Deep in a forest a storm raged down upon the trees. Wind and rain thrashed against the creaking oak and the ground was sodden with mud. Amidst the tempest, a lone limping figure clad in armour dragged his body against the elements. He clung to a tree for respite.
When he looked up, through his helmet he could see what he had been looking for: a monastery perched on the hillside.
The hinges rattled as he beat the door with his gauntlets. A hooded man unlocked the door and peered outwards. Brushing him aside the muddied guest forced his way past him.
“Out of my way monk!” he cried before collapsing on the stone floor.
When he awoke, to his surprise, he was laid upon a comfortable bed with a warm fire crackling in the corner of the room.
“Monk!” he shouted, and his host appeared at the doorway almost instantly.
“Fetch me some food and ale! Or by your God I will beat you till you do!”
His host nodded and bowed, then he disappeared for a few minutes before returning with his guest’s demands.
“You are probably wondering why I am here. I am a knight in the king’s guard and though my men and I were driven from the battlefield, we are winning the war against the invaders.”
His host could not see his guest’s colours or his banner anywhere, but he said nothing and nodded again politely.
“But you will tell no one I am here, on pain of death. For the enemy have spies everywhere and I will return to kill you myself if I find that you have told a living soul!”
The monk dropped his eyes to the floor and nodded his assent.
“Now leave me. I must rest.”
And the knight rolled over and drifted off to sleep.
Over the next few days the storm continued and as the monk monitored his guest’s wounds, his improvement became clear. Soon the knight was able to limp around the monastery and as he did so he paused from time to time examining the books, gold and precious metal trinkets that lined the walls and rooms. He also noted that aside from the one silent monk, the rest of the monastery was entirely empty. Then the knight began to fill his bags and purse with the items he deemed most valuable.
“The king thanks you for your contribution monk. I will see that these treasures go straight towards your protection and the effort that helps the army win the war.”
The monk said nothing but nodded at his guest’s reassuring words.
Finally, the storm appeared to be receding and on the third evening the knight announced that he would leave in the morning and that the monk was to prepare him one final meal.
The monk did as he was bid and provided ale and food in generous quantities for his guest.
“I am sorry,” the knight told him “if I have been harsh with you my friend. The stresses of war are great and the room for manners small.”
The monk braved a short, polite smile before his guest continued:
“The good news is that the fighting will soon be over for the secrets I carry with me shall surely turn the tide of the war.”
But as he got up from the table a sharp pain spread from his stomach up to his chest and he fell, immediately to the floor. Riding in agony he stared up at the monk with rage then confusion. Amidst panting for breath, he gasped his final words.
“I am a knight and God grants me absolution as the men I kill, I kill for him. But you, Monk, break your silence and at least tell me this one last thing: do you not fear damnation for your crimes?”
His host now stood over him smiling.
“You are no knight…” the man said “…and I am not a monk.”