Tuesday, September 30, 2008

1.19.7


In all parts of the kingdom, they were making preparations, gravely, without boasting, as was customary for a fight for life or death; but with the silent, deadly grudge of a mighty people, which had suffered wrongs for a long time, and finally was ready to administer a terrible punishment.

In all the houses of the nobility, Zbyszko met people who were convinced that at any moment one might be obliged to mount his horse. Which surprised him since even though he also thought that there would be war; he didn’t see any signs of it coming soon. It didn’t occur to him that people’s desire might be one step ahead of actual events. He trusted other people judgment more then his own, so was pleased to see these hasty preparations he met at every step. Everywhere, all other matters gave way to thoughts about horses and armor. Everywhere, the people were gravely inspecting spears, swords, axes, helmets and javelins. The blacksmiths were busy day and night, hammering iron sheets and making heavy armor, which the refined western knights could hardly lift, but which the strong noblemen of Greater Poland and Lesser Poland could wear very easily. The old people were pulling out musty bags full of silver coins from their chests, for the war expedition of their children. Once Zbyszko passed the night in the house of a wealthy nobleman, who having twenty-two sturdy sons pledged his numerous estates to the local monastery to purchase twenty-two suits of armor, the same number of helmets and weapons of war. Zbyszko now realized that it may be necessary to go to Prussia, and he thanked God that he was so well provided.

Many thought that he was the son of a governor; and when he told the people that he was a simple nobleman, and that armor such as he wore, could be gotten from the Germans by a good blow of an axe, their hearts were filled with enthusiasm for war. Few knights seeing that armor, and desiring to possess it, followed Zbyszko to ask: "Would you fight over it?" But since he was in a hurry he had to refuse.

In Masovia, the people did not talk so much about the war. They also believed that it would come, but they did not know when. Warsaw was peaceful since the court was in Ciechanow, which Prince Janus was rebuilding after the Lithuanian raid; nothing of the old town remained, only the castle.

In the city of Warsaw, Jasko Socha, the castellan and the son of the governor, received Zbyszko. Jasko knew him, because he was with the princess in Krakow; therefore he received him hospitably and with joy; but Zbyszko, before he sat down to eat or drink, started asking about Danusia. Jasko did not know anything about her, because the duke and the duchess had been in Ciechanow since fall. In Warsaw there were only a few archers and himself, to guard the castle. He had heard that there had been feasts and weddings in Ciechanow; but he did not know which girls were married.

"But I think," he said, "that Danusia did not get married; it could not be done without Jurand, and I have not heard of his arrival. There are two brothers of the Order, komturs, visiting the prince, and some foreign guests; on such occasions, Jurand never visits the court, because the sight of a white mantle drives him mad. If Jurand were not there, there was no wedding! If you wish, I can send a messenger to make inquiries and return immediately; but I firmly believe that you will find Danusia still a single girl."

"Tomorrow I am going to get on the road myself; but may God reward you for your kindness. As soon as the horses are rested, I will go, because I shall have no peace, until I know the truth."

But Socha was not satisfied with that, and inquired among the nobles and the soldiers if they had heard about Jurand's daughter wedding. But nobody had heard anything, although there were several among them who had been in Ciechanow. “Unless it happened in the last two weeks.” Which could happen, since people didn’t waste any time once they made up their minds.

Meanwhile Zbyszko retired greatly relieved. While lying in bed he decided to get rid of Sanderus; but afterward he thought that the scoundrel might be useful to him because he could speak German. Sanderus had not told him a falsehood; and although he was a costly acquisition, because he ate and drank as much as four men would, still he was useful, and showed some attachment to the young knight. He also possessed the art of writing, and that gave him superiority over his shield-bearer, the Czech, and even over Zbyszko himself. Consequently Zbyszko permitted him to accompany his retinue to Ciechanow. Sanderus was glad of this, because he noticed that being in respectable company, he won confidence and found purchasers for his wares more easily. After stopping for a night in Nasielsk, riding neither too swiftly nor too slowly, they saw toward the next evening, the walls of the castle of Ciechanow. On the way there Zbyszko stopped in an inn to don his armor, so as to enter the castle according to knightly custom, with his helmet on his head and his spear in his hand; then he mounted his enormous stallion, and having made the sign of the cross in the air, he rushed forward. He had gone only a short distance, when the Czech who was riding behind him, drew near and said:

"Your Grace, some knights are coming behind us; they must be The Knights of the Order."

Zbyszko turned and saw about half a furlong behind him, a splendid retinue at the head of which there were riding two knights on fine horses, both in full armor, each of them wearing a white mantle with a black cross, and a helmet having a high crest of peacock's feathers.

"For God's sake, Teutonic Knights!" said Zbyszko.

Involuntarily he leaned forward in his saddle and aimed his spear; seeing this the Czech seized his axe. The other attendants were also ready, not for a fight, because the servants did not participate in knightly combat, but to measure the space for the fight on horseback, or to level the ground for the fight on foot. The Czech, being a nobleman, was ready to fight; but he expected that Zbyszko would challenge before he attacked, and he was surprised to see the young knight aim his spear before the challenge.

But Zbyszko came to his senses in time. He remembered how he attacked Lichtenstein near Krakow, and all the misfortunes, which followed; therefore he raised the spear and handed it to the Czech. Without drawing his sword, he galloped toward the Teutonic Knights. When he came near them, he noticed that there was a third knight, also with a peacock's crest on his helmet, and a fourth, without armor, but having long hair, who seemed to be from Masovia. Seeing them, he concluded that they must be some envoys to the duke of Masovia; therefore he said to them:

"May Jesus Christ be praised!"

"For ages and ages!" answered the long-haired knight.

"May God speed you!"

"And you also, sir!"

"Glory be to St. George!"
"He is our patron. Welcome, sir."

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