Chapter Four Ebb and Flow.
The classroom was warmed by the logs burning merrily in the grate and the hanging oil lamps gave a flickering light.
Tomas and Sophia sat side by side at there desks fingering the chalk and slates nervously.
The door opened and brother Patrik hobbled into the room his dancing blue eyes noticing everything.
“Don’t stand up children please be seated.” He waved them back to their seats his smile as warm as the fire.
“Now.” He said. “Today I’d like to know what you know. Tomas how many days in a week? And how many weeks to a month?”
Tomas gave his sister a quick grin.
“There are eight days in a week, seven for working and one for resting. There are four weeks to a month plus a saints day.” He said brightly.
“What are the Saints days called and in the correct order if you please?”
Tomas blushed in embarrassment and look down at his feet praying for divine intervention.
“Don’t worry Tomas that is why you are both here, to learn.” Patrik said gently. “Do you know them Sophia?”
Sophia cocked her head and listened for a moment.
“The Holy Saints are.” She smiled a smile that lifted Patrik’s soul. “First of the year is Aaron of San Malo, then Aurelia of Brittany, Bernadette of Anjou, Edburga of Herm, Margaret of Hibernia, George of Angle, Adelaide of Alsace, Castile of Galicia the Mussel Woman, Anna the Prophetess of Aquitaine, and lastly Tabitha of Liguria.”
“Well done young lady. At the end of the year we have All Saints Day, our Lords Day, also called New Years Eve, and finally every four years we celebrate Tomas the Doubters day.” Patrik smiled warmly at the pair of them. “Now let us check your writing skill, write out the alphabet on your slates. I want to see nice and clear letters.”
And so the lesson went on with both English and maths being checked during the next hour. Much to Patrik’s pleasure they did very well.
“Your parents have taught you well.” Patrik said.
“The Holy Lady taught me and I in turn taught Tomas.” Sophia said with a beaming smile. “We helped father with his official letters.”
Patrik was uncomfortable at this revelation but didn’t challenged the girl deciding to do that in less formal surroundings later.
“Can you name the different Angel types and what they represent?”
The children looked down at their feet in embarrassment once more.
Patrik smiled warmly at them.
“Angel’s are the lowest rank of Heaven and are advisers to the common man. Archangels are next and are the military wing of Heaven, the advisers to Kings and generals, and normally in armour. The next are Powers, the wingless administrators of Heaven. Normally they carry the orb and sceptre. Then comes the Thrones the advisers to Kings and Queens. They have four wings and four faces on a head that slowly rotates over their bodies. The Virtues are bright balls of light.
Then Wheels which are just that. Enormous multi eyes Wheels.
Cherubim are winged babies holding swords of flame.
Seraphim are the six winged advisors to our Lord.”
There was a knock at the classroom door.
Sir Alexander came in to find the children standing by their stools in respect.
“Good morning Brother, children.”
“Good morning my Lord.” the children said in unison.
“If you are finished with Tomas Holy Brother? I need him for the class on law.”
“Of course my Lord. Run along Tomas.” The monk and the knight gave each other satisfied smiles.
Tomas paused at the door before turning around to face brother Patrik.
“Thank you Holy Brother.”
Then he was gone.
“I am going to visit the sick in the infirmary would you like to join us or would you prefer to go home?” He asked gently.
Sophia cocked her head over to one side and listened for a moment.
“I will join you, I think that is our Ladies wish.” She said seriously.
“Was the Holy Lady talking to you just then?” Patrik said extending his senses as subtly but as effectively as he could.
“No Brother not that time but I listen just in case.” She smiled sweetly melting Patrik’s heart.
At the infirmary door the monk paused a moment.
“There may be unpleasant sights in the hospital girl so if you feel unwell you have my permission to leave straight away. Understood? Good.”
He could see the child steel herself for what she may see with a courage that belied her age.
Together they entered into the long room with its rows of occupied beds.
The first bed they came across was of a young boy close to Sophia’s age who was clasping his injured arm and weeping from the pain.
Without asking Sophia sat on the bed beside him.
