Sunday, May 18, 2008

1.5.06


But Kuno quietly endured the threatening looks, and answered slowly and precisely:
"Our Order, before it came to Prussia, fought in Palestine and even there the Saracens respected the envoys. You are the only ones that not respect them, that is the reason I called your customs pagan."

At these words the uproar increased. Around the table again were heard shouts: "Woe! Woe!"

But they subsided when the king, who was furious, clasped his hands in the Lithuanian fashion. Then the old Jasko The Ax of Tenczyn, castellan of Krakow, venerable, grave and dreaded because of the importance of his office, arose and said:

"Noble Knight of Lichtenstein, if you, an envoy, have been insulted, speak, and severe punishment will be given quickly."

"It would not have happened to me in any other Christian country," answered Kuno. "Yesterday on the road to Tyniec I was attacked by one of your knights, and although he could very easily recognize by the cross on my mantle who I was, he made an attempt on my life."

Zbyszko, having heard these words, became very pale and involuntarily glanced at the king, whose face showed terrible anger. Jasko of Tenczyn was surprised, and said:

"Can it be?"

"Ask the Lord of Taczew, who witnessed the incident."

"All eyes turned toward Powala, who stood for a while gloomy with lowered eyelids, then he said:

"Yes, it is so!"

Hearing this the knights began to shout: "Shame! Shame! The earth will devour such a man!" In disgrace some of them began to strike their chests with their hands, and others to twist the tin dishes, not knowing what to do with their eyes.

"Why did you not kill him?" shouted the king.

"Because his head belongs to the court," answered Powala.

"Have you put him in prison?" asked the castellan, The Ax.

"No. He is a noble, who swore on his knightly honor, that he would appear."

"But he will not appear!" ironically exclaimed Kuno, raising his head.

At that moment a young voice resounded behind the Teutonic Knight:

"God forbid that chose dishonor over death. I did it, Zbyszko of Bogdaniec!"

After these words the knights rushed toward the unfortunate Zbyszko but they were stopped by a threatening nod from the king who rose from his chair and began to shout in an angry voice:

"Cut his head off! Cut his head off! Let the Teutonic Knight send it to his master in Malborg!"

Then he called to the young Lithuanian noble standing near.

"Hold him, Jamont!"

The frightened Jamont put his trembling hands on Zbyszko's shoulders who turned and said:

“I will not run.”

The white bearded castellan of Krakow, The Ax of Tenczyn, raised his hand as a sign that he wished to speak, and when everybody was quiet, he said:

"My gracious King! Let this komtur be convinced that not your impetuous anger, but our laws will punish with death anyone who insults an envoy. Otherwise he will think that there are no Christian laws in this country. Tomorrow I will judge the offender."

The last words he said louder as though not expecting any challenge that could change his decision. Then he said to Jamont:

"Shut him in the tower. As for you, Lord of Taczew, you will be a witness."

"I will give complete testimony about the youngster’s offence which could not be committed by any adult," answered Powala, looking gloomily at Lichtenstein.

"He is right!" immediately said some knights. "He is a young lad! Why should the shame be put on all of us?"

There was a moment of silence, and angry looks were cast at the Teutonic Knight.

In the meanwhile Jamont led Zbyszko to the archers standing in the castle’s courtyard. In felt pity in his young heart for the prisoner, which was increased by hatred of the Germans. But as a Lithuanian, accustomed to blindly follow the orders of his grand duke and king and now horrified by his wrath, he began to whisper to the young knight:

"Do you know, what I would do if in your place? Hang myself, I tell you! It will be the best if you do it now! The king is angry and they will cut off your head no matter what. Satisfy the king. Hang yourself my friend. Such is the custom in my country."

Zbyszko, half dazed with shame and fear, at first did not seem to understand the meaning of the words, but finally he understood them and stopped amazed:

"What do you say?"

"Hang yourself! Why should they judge you. You will satisfy the king!" repeated Jamont.

"You, hang yourself!" exclaimed the young noble. "They have baptized you but your pagan skin remains on you. Do you not know that it is a sin for a Christian to kill himself?"

The noble shrugged his shoulders:

"It would not be at your own will. They will behead you just the same."

It came to Zbyszko that for such words he should challenge the eastern noble to the duel but he suppressed this desire because there was no time for that.

Instead, he dropped his head sadly and allowed himself to be handed over to the archers.

In the meanwhile everybody's attention in the dining hall was turned somewhere else. Danusia seeing what is going on could not bread out of fright. She got pale and stood motionless like a figure in a church. But when she heard that they were going to behead Zbyszko and saw him led away, she was seized with great fear, her mouth quivered and at once she began to cry so loudly and so pitifully, that all faces turned toward her and the king himself asked her:
"What is the matter with thee?"

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