Chapter Thirty-Nine

Rolf examined the men on the platform. Ulrich stood with head bowed and shoulders slumped. Konrad stood straight and held his chin high. Something still wasn’t right about him. Nonetheless, Rolf was glad he had not shed blood—guilty or innocent. To slay an attacking wolf or bear was one thing; to kill a man was quite another. He felt guilty about his outburst toward Ulrich. If he could get his father’s stupid sword from Count Godfrey, he’d quietly slip away.

So, the little kitchen girl was heir to the castle. Good for her. She was a brave and honest person. She’d make a great and good lady. Too bad he wasn’t the sort that she would consider as a husband. Count Godfrey probably had more suitable matches for Mary—men like Baron Hagen. Rolf looked around. Hagen had left to arrange for the scaffold. Only Mary with Blaz standing by to carry her, Godfrey and two barons, and Konrad, Ulrich, and their guards remained on the platform. The courtyard was deserted.

Mary glared at Konrad, who appeared indifferent to her wrath. His guards had released his arms but remained close by either side. 

What really happened to the Dragon? Rolf looked for Columba. Though his big work was finished, the monk—or whatever he was—stood with arms outstretched in front of the castle’s meat closet, formerly its chapel. Giving thanks? Praying to purify it more likely.

Having already offered thanks for the expulsion of the Dragon, Rolf now prayed for his adventure to end. As soon as he retrieved his father’s sword, held at the moment by Count Godfrey, Rolf would return home. He must go quickly. His family might be in peril.

“I believe this is yours.” Godfrey must have recognized Rolf’s attention. The count and his nobles had taken turns examining the old blade. They too had commented on its uniqueness. Now he offered the sword to Rolf. 

“My father’s, my Lord.” He took the sword in his left hand, cradling his staff against his right shoulder. Though he’d never touched the old blade, he remembered studying its wood grain pattern as it hung in the hall. It was older and more significant than he imagined. Why hadn’t the holy brothers told his father. Maybe they couldn’t read Latin as well as they pretended.

He hefted it. The sword was shorter and lighter than those currently favored by knights. Rolf ran a finger down the light swirling patterns on the nearly black blade. The single Latin word appeared forged into the guard. He hadn’t noticed the word before. Maybe the sword hung with it facing the wall. But why? Was his father’s pride mixed with fear? Did the word ‘truth” have a special meaning?

“Stay for dinner.” Godfrey reached for the sword. 

Rolf couldn’t refuse this great lord, but he returned it with reluctance.

Godfrey slid the sword under the belt from which his own sword hung. “I wish to talk to you and Columba about what this blade means before you take it home.”

“My Lord, if I may be excused, I must hurry home now. Konrad may have dispatched men to harm my family. He seemed inordinately interested in this sword.”

“Did he?” Godfrey looked at Konrad, who made no sign that he listened. “I will see that your father is warned and reinforced. Today, in fact.”

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