From the Journals of Fr. Barnard Saunders
I felt as if every last drop of blood had drained out of me through my heels. I walked from the Great Hall where the trial had been held to the welcoming tavern in town. The brisk, clean air was like a cleansing baptism after spending so much time in the rat-infested prison with a pile of hay for a bed. I had been permitted to bathe and wear clean clothes to court, and now, free – or almost free – I felt a tremendous sense of well-being.
It was the “almost’ part that bit at my heels like an angry dog that I couldn’t shake. I had been banished from North March. Not just from North March, but from what had become my home. From the Abbey of Roxeter and the Church of St. Andrews. I would never be able to set foot in there again. And as there is no Roman church in South March, the edict was as good as an excommunication.
As I approached the tavern, I heard the low laughter of men and found Gus, Drago and Nathan inside. They greeted me warmly and patted me on the back, but there was an uneasiness to the meeting, as if something unsaid hung over us like a coming storm.
We had each walked away from the trial with mixed feelings – some victory, some regret, some sympathy for those who were hurt as truths were revealed. Above all, honor, I reminded myself, not sure that I even believed it. It was surgery. It had to be done. I could almost see the bloody stumps of my limps as I blocked out the pain.
No time for pity, I thought. I am free. I am alive. I have things to do.
I cast about the town for a place to be alone, letting the others wander off. I climbed the tower overlooking the docks, my eyes turning northward. I was too far away to see anything, but in my mind, I saw it all – the windmill, the tavern, the cannons on the castle walls, the colored tents, and bridge. All gone.
I glanced down at the village at my feet. Tanninhold. A proud town filled with proud people and a good place for a fresh start.
It was time to redefine myself.