Monday, June 16, 2008

1.5.09


"And why you didn't want to?"

"Because he required us to dismount and apologize on foot."

The king put his hair behind his ears and was about to say something when a courtier entered to announce that the Knight of Lichtenstein was asking for an audience.

Hearing this king Jagiello looked at Jasko of Tenczyn, then at Macko. He ordered them to remain hoping to take advantage of this opportunity to bring the affair to an end.

Meanwhile the Teutonic Knight entered, bowed to the king, and said:

"Gracious lord! Here is the written complaint about the insult which I suffered in your kingdom."

"Complain to him," answered the king, pointing to Jasko of Tenczyn.

The Teutonic Knight, looking directly into the king's face, said:

"I know neither your laws nor your courts; I only know, that an envoy of the Order can complain only to the king."

Jagiello's small eyes flashed with impatience; he stretched out his hand however, and accepted the complaint which he handed to Tenczynski.

The castellan unfolded it and began to read; but the further he read, the more sorrowful and sad his face became.

"Sir," he said finally, "you are seeking the life of that lad, as though he posed danger to the whole Order. Is it possible that the Knights of the Cross are afraid even of the children?"

"The Knights of the Cross are not afraid of anyone," answered the komtur, proudly.

And the old castellan added:

"And especially of God."

The next day Powala of Taczew did everything he could before the court of the castellan, that would lessen the enormity of Zbyszko's offence. But in vain did he attribute the deed to young age and lack of experience; in vain he said that even someone older would also have believed that it was God's providence. But there was one thing the knight could not deny, had it not been for him, Zbyszko's spear would have pierced the Teutonic Knight's chest. Kuno had brought to the court the armor which he wore that day; it became obvious that it was so thin that Zbyszko with his great strength, would have pierced it through and killed the envoy, if Powala of Taczew had not prevented him. Then they asked Zbyszko if he intended to kill the Teutonic Knight, and he could not deny it. "I warned him from afar," said he, "to point his lance, and had he shouted in reply that he was an envoy, I would not have attacked him."

Hearing those words the knights who, out of sympathy for the young lad, were present in great numbers have begun to say loudly: "True! Why did he not reply?" But the castellan's face remained gloomy and severe. He ordered all present to be silent, then after short silence looked sharply at Zbyszko, and asked:

"Can you swear that you saw neither the mantle nor the cross?"

"No!" answered Zbyszko. "Had I not seen the cross, I would have thought he was one of our knights, and I would not have attacked one of ours."

"And how was it possible to find any Teutonic Knight near Krakow, except an envoy, or some one from envoy’s staff?"

To this Zbyszko did not reply, because there was nothing to be said. To everybody it was clear, that if the Lord of Taczew had not interfered, there would lie before them not the armor of the envoy, but the envoy himself, an eternal disgrace to the nation. Therefore, even those who sympathized with Zbyszko with their whole souls understood that he could not expect a mild sentence.

In fact, after a while the castellan said:

"As you did not stop to think whom you were attacking, and you did it without anger, therefore our Saviour will forgive you; but you had better commit yourself to the care of the Most Holy Lady, because the law cannot condone your offence."

Having heard this, Zbyszko, although he expected such words, became somewhat pale; but he soon shook his long hair, made the sign of the cross, and said:

"God's will! I cannot help it!"

Then he turned to Macko and looked expressively at Lichtenstein, as if to recommend him to Macko's memory; his uncle nodded in return that he understood and would remember. Lichtenstein also understood the look and the nod, and although he was as courageous as implacable, a cold shiver ran through him, so dreadful was the face of the old warrior. The Teutonic Knight knew that between him and that knight it would be a question of life or death. That when his mission as an envoy was ended, they will meet, even at Malborg, the heart of order’s state.

Meanwhile, the castellan went to the adjoining room to dictate the sentence to a secretary. Some of the knights during the interruption came closer to the Teutonic Knight, saying:

"May they give you a more merciful sentence in the great day of judgment!"
But Lichtenstein cared only for the opinion of Zawisza, because he was noted all over the world for his knightly deeds, his knowledge of the laws of chivalry and his great exactness in keeping them. In the most entangled affairs in which there was any question about knightly honor, they used to go to him even from distant lands. Nobody contradicted his decisions, not only because there was no chance of victory in a combat with him, but because they considered him "the mirror of honor." One word of blame or praise from his mouth was quickly known by the knighthood of Poland, Hungary, Bohemia and Germany; and he could decide between the good or bad fame of a knight.

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