The Last Lantern

Chapter 35 - Sir Donal's Squire

 

@copyright Jean G Hontz 2009

 

“Yes, he is scrawny,” Sir Donal agreed. He and another knight were regarding Molly critically. “Still,” Donal added sunnily, “he’s my sister’s youngest son. Family. Such a bore. So I’ve agreed to take him on as my squire. I’m not sure he can even lift that sword he’s got on his back.”

The other knight laughed, slapped Donal on the back and went back to his tankard and flirting with the barmaid.

Molly frowned ferociously at Donal. She hated being made fun of.

“Now off you go. See that my clothes are put to order, Bert. And do get yourself something in the kitchens. Surely they’ve got some stew or something back there, for the likes of you. Off you go, boy.” he added, giving Molly a solid shove toward the kitchens.

She went. She hated this idea of Donal’s to pretend she was his squire. At least they had a warm room for the night, and hot food. And since she was supposed to be Sir Donal’s squire, she’d sleep in his room and not with servants, so that worked far better, she grudgingly admitted.

She made her way to the kitchen and accepted the bowl she was given. She’d have found it horrible at Rosslyn but right now anything hot and filling was welcome, even if it had hardly any meat in it. She stuffed down every bit and was grateful when the cook offered her a second helping.

“That Sir Donal,” the cook commented. “He’s handsome! Not to mention polite and with such a fine laugh. No wonder he’s a court favorite.”

Molly frowned.

“Well, so they tell me. You’d know better, I dare say.”

Molly shrugged. “Don’t know. Never been to court. He just... chose me to be his squire a few days ago.”

“Well, ain't you the lucky one! And you will see the King and learn about the Court and all the intrigue I hear goes on there. So you stop your pouting. Being squire for a fine knight like Sir Donal is an opportunity most boys would kill for.”

Molly opened her mouth but shut it before she said something stupid. The thought of killing..

“You’ll be trained to fight, I dare say, and to use that sword you carry like a real warrior.”

“I will?” Molly hadn’t realized that. She hadn’t ever been around knights. Apparently she wasn't entirely clear on what a squire was. She’d thought all a squire did was clean up after his knight. And she’d already realized Sir Donal would be a trial. How Lady Emily put up with him, was beyond Molly.

“Do I get armor too?” Molly asked the cook.

“Don’t you know anything, boy?” Cook demanded, and laughter from behind Molly made it apparent she didn’t.

“Course you get armor,” replied the boy standing behind her. He was the squire for the other knight Sir Donal was dining with.

“Well, I only got picked to be a squire the other day,” Molly muttered angrily. “He hasn’t told me everything yet.”

“Well,” replied the boy, “you get to clean and care for the knight’s horse and his gear and his armor and himself, if he’s of a mind.”

At Molly’s giant eyed look he laughed. “You know, get their hot water for a bath, suds him down, I’ve even heard some squires are required to shave their knights, some of ‘em being too drunk to be trustworthy near a razor.”

“Oh,” Molly replied feeling embarrassed. She had no idea how to use a razor. And she’d never seen a man naked. “Your knight..”

“Sir Justin,” the boy supplied. “And I’m Nate.” The boy spit in his hand and held it out.

Molly only hesitated a moment. Mostly to remember what Donal had called her. “Bert,” she replied, and spit in her own palm and took Nate’s offered hand. She squeezed as much as he did.

“We should spar if our knights do,” Nate declared. “Although you’re skinny. Not sure you could even hold up that sword.”

Molly frowned but bit her lip not to retort.

“Sir Justin is a Lakeland,” Nate nattered on. “They’re a wealthy family. He doesn’t appear in court very often, though. I envy you squiring for Sir Donal. He’s there all the time, so I’m told.”

“Oh,” Molly said, trying to appear nonchalant about it all. Rather than terrified. He’s a Rebel. Wouldn’t that be dangerous?

Nate nodded. “The Egans have always served the White Rose.”

Molly nodded sagely, pretending she had an idea what Nate meant by ‘white rose.’ She listened to Nate prattle on. He was a wealth of information about the capital in general and the palace in particular. Or so he claimed. But if he’d never been there, like he admitted, how did he know so much, Molly wondered. She filed what Nate said away and decided she needed to ask Sir Donal lots and lots of questions he hadn’t seen fit to explain to her, yet.

Nate finally wound down and decided he’d best got to his knight’s room and prepare it for Sir Justin. Molly thanked the cook for the bit of apple crumblecake she'd given her and said she was off to do the same. Before she climbed the stairs though she peeped into the greatroom. Sure enough, Sir Donal was laughing and chatting with not only Sir Justin but with several other wealthy looking travelers. And just to reassure herself of his well-being, she looked round for Phillip. There he was, sitting with a couple of other young men by the fireplace, a mug of spiced wine in front of him. Phillip. In order to throw off any pursuit, had ridden in right after the postroad carriage arrived, an hour after she and Sir Donal had. In bad weather many outriders tended to travel along with the regular carriages, so one more single young man traveling with that group didn’t stand out too much. And here at the inn he seemed to be fitting in as well. He was posing, at Sir Donal’s suggestion, as just what he was. Youngest son of a lord who had few prospects and was now off trying to find a place for himself in the world.

Molly hadn’t really thought about that before she'd overheard Donal and Phillip talking. It really did suck, she decided, to be a younger son. She knew his father would inherit Rosslyn, and figured all his family would live either there at their own estate in Greensway, where they were from. It had never occurred to her a father would just toss a son out with nothing. Although, she suddenly realized, Grandfather had done just that with her own father.

The world was just too strange, she decided, and headed up to her and Donal’s room.

 

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