Rain carved countless mini-rivers in the rising mud. Yven stared at the tanner’s caravan, unable to feel sorrow over the man’s death. Nine years he lived under the tanner's roof, yet he could only conjure relief that his apprenticeship was ended. Guilt gnawed at his freedom.
Lightning perforated the clouds in blinding whites and crackling purples, drowning the wood with staccato luminescence. He turned to where the improvised graves were dug in haste. William knelt near them in prayer, despite the downpour, despite the intent of the highwaymen. There had been six of them, all cut down like diseased trees. The train had only lost two that night, his master the tanner, and the fuller’s apprentice. Some of the others sustained a few bruises. The outcome would’ve been quite different was it not for the timely intervention of the crusader.
The others had long left them to the deluge, securing themselves in their own caravans. With the mire sucking his boots, Yven approached his savior. “Why did we bury them? Why do you pray for them?” he asked, an iceberg of anger drifting in his tone. “They would have murdered us all, and for what? A handful of trinkets?”
William finished his silent words and signed a cross across his chest before tucking his rosary into a pouch. “It is not my place to condemn the soul,” he replied, his tone even. “I cannot grant them absolution, but that should not mean they cannot receive a decent Christian burial.”
“You don’t feel your effort is wasted on them?”
He rose, wiping rain from his forehead. “No prayer is wasted when it's for the sake of another. How we treat the least of us will be recorded in the book of Heaven.” He motioned towards the tanner’s caravan, “Why are you not retired and dry, Lad?”
Yven shivered, stating stubbornly, “I own nothing. It is my master’s trade and I have no claim to his belongings.”
“Yes, well, you can hardly repay me for saving your life if you foolishly insist on catching your death. I, for one, am weary of the drench.” He pushed through the mud and opened the hinged door to the back of the wagon. “Are you coming presently?”
His shiver spread into his teeth, “How is it you happened upon us, out here in the wood? Are you someone I should be suspicious of?”
“Divine providence. And you should always be wary of soldiers without a war. They are trained to inflict carnage and little else.” He slipped inside the caravan, leaving the door to flap in the wind.
Yven had nowhere to go. With reason overruling his pride, he made his way to shelter.