in the time we are here we can find him the help he needs,” Gareth suggested. “There must be younger sons about who would like to farm. If we can find someone like that, train him up, then, when we leave, Master Beringar will not be left bereft of help.”
“We can certainly do that,” Gwyn said in agreement. “In the meantime, I am more concerned about the knife. You brought it with you, did you not?”
“Yes. I did not feel right leaving it with Da. Tonight, after Beringar has retired, I will seek out a place to hide it where it cannot be found. I do not like to leave it in our bags.”
“Good. Just don’t choose a place where we cannot easily retrieve it when we must or forget where you placed it. Do you intend to bury it?”
“No. It would be awkward to retrieve quickly if I do. I was thinking of placing it in the hollow of a tree. There was an old oak that I saw that might do.”
“You mean the one that sits at the entrance to the farm where the road is? Yes, I noticed that. It might work. Why don’t we go and look at it now to see if it will suit while Beringar is away. Bring the knife. No sense stumbling about in the dark when we don’t have to.”
Gwyn agreed and in minutes they were walking down the dirt track to the road which was lined on either side with oaks. One in particular stood out, for it was right where the track met the road, and in fact had been the landmark they were told to look for in finding the farm. A quick examination showed a hollow that was just out of reach and they quickly climbed the tree, greeting it silently, though it did not respond.
“How far down does it go?” Gwyn asked. “No sense putting the knife in just to find that we can no longer retrieve it.”
“Here, see how far the knife goes in.” Gareth handed the knife still wrapped in velvet over to Gwyn who was in a better position to test the depth of the hollow, which turned out to be less than the length of the knife itself, yet it was wide enough that they could place the knife fully inside. Gareth jumped down and looked up, moving about to view the hollow from different angles.
“No, it’s not visible.”
“Good.” Gwyn jumped down and looked up as well and, satisfied that the knife was safely hidden from view, they returned to the farm with lighter hearts and went back to work. When Beringar returned an hour or so after nones, just as the sun was setting, he found that the rest of the field had been cleared.
“Never mind a week’s trial,” Beringar said as the brothers helped him to unload the cart. “If ye still wish to work for me, I’ll have you and gladly.” He gave them an anxious look as if fearing that after all they would not take up his offer.
“Thank you, Master,” Gwyn said, speaking for them both. “We would right willingly stay on.”
Beringar sighed with obvious relief and simply nodded as they continued to unload the cart.
Note on the tengwar: rómen (#25) = r; anga (#7) = g; ñoldo (#19) = ng.
Note on medieval time:The hours of the day were divided into seven canonical hours: matins (sunrise), prime (around 6:00), terce (around 9:00), sexte (noon), nones (around 3:00), vespers (sunset), compline (after sunset, before retiring). The length of the hours was somewhat fluid, depending on the time of year, so in the winter months they were perforce shorter than during the summer.
Historical note: Saladin died in March 1193; Robert de Sablé, Grand Master of the Templars, died in September 1193. He was succeeded by Gilbert Horal (1193-1200).
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