[excerpt from The Diaries of Other Pendragon © 2017 by TrilloCom LLC]
Is breaking one’s word to oneself as vile a wrong as breaking one’s word to another? I had vowed never again to go near a battle, and yet in less than a century… but hold, I will record the turns my life took that put me on the road to Agincourt.
Far Cathay was pleasant, and I learned much, but restlessness put me on the Silk Road once again, and brought me back to Europe, still seeking a vocation that would let me atone for my past sins. Although my efforts at physicking in Crimea had failed to heal any of the unfortunate victims of the Pestilence, I had picked up a few tricks of the chirurgeon’s art. As well, I had some modest knowledge of herbs and potions from the wise women of the region and the sages of the East. I resolved to make my way as an itinerant healer.
At the fleam market in Trieste, I bought a used set, excellently wrought and with little rust, ranging from sizes big enough for oxen right down to ones suitable for infants or the smaller livestock. A few other instruments and a variety of herbs and I was ready. I travelled the highways of Europe for the next few years, tending ever northward. It was in Normandy that I heard that King Henry (V, that would be) had brought an army from England and was investing Harfleur over some squabble with Charles le Fou of France over tennis balls*. I would have avoided such a scene, but I knew there would be work for me there, and rumour had it that a great number of Welsh archers marched with the King. The chance to speak my language again, and perhaps hear news from home, was too tempting to resist.
I arrived just as Harry was giving one of his famous inspirational speeches, to mixed responses. Lines like
"…or close the wall up with our English dead…"
just led to awkward foot-shuffling among the English, and a good deal of snickering among the Welsh:
“At last, a use for Englishmen”
“Well said, boyo, you go right ahead. I’ll shoot some arrows, shall I?”
Harfleur was soon taken, and the next few weeks passed cheerfully enough. At night we sat around the fire talking of our favourite foods, and singing Cwm Rhondda and Calon Lan. The dysentery was bad enough that at any time fully half the choir was at the jakes, so I had to switch from baritone to tenor as needed. And so we came to Agincourt.
The next morning Harry launched into one of his famous speeches again, going on about Saint Crispin, and how showing one’s stump to the wenches back home was a sure way to get laid. How that man ever got anyone to follow him is beyond me.
I must confess. There was a moment, with the noble knights of two nations facing each other (and a goodly number of Scots on the French side—typical), with banners flying and sunlight glinting off armour, with the echos of “Welshmen will not yield” dying away, there was a moment when my heart stirred, though I knew better.
Then the front ranks of the French lowered their lances, and the faint trumpets from their lines were drowned out by the serjeants’ shouts of, “Draw”…“Loose!”, and the arrow cloud arched up like the beginning of a rainbow whose end was not gold, but dead Frenchmen, and I withdrew to the chirurgeons’ tent and laid out my bone saws and cauterizing torches.
We had a busy time of it for a while, but casualties were lighter than I had expected. (I hear that turncoat traitor Dafydd Gam died as he had lived—sucking up to the English king.) My poultices were running low, and I was on my way to the baggage train for more fennel and rosemary when I saw a number of French men-at-arms approaching, obviously intent on looting the king’s treasure. At their van I was astonished to see the big simple Scottish fellow I had last glimpsed on the streets of Avignon shouting “NESSIE!”. He was easily three hands taller than any of the Frenchmen, and he still carried his by-Our-Lady wooden sword, three fathoms long, that looked as if he had whittled it out of a caber. His bare chest was painted blue, and he wore a scarlet cap emblazoned “Make Aquitaine Gallic Again”.
“NESSIE!” cried this woad warrior and raised his sword. “Give you good day, Sir Nessie,” I replied, saluting with my seax, “My name…”
“…is Other Pendr…”
“NESSIE!” he roared, and launched a great swing at me that I caught on my shield, but which knocked me sideways twenty feet or more. I rolled aside just as his next stroke descended, and the duel was on, I trying to get inside his swing and he trying to keep me at his sword’s point. I got in a couple of good stabs, but then one of his fellows shouted “Nessie! Leave that! We don’t have enough mules. Haul this wagon for us.” “NESSIE!” he answered, seizing the wagon tongue and running off. I had my medical duties to attend to, and so the encounter ended there.
*[biographer’s note: Sir Other is oversimplifying here.]