Snakes and Pills

159 - drag

Three light knocks rattled against Salvatore's door. The knock of official business. Hadn't he endured enough already this week? Maybe this was finally the end. Papers of condemnation. Good. He tried to be brave. He hoped that they would schedule his execution soon.

His friend and confidant, Richard the Red, had already suffered the same fate two days ago, and for lesser crimes.

Salvatore walked to the door slowly. He could talk a big game, but he knew his end could be on the other side of this rectangular piece of wood. He had spent many days on the battlefield, and he rarely feared death. But he had some control over those circumstances, or so he felt. This was all wrong.

He swung the door to his chamber open. A court page stood there, somewhat bewildered at Salvatore's appearance. The stress over the past week left him little desire to maintain his appearance. Nobility, even lower nobility like Salvatore, was never seen in such disarray. He was especially known for his perfectly-polished armor and well-groomed steed.

The young page wasn't even sure he was in the right place. "Knight Salvatore?" he asked.

"Out with it, boy," Salvatore impatiently commanded.

"Your presence is requested in the main court immediately," the page informed him.

"On whose orders and of what business?" Salvatore asked. Two days ago, hours after his friend's death, he had been served fake summons by the rat Slevin, who wanted to collect as much gossip as he could.

"The King," the page solemnly stated. That was confirmation enough, giving false orders in the sovereign's name was grounds for execution itself. The fear in the boy's eyes told Salvatore that he spoke the truth. To answer the knight's other question, he continued: "regarding the ongoing dispute with Master Lang. My liege hopes to finally bring the matter to closure."

Salvatore nodded, and looked down at himself while doing so. "I understand. Grant me a minute to compose myself, and then I shall be along forthwith. All right, my good man?"

"Of course, sir," the page weakly smiled. Salvatore lightly closed the door and rubbed his face in his hands. He tried to think what this all could mean. He was so tired of arguing with Master Lang.

Had Salvatore said things he regretted? Absolutely. But such circumstances occurred to men of passion in the midst of a disagreement. Lang had said some truly despicable things as well. Salvatore found that fact hard to forget, but nobody else did. Master Lang was of higher blood and rank, which was all that mattered. Those above could revile the ones they peered down upon, but disrespect was not allowed to flow the other way.

Salvatore put on a fresh tunic and ran his fingers through his hair. No time for proper grooming, but if the King was to be present, then Salvatore had to be at least presentable. He thought for a moment how this might be the last time he dressed himself. This might be the last time he saw this room.

Even if he had done something truly offensive by insulting Master Lang, for that the King still would not put one of his most loyal and most capable knights to death. If Salvatore had slighted His Majesty, of course execution would be a foregone conclusion. But Master Lang was a pampered dolt. Verily, the King would understand.

Yet Richard the Red had faced such an end. His inventions had been great assets to the kingdom. Still, they could hardly compare to the contributions of a skilled and allegiant warrior, Salvatore felt certain.

He wondered, if he were so certain, why he was trembling.


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