Thus the boy, who as son of a serf had been nobody, gained status and lost freedom. And the girl, who had been of the village, lost freedom and gained a husband. For her mother, it was half joy and half sadness; for her father it was disappointment tinged with relief. When a man has several daughters, there never seem to be enough husbands to go around.
That ended the formula, but Marquart continued, addressing Urel with words he wanted all those assembled to hear.
“Urel, today you are a man. Today, you gained the axe, and with it, land and family and a future. Guard yourself against foolishness. Even a warden set over you can find himself beyond the axe.”
The crowd fell silent. Beyond the axe. It was a place no one went by choice. To leave behind the Lord’s axe, and the fealty it symbolized, and become one of the hungry hunters of the high hills — it was done only in the final desperation of starvation. It was outlawry of the most unforgiving type.
By his words, Marquart had reminded them all of Dutta’s execution, and of Jor’s outlawing. More than that, he had declared that Jor, the warden who had tried to become Lord, was now lower than a serf.
# # #
Dymal was waiting for Marquart when he returned to the manorhouse after walking his fields with Urel. Marquart dismounted, surprised, and was surprised again when he realized that the priest was alone.
“I did not expect to see you here,” he said. “Is something wrong?”
“Nothing immediate, but we have things to discuss. I came to you.”
Marquart paused in thought, then said, “I appreciate that. You oppose me?”
“Opposed you. In the matter of the village taxes. I was wrong.”
“Because I won?”
Dymal shrugged. “In a sense, because you won. If you had not had the strength to collect the taxes, you would not have deserved the taxes — and I would have been right. But it is more than that. I should not have misjudged your capacity. In that, I was very wrong.”
For a moment, Dymal did not reply. He wanted to shout, “Why did you kill Dutta? You could have punished him with a loss of some of his lands. You could have exiled him. Why did you kill him?”
He did not say any of those things, because they would have only widened the rift he was trying to close. Instead he said, “Today we worked together, each doing his own part for the people for whom we are both, in our own way, responsible.”
“We are not friends. I doubt we ever will be. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work together.”
“And from me you want . . .?”
“Nothing. I was the one who was wrong, so the reparations are mine to make. I came to tell you that I no longer oppose you.”
“You offer — allegiance?”
“No. My fealty is to the menhir and to the Damesept. I offer to stay out of your way as much as my position and my conscience allow.”
“And in return?”
“I ask that you listen with an open mind to what I am about to say.”
Marquart laughed. “As I am half convinced of your sincerity, my mind is half open. Will that be enough?”
“Your son is of extraordinary power. His ai is like a furnace, burning. Do you know this?”
“I am listening.” more Monday