Roderick Peril-in-the-Field, Knight Without Honor
No forbearance, I tell you, I get no forbearance — and no largesse, neither. Ever since I was a squire, I was a gudgeon. No kidding. When I was a kid, I was squire to Hugh of Tiberias, who always kept his shield so polished you could see your face in it. I asked him when I should start scrubbing, he takes one look at my countenance, tells me to take the day off.
I’m serious! It wasn’t easy training for knighthood with a face like that. You know the chivalric imperative about not recoiling before thine enemy? The other squires had an imperative about not recoiling before me, too. They all got paid in guilders, but I got my allowance in Byzantine Hexagrams. I asked Hugh of Tiberias how I’m supposed to cash my Hexagrams. He spins me around a few times at a crossroads and says “Walk East til someone tries to rob ya.” I tell ya, I’ve endured plenty in this life of trials.
All my life I’ve been treated like a second son. I was the firstborn child to my parents, and what do they go and do on my christening-day? They abolish agnatic primogeniture in favor of agnatic seniority! I had to give all my toys to mine uncle. No seniority, I tell you, no succession and no standing, neither.
I asked my mother one time if I could see our family tree. She tells me look out the window — to the hangsman’s oak!
You want to talk about forbearance? I ask my wife if she wants to complete our matrimonial obligation to produce children for Christendom, and she tells me I gotta go on pilgrimage first. I tell her I just got back from the pilgrimage she sent me on last year! She says that was for the wrong sin and I gotta go back, just in case. But I shouldn’t complain, it could be worse. She sent two of the other knights she’s seeing on a Baltic Crusade!
I tell ya, it never ends, this constant dishonor. I was at Mass last week, and the Holy Eucharist spoke to me! Here I am, ready to take the holy body of Our Lord unto myself, and you know what he says to me? “Let’s take things slow.”
Even my artisans don’t pay me homage. I commissioned a painting from Hieronymous Bosch, and he comes back to me with The Last Judgment. I asked for a portrait!
I did pretty okay in the Imperial campaigns against the Bulgarian rebels. They used to bring me out to scare the war elephants! Later I got captured by some Norman dukes — they sent a finger home to my family to demand a ransom. My wife said she didn’t believe it was really me, that they should send more proof.
My honorable lady wife doesn’t love me. No kidding. Last night she told me to go a-questing for the Holy Grail. I told her I already did. She said, “Well, go keep an eye on it, then.” Nobody likes me. Even the plague-doctors won’t come to my manor, and I don’t even have the plague.
Everybody nowadays is so cheap, too. The other day a questing-knight challenges me, drives his arming-sword right through my hauberk. That part wasn’t so bad — until I got home and saw he’d sent me the blacksmith’s bill for rehammering the blade!
Truly I say to you, even my kids are no good. Children are supposed to be the staff that supports a knight in his old age. I tried sending my youngest to a monastery as an act of oblation. You know what they said to me? “We hear Hell’s not bad this time of year.”
I got a hunting-falcon, tried to cheer myself up. First time out, he got one look at me — right away he puts the falcon-hood back over his eyes. I tell you, I get no esteem. No corvée, either. Even my serfs don’t like me. Last night I try to get into my bedchamber, and my seneschal charges me for grazing rights! I tell ya, there’s no virtú left these days.