Buzzards, Hawks and Ravens
(An Account of Six Friends' Lives in the "Dark" Ages)
RAIDO! Head-on into the Unknown
- Boy Berrit and his Brothers-
Berrit felt confident. He had found a new friend, a friend to whom he could reveal his love of Anzo, someone he could trust. The knee-to-knee contact with Ruwen stepped up his courage and the deep and steady breathing of Davy and Fatty convinced him that these companions were dead to the world. Leaning back into the fragrant bale of hay, the young Duke began to reveal his life to Ruwen.
This is what Ruwen recalls of Berrit's life as a boy at his father's castle in Quentisburry:
Berrit was the last son of the Duke of Quentisburry. At his cradle there stood no fairy godmothers; nor a wizard or three magicians from the orient. There were only two curious small boys there, with open mouths, his brothers. The younger one, Ivain, was four years old, the older one, named Edward, five.
Ivain looking quizzically at the wrinkled, blue-red face and the tiny hands, with still tinier fingers and accused his mother: "Mother I have told you, Edward and I need a strong brother to play with. You promised us a strong play-mate and now, what did we get? A little, crying pest! Something looking uglier than the ape we saw at the fair! He is so small; we can't even use him as a pet! Throw that ugly something back into the pond. Ask the stork to get us another one!"
Edward, who already knew that the babies come out of the wombs of women, just laughed at his smaller brother: "Wait Ivain, in two or three years he will be a strong boy and help us in fights!"
The first adventure Berrit remembered was the one which earned him the nick-name "Strawberry-King".
In Berrit's second summer, on a really hot afternoon after a thunderstorm, Edward suggested, "Let's go to the strawberry garden!"
"What, whhat are strawbries?" Berrit asked back.
"Do you remember these little, sweet red berries we had after dinner? They are growing in the garden, let's go and pick some!"
"Yea, let's go!" Down they went into the garden, the big boys ahead, Berrit in the arms of a maid. Soon all three were busy in the strawberry-bed. Suddenly Berrit announced with a piercing, exciting voice, "Look, look, I got the biggest strawbri of all!"
In front of Berrit in the shade of big, green leaves there was a big, red, glaring something; the queen of the red slugs. He didn't want to share his treasure with others. He picked it up and stuffed it into his mouth and bit into it! He started coughing. This berry didn't taste sweet, it tasted disgusting! His mouth was filled with the slime of the big slug and his face was covered with her whitish foam. He tried to spit out the yucky strawberry and puked all over the place. His brothers and the maid came running to the crying boy. The maid rescued him, by washing his mouth and face. For a long time now, his brothers have called him the "Strawberry-King".
The second adventure was the reason for his fear of diving into water throughout his life. It wasn't that Berrit didn't like to swim, he enjoyed it, but he avoided jumping into the water. He even accepted that his play-mates called him `sissy'.
The reason for this aversion was quite simple. When he was about three he went for a walk with his father and mother. It was in late spring. Running ahead, Berrit was the first at a steep, slippery loamy scarp of a pond. He slid down accidentally and ended headfirst in the shallow water. Wet like a poodle, he turned around immediately and started crying. His father was amused and started laughing wholeheartedly. Drawing the wrong conclusion, Berrit's mood changed from crying to anger, "You kicked me into the water! You want to drown me! I hate you!"
But his father just laughed even more and told him: "Get out of the water, boy! Only a chicken could drown in that spoonful of water!"
As soon as Berrit was old enough to climb out of his parents' bed by himself, and scramble up staircases on all fours, his mother decided to put him in the boys' room. That was a spacious, hexagonal room in the tower on the left corner of the main building of the castle. It had three four-post beds, one for every boy, a table and chests for their clothes, their toys and ample room for playing.
Each of the beds was set against a different wall of the room. During his first night in his new bed Berrit felt lonely, got frightened and began to cry. Hearing his sniffling, Edward came over, crawled to his brother under the bed-spread and spooned him.
Next morning the angry voice of Ivain aroused both. "Edward, why didn't you tell me you will be sleeping with Berrit? That's just not fair. I have the same right to care for our pet as you!"
Edward settled the conflict with a simple suggestion, "You were sleeping like a rat, when our little brother got frightened. Next time I'll wake you up and you can care for him."