“Hello, my names Sophia what is yours?”
“I’m Bernard, the Wheelwright’s son.” He said through tightly clenched teeth.
“Please to meet you Bernard. How did you injure your arm?”
“I fell off my dad’s wagon like a silly fool and landed wrong.” He tried not to show his tears to this beautiful young girl.
Sophia gently took his injured arm and ran her hand up it.
“The arm is out of its socket Brother.” She told Patrik. “If I flex it here and pull!”
She gave a grunt as the boy shivered in agony for a moment.
“There.” She said. “It will be sore and ache a bit but you should have full use of the arm now.”
The boy carefully flexed his arm with a look of incredulity that soon turned to relief.
“You’re the girl that preached in the market aren’t you?” Now the pain had gone he could think clearly once again.
“Yes that was me. I will be speaking at the children’s service here, do come if you can.”
“Yes I will try and thank you my Lady.”
“Get some rest.” Patrik said as he checked the boy over.
He looked up to see that Sophia was sitting by an old man that was dieing. Talking quietly and holding his hand.
Though Patrik was amazed at what she had done for the boy he could feel no divine intervention which could be more than said about the old man.
Patrik could feel healing warmth flowing from her young body into the old mans skeletal frame.
The old man shut his eyes and gave a long shudder and was gone.
Tearfully Sophia looked up at Patrik.
“His ills were to many, I could not heal him. All I could do was ease his pain.” Tears rolled down her cheek. “Why if the Holy Lady has given me the gift to heal does she allow me to fail.”
“He was old and his time had come Sophia.” He said cradeling her to his chest. “Not even the greatest healer could stop the ravages of time. You gave him dignity, company, and no pain in his last moments and that is a thoughtful and powerful use of your gifts. But I think you have seen and done enough child.”
“No Brother I am alright now and there are others to see before I go home to rest.”
The rest of the time passed swiftly as the pair of them visited the remaining sick and injured.
Brother Patrik could only marvel at the way his young charge cheered up the patients and the Holy Nursing Sisters. When they left it was like a window had been opened to greet a bright sunny morning.
Tomas’s lesson in Law went well with his astute mind picking up the nuances well. The other pupil in the lesson was the girl Samantha who though not as quick as Tomas was still an able student and good company.
Problems came later after the lesson when Tomas had to prepare the training weapons.
He was carefully placing the dull bladed training swords in their cradles when he stopped and tried to balance the blades on his finger. The balancing point varied markedly with some close to the hilt while others were close to the tip. The last one seemed to be the best of all of them being close to being in perfect balance.
Being unable to resist he crossed to where a straw filled dummy was tied to a post as a training target. He began making classic passes at the dummy getting faster and faster when a shrill voice swore and distracted him.
“Trying to ape your betters low life.” De Anjou sneered as he took a sword from the rack. “I think I will teach you a lesson, you little bastard!”
“I thought that was your domain.” Tomas remarked calmly the sword held lightly in his hand.
“For that I will cut you.”
“Stop this nonsense.” Samantha called to no avail.
The boys circled each other both looking for an opening for a moment before the swords crashed against each other. Though very fast it was the more precise strikes of Tomas that was proving to be the most dangerous. His foot work was light and agile giving him opportunities to spin and twist out of Anjou’s reach.
Both boys had bruises from being hit by the blades and De Anjou had a shallow cut on the back of his sword hand.
Whilst De Anjou was trying to use the swords edge or point to hurt Tomas, Tomas was content to use the flat of the blade to make his strikes. In other words Tomas was trying not to harm his opponent whilst De Anjou had no such reservations.
Then suddenly Tomas seemed to falter and De Anjou saw his chance and made a thrust only to find Tomas’s sword tip in the basket work of his hilt. With a flick of the wrist De Anjou was disarmed and Tomas had both swords in his hands.
The other children who had been a silent enthralled audience for the most part erupted into spontaneous cheering.
“Affendi that was the most spectacular swordsmanship I have ever seen.” Aziz yelled his narrow face flushed with blood.
Bonnyface gripped Tomas’s shoulder in a comradely grip whilst an excited Samantha kissed him.
“Silence!!” Alexander bellowed from his vantage point in the shadows of the classroom doorway.
“They are not toys to be played with. I am ashamed of you all.” Alexander also felt ashamed himself because he hadn’t intervene but like the children had watched the fight from his spot by the door.
He came down and took the sword’s from the now nervous Tomas and angrily put them back into the rack.
“You will both be punished. Tomas you will collect the Quarterstaffs and then you will polish the swords until they shine, Anjou you will run around the field four times and I do mean run. The rest of you will run around it twice.” Alexander saw the joy on Aziz and Samantha’s face and the despair on Bonnyface’s and stored that away for later for future use.
After the others had gone Alexander sought out Tomas. He found him coming back with the polish and cloths from the storeroom.
“Tomas a moment please.”
The boy stopped a horrified look on his face.
“Be calm lad you have not done anything wrong, at least nothing further.” Alexander smiled and took some of Tomas’s burden. “I am perplexed as to why you did not retaliate edge for edge and point for point with your opponent?”
“I was not willing to harm him over a stupid argument my Lord.” Was the simple reply. “The sword he had had a poor balance point making him over compensate where mine was nearly perfect which gave me the advantage.”
Tomas took down the sword and balanced it on his finger.
“I see.” The old Paladin said before continuing. “Who taught you this Tomas?”
“Sofia my Lord. She has been teaching me for years.” He put the sword back.
“I see well thank you Tomas please carry on.”
Alexander crossed to the gateway to watch the others but his mind wasn’t really on it though he did notice that while the bulk of them were skylarking and having fun De Anjou was running for all his worth trying to beat the others in the first two laps.
Later the three men sat quietly in the Abbot’s quarters sipping chilled wine as they compared notes.
“How did you find the girl Brother.” The Abbot asked as he stared with furrowed brow into the fire.
“She is a natural healer capable of quite astonishing acts of healing but she couldn’t tell me how she did it. I would say she is a wild talent.” Brother Patrik lent back in his chair and let out a sigh. “She believes our Holy Lady speaks to her but I can’t find any evidence for that but she has a good knowledge of the litany both in the Holy language and in the common tongue.”
“The boy is a natural talent too. He grasped the rules of law quickly albeit that we dealt with simple ones and his weapon skills are the best I have seen in a boy of his age for years.” Alexander sipped the wine before adding. “De Anjou is something special too, despite all his arrogance, but I can’t say I like the boy.”
The Abbot nodded.
“I seems our investigations into them must continue but we have another problem gentlemen. Father Pierre has been to see me once again demanding that the girl be tried by the Synod Court as a witch. He has been to see our ailing Bishop and has got his support.”
“You can’t put her through that Holy Father she’s only a child.” Patrik cried.
“I intend to stall as much as I possibly can but I will not be able to block it indefinitely.” The Abbott was far from happy at the prospect. “He is gathering support quietly from some of the nobility against her. I fear I may have to give her over to an inquisitor.”
“No!” Alexander exploded.
“Do you think for one minute that I want to see a hair on that girls head harmed but I may have no choice!”
“She is going to preach in the market tomorrow it may give us a chance to see and feel if she is telling the truth but I fear it will only bring more confusion.” Patrik said.
“Is there no way we can have them here at the Abbey more at least that way we can keep them safe. I fear for their safety if what you say is true.” Alexander added.
“You will have to pay for Tomas to be taken as a Paladin student and we can have the girl up here more for lessons. I will broach the subject with Goodwoman Elizabeth on the morrow.” Patrik asked the question that had vexed him so. “Any evidence of foul play over Clarence’s death my Lord?”
“Yes some but none conclusive. Father Pierre gave him a tincture containing Arsenic. We all know the beneficial effects of Arsenic in small doses, but in his weakened state it may have been lethal. I have not ascertained any foul play by the Priest. He may have genuinely believed he was helping the poor man.”
With that dealt with the men slipped into a watchful reverie seeing who knows what in the dancing flames.
Tomorrow new shocks were to occur that would increase the pressure on all of them.