A Lament for Jonah


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Apr 25, 2006
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Huntington, West Virginia
It had been a beautiful day. There were only a few clouds in the sky. The clouds that were there were very high in the sky, and they rippled across the horizon. Grant knew that those clouds heralded rain. Neither Cole nor Grant seemed to mind, though. The weather was growing colder. Daytime rains were usually warm during this time of year. The sun was now setting in the west. The horizon was ablaze with hues of gold, orange, red and purple. Those colors were portents of favor to saliors. "Red skies at night are a sailor's delight. Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning." That was a verse that the two had learned in a shipping town many months ago. It always stuck with them. Whenever one looked at the sky, they would always remember the verse. The ground was beginning to get harder. The morning chills were starting to make the ground harder. Riding would become difficult soon. They knew that they couldn't ride their horses hard. At least not when they were traveling safe. The scent of pollen was fading away. Although the air was no longer sweet, there was something very comforting about a cool, scent-less air. It let the mind wander.

Such was the case with young Grant, Ser Cole's squire. The two had been travelling leisurely all day. Cole saw no reason to spur the horses hard. They were in no need of a town. They had stocked themselves well at the garrison they visited two days ago. They had no commissions, so they weren't in a hurry to get anywhere. Some might say that they were being lazy. They were in a sense, although they had plenty of personal chores to do to keep their equipment in working order. Grant's mind wandered after realizing that he had free time. So, with a curiosity-laden mind, and no one else to talk to, Grant turned to Ser Cole.

"Ser? I have been wondering. Why is it that you chose me to be your squire?" Grant asked.

Cole smiled slightly, and turned his head far to the side so that Cole could see around his pauldron. "Because I made a bet with your father that I could break you within the year. Why do you ask?"

Grant offered a rueful chuckle, and continued with all seriousness. "You had come to my homeland to fight with my father's army at the Battle of Rigon Falls," he said in a "as a matter of fact" kind of way. "My father said that you did something special during that fight. What was it?" Grant asked.

"I saved your father's life. The enemy infantry had gained a foothold on a hill on our left flank. They charged down the hill and all but decimated the forces there. I commanded one of your father's reserves, and met the oncoming forces just as they reached him. It was a brutal melee. Your father had been pulled from his horse. Myself and my troops saved him before the axe-blow could fall. We drove away the enemy force soon after. You should be grateful that your father is in good favor with your people. My brigade was little more than new recruit foot soldiers, squires, and some conscripts," he said.

"That would explain why my father gave me to you..." said Grant. "But you did not come to the battle alone. Who was with you?"

Cole became deadly silent.

“Ser? I hope I did not speak out of place…” Grant said, hoping to diffuse the awkward tension that had risen between them.

“No, Grant, you were right. I did not come alone. I came with my former squire, Jonah,” said Cole, falling silent once more. Grant, forever young and curious, leaned forward hesitantly, as if his question might knock the knight clear off his horse.

“Jonah? Do you mean the old man that came with you? He could not have been your squire, Ser. He looked so weak. He probably couldn’t help you don your arm…..” Grant said, but was interrupted by a clearly annoyed Cole.

“Now you speak out of place, Grant. Jonah was a loyal servant, and a good squire. It did not matter that he appeared to be old. In fact, he was not all that old. He was no more than five-and-forty,” Cole said spitefully. Cole gave Grant a stern look so that the boy would know his place. Grant bowed his head. He remembered the last time that he was put in his place. His feet still carried the blisters from when he walked on hard ground for a day without boots or sandals. He had no desire to flame the wrath of Ser Cole. Ser Cole had not whipped him, or gave him hard lessons when he did not deserve it. It had taken a while for Grant to realize that.

“I see, Ser. My I speak freely?” Grant asked.

Cole sighed, and shook his head in an annoyed fashion. “Yes, Grant, go ahead…” said Cole, knowing full well what Grant was going to ask. He knew that he would have to answer the questions sooner or later. There was no need to postpone the inevitable.

“What happened to your squire, Ser? Why did you choose a man who was clearly too old to……oh…..forgive me, