My thanks to Cameron and crew for the extra 100 words. I would have been hard pressed to reduce this scene further.
My offering: The Penitent: A Confession of Sorts
The Rose Eleanor creaked and rattled as she rocked, bullied by the weather. The storm lost its strength but the choppy waves and scattered rain still lingered. Captain Corrick left the bridge to his mate, stealing a moment for an overdue supper and a chance to satisfy his curiosity.
“Thank you, Captain.” The soft-spoken crusader slid onto the bench at the table. The quarters were cramped and he was Goliath in the small space. “This is most unexpected."
Corrick shrugged, placing the plated meal comprised of salted herring and toast before his guest. “I am curious of you,” he started cautiously. “I feel compelled to hear your tale, beginning with your name.”
Surprise softened his features. “Names are of little import; of them I have had many. The name I was given became a curse upon my family, so when I took up the cause, I took up William leSaber.”
“How have you come to be on the Rose?”
There was hesitation as a flash of pain reflected in the man’s dark eyes. “It is hardly a tale for the table.”
“You are a man of faith. You fought in Acre. You blame yourself for her demise, is that it?”
“Mayhap. How men fought and died there isn’t what you seek I suspect. The question you wish answered is akin to my travels before the Holy War, yes?” the man countered intuitively.
Nodding, Corrick smiled, “A soldier is accustomed to directness, forgive me. How came you by Acre then?”
“Ah, yes.” He cleared his throat and answered cryptically, “There is a Castillian song about a snake in the snow. A gardener took pity on the creature, inviting it to warm at his hearth. When the snake recovered, it devoured its benefactor.”
“So a viper bit you?”
“And in my own home.” He aged as he spoke, his voice tight with corked anger. “So when the Lord commanded me, I took up my sword and marched into the land of Christ.”
“You killed a man,” Corrick deduced from the parable without passing judgment. Half of his crew was bound for the hangman’s noose prior to their tenure. A past didn’t necessarily foreshadow a future and the essence of a man’s being was rarely immutable.
William neither confirmed nor denied the statement. A comfortable silence followed, affording the luxury for them both to collect their thoughts.