When Berrit moved in with his brothers he still had to wear a swaddling-cloth during the night. On the first morning in the boy's room he observed his brothers peeing side by side into the chamber-pot. He got jealous and thought to himself "I am old enough to do this too!" He crawled out of his bed, stripped the nappies and tried to be a big boy. He aimed for the pot. He was mostly successful, but not perfect. Later in the day the chamber-maid complained about all the piss she had to wipe up from the floor.
At that time Berrit's brothers were seven and eight years old. They already had horses to roam through the town, the pastures and the woods close by. Berrit was still too small to take part at their horseback outings and complained every time they left him alone. The three began to look around for a solution to this problem and they found it. When Berrit celebrated his fourth birthday he got the perfect present. Together with the cartwright of the castle, a skilled craftsman, the two had constructed, in secret, a two wheel buggy for Berrit. Instead of a horse they used a big dog for the draught animal. Berrit was over the moon, because now he was able to follow his brothers around and take part in their hilarious and often rough games.
Peeing together was something the brothers liked. When they were still small, their favorite game was a long range target peeing-competition. On command all three tried to wash down beetles from leaves or to drive unwary snails back into their shells. At first Berrit lost every contest, but soon he found a special trick to win, and winning was important, because the jackpot was the first choice of sweets after the next meal.
Getting older and keener, the three modified the game, calling it now "making rain". The castle was surrounded by a battlement and with a big gate opening to the town. The thick wall was crowned by a gangway with crenels. On hot summer days, when there was no other distraction, they hid behind the crenels above the gate with a pail of water. However they also made sure that their bladders were full to bursting. As soon as the gate opened and someone left the castle they sneaked out from behind the crenels to give him a shower. On most persons, they used water only, but on persons they disliked, the rascals used the "pee-shower".
Often enough this nasty treatment worked without getting them into trouble. But one day their evil-minded and conceited aunt was on a visit. She was the only aunt their good natured father disliked. They thought it would please him, when she got a pee-shower. But that old lady was wretched. She turned around quick enough to catch them with trousers down. She turned on her heels, went back to the duke, and complained. The duke couldn't do anything but punish his offspring. The suspicious aunt supervised the beating and the poor father had the honor of treating his sons' bare backs to a belt. After she had left, their Dad grinned, "That old crow should have thanked God on her knees instead of complaining to me. That was her lifetime chance to admire three perfect peckers at the same time." With tears still streaming down their cheeks, all three boys began to laugh.
Edward, Ivain and especially Berrit were popular with the soldiers and the knights of the duke, with the atilliator, the falconer, the stable lads, with the craftsmen, especially the blacksmith and the cook, but also with the other servants and maids. But they were constantly at war with the officials, like the chamberlain or the marshal; and they hated their teachers and disliked the chaplain.
The chaplain was a fat, piggy and talkative guy, always trying to backslap the duke's sons. His special interest was to "convert the boys to Jesus", as he called it. This meant, for example, to attend church every morning, to pray the rosary on every occasion, to stop making pranks and to not swipe sweets from the kitchen. One day in early spring the three decided to play a prank on him. The pools were full with pollywogs, nice, busy, paddling tadpoles. On Sunday morning, Edward slipped out to the pond before the divine service and caught a handful of the slippery creatures. Secretly, Ivain and Berrit, who served as Altar Boys, added some tadpoles in the little keg with the water used for diluting the wine before transubstantiation. The chaplain mixed wine and water without looking, and then downed the transformed drink. He really must have been shocked, because he swallowed the wiggling tadpoles with the wine. But suddenly his eyes bulged and he left the altar in a hurry, trying not to puke in front of the duke and the parishioners.
The chaplain regurgitated into a basin in the vestry. The sour reddish puke was swarming with little black creatures. His eyes bulged even more, he nearly swooned, and he cried out in desperation, "Devils! Devils!" He knew instantly, these were little devils driven out of his body by Blood of Jesus. He fell to his knees, "Oh Lord, what have I done? Oh Lord, have Mercy with me, an evil sinner!"
Now the chaplain recalled the day before in all its details. In the morning a blacksmith came to his apartment, a big guy with black unkempt hair, a black scruffy beard, stinking of sweat, stale smoke and raw iron. The man was fixing the broken window shutter. Something attracted the chaplain to the beastly man. He wanted to touch him, to caress him, to feel the strength of his muscles. He touched him. The man didn't react to his touching fingers immediately, but after fixing the shutter he turned around and let down his trousers, "Hey, Man of God, look at this, look at this beautiful piece of meat!" The chaplain couldn't help himself! He sank to his knees and worshiped the hot pole, kissing it, licking t, sucking it. The black-haired man responded crudely and vigorously and filled the chaplain's gorge with hot semen. Leaving the room, he turned around, "Wait for me tonight, Priest! Then we will have more fun!" At that instant, the chaplain realized the blacksmith had a clubfoot.
His whole day went in a swirl. The chaplain couldn't stop thinking of the black haired man. He wanted to run to the Duke for help, but he just couldn't. In the evening he barred the entrance to his rooms with timbers. He went to bed, freezing, with chattering teeth. Finally he fell asleep but was soon roused by a fierce knocking. He opened the door. The black haired man dragged the naked priest to the bed, cast him face down onto the pillows. Without a word he started sniffing the priest all over, began licking his ass crack and finally rammed his hot pole into his virgin hole, like a ram to a goat. The chaplain fainted.
When the morning bells were ringing, the chaplain woke up beside the sleeping blacksmith. He couldn't help but devour the naked body with his eyes. The thick hard pole was standing straight up. Hypnotized, he began to lick and suck like he was out of his mind, till semen filled his mouth. Only then did the chaplain realize that the whole body of his bed-pal was covered with a fur of thick black hair. The only hairless part was the clubfoot with its big and curved nails.
While church bells called the dead-tired chaplain to the Sunday service, he rushed in a daze to the chapel and began the Divine Service without having made his confession.
Recalling all these events in the sacristy, the chaplain left in desperation and rushed to his rooms. The door was broken, the furniture turned over, his burse gone. By puking, the devils had left his stomach, but he had to purge his intestines too, so rushed to the toilet. Sitting at the toilet above the moat the cold wind cooled his feverish head. He knew he had to do repentance! He had to earn God's Blessing again! He had to flee this place on a pilgrimage. He left with only a walking-stick. Hurrying out of the castle, he decided to walk to Santiago de Compostela to earn salvation.
The duke was not very educated at all, nor were most of the other contemporary rulers. He could hardly read and was just able to write his name. Realizing the disadvantage of a poor education on occasions like negotiating treaties, he decided to send his two older sons to school when a new school opened in town. "If you want to reign a duchy with success, you have to be able to read, write and know arithmetic. Sure, you will have your steward, to take care of the estate and domestic administration. Sure, you will have a Marshal and his staff, to be in charge of your household, your horses, carts, wagons and other items. Sure, you will have a castellan, and a constable and some clerks: But it is you who is responsible for your country. You just can't control these subordinates without knowing how to read, write or follow up the finances."
Edward objected "I want to be a famous knight. I want to fight your enemies and become a famous captain! I don't need to know these stupid things like reading and writing. I never ever want to be a scholar!"
Ivain supported his brother, "We just need to know how to use a sword, how to use a lance, how to fight! Please Dad, don't send us to school!"
"No objections now, you two will attend school, and in two or three years you will be educated in the art of war, also. But I tell you the art of warfare doesn't mean to learn to use weapons only. More important will be to get a good education in the tactics of war."
Not unexpected, Berrit began to envy the older boys as soon they began to attend school. "I want to go to school also! Look here, I can already write!" And with this he presented his father with Edward's wax tablet that he had adorned all over with his scribbling. The duke was impressed, but tried to put him off going to school, because the boy was only just nearing four years of age. But Berrit pestered and pestered till he won out and was allowed to attend school too. From then on, he proudly rode his dog-cart to the school.
Berrit got lonely, after Edward and Ivain began with the training in martial arts. But soon he discovered other fun, like training falcons and dogs. With his new friends, the animals, he began to roam the woods.
At fourteen, Edward was awarded the rank of a squire and assigned to a knight to carry and care for his weapons and horse. Berrit, in contrast to Ivain, didn't envy Edward, when he went out on his first campaign. It was not a big campaign, just a hunt for some robber-barons. The duke's small detachment counted only four knights, their squires and twelve soldiers.
When Edward returned from the short campaign his eyes sparkled and he was full of stories. He showered his brother with anecdotes, especially about his visit with his knight in the bath house. "At the end of the campaign my captain took me and his companions to a public bath with big wooden tubs filled with steaming hot water. We soaked for a while and then handmaidens with hardly any robes on their shapely bodies scraped off the dirt of the war. After the dirty water was replaced by clean water, scented with herbs and flowers, my captain ordered a repast and wine. The meal was served by the barber while we were still reclining in the steaming water. His young maidens served us four courses and ample red wine, while a minstrel was singing love songs. In the end I was so tipsy; I could not stand upright for myself. So one girl took me and hauled me off into her room. We were resting belly to belly, giggling and sniggering. I couldn't stand upright anymore, but my little man could. So she took him, squeezed him a little and than mounted me. I groaned and moaned while she rode me. Then we changed position and then I bit her and I did her! Oh that was great!"
Berrit, who was still a boy of eight, wasn't sure what had happened and asked, "Why did the girl ride you? Did you bite her to take revenge? Did she cry?"
"You are silly, that wasn't a virgin girl. She was an easy woman. I could see it by the yellow trimming of her dress!"
"Oh, my poor brother lost his virginity!" called out Ivain, "What did father say? Was he mad? Did he scold you?"
"Oh on the contrary, he just grinned and patted my back asking: Did you enjoy the girl? You are a big boy now!"
During the next weeks Edward and Ivain were obsessed with talking about girls. They discussed the features of every girl around. They compared the looks of the girls they came across on their way to school, in the town and in the castle. They assessed their mother's attendants, the chambermaids, the maidservants, and those girls working in the kitchen, the laundry and the stables. They also discussed which of the girls would be inclined towards a little amorous adventure. Berrit, however, didn't show any interest in this exchange of information and stuck to his birds and dogs, till one day he was confronted with Edward's new activities.
Coming back too early from his afternoon games in the wood, he heard a loud and vigorous moaning coming from Edward's bed in the boys' room. Fearing the worst, Berrit hurried over and ripped open the curtains of the four-post bed. He nearly fell on his ass. There was no mortally wounded Edward struggling with death: there was a very lively Edward with his bare ass high in the air pounding away between the naked knees of one of the chamber maids. The girl let out a shriek of surprise, becoming aware of Berrit, while his big brother seemed not notice his little brother at all.
Later, Edward begged Berrit, "Don't tell mother, she mustn't know, please Bro. I promised the maid not to give away our little secret."
"And what about Ivain? Does he know about your games?"
"Sure, but he doesn't mind. He has already eyed one of the beauties. He asked her, but she is still not inclined to give in to his pleadings."
Everything changed when Berrit became nine.
His grandfather died, the father of his mother. The old Duke was reigning a small, but very prosperous duchy in
After the funeral, Berrit's father disclosed his plans concerning Quentisburry to his family. He called a meeting and in front of the audience he appointed Ivain his heir. Then he announced, "You know Berrit, I love you like your brothers, not more and not less. But your mother and I have only two territories to give away, one for Edward and one for Ivain."
Berrit was taken aback and tears started streaming down his face. His father tried to console him and to show the decision in the most favorable light. "Your mother and I have decided to give you the best chance other than being an heir of a duchy, maybe even a better one! We will send you to the Monastery of Niwenburg for education. The knowledge you will acquire under the care of the monk will make you into a great clergyman. We all are sure you will become an Abbot, a Bishop or even a Cardinal!" Revising his statement somewhat, he added, "If that is God's will!"
Ruwen had listened to Berrit's story thoughtfully. At this point he interrupted Berrit "But you didn't become a clergyman! You became a Robber-Barron, the Captain of the Grey Raiders? Did the monks teach you that it is God's will to mug poor farmers, to rape their daughters, abduct their sons and kill men and women?"
A deep silence arose. Ruwen tried to look into Berrit's eyes. But the darkness in the hayloft was impenetrable. Therefore he was not able to observe the tears streaming down Berrit's cheeks, but he noticed his sobbing. Ruwen's soft heart took over. He moved closer to Berrit and embraced him. "Forgive me my dear Berrit! I didn't want to hurt you. I know you are not corrupt. You showed it by not burning down our village. You proved it by giving me my freedom without any condition!" As Berrit's sobbing increased, he hugged him tighter, "Can we still be friends? Can we be brothers?"
The howling of the wolf pack in the mountains faded. Probably the beasts had hunted down a deer successfully and devoured their prey. In the ensuing silence, Berrit's sobbing sounded even more distressed than before. Berrit needed some time to regain his balance. Leaning on Ruwen's shoulder he hugged him back. Then both closed their eyes and fell asleep.
I would like to express my special thanks to Paul, TSL and B. for doing a great job by correcting all the wrong expressions and the punctuation used by a non native English writer.
Comments, reviews, questions and complaints are welcomed. Please send them to Ruwen Rouhs. And I would like to add, thanks for reading.
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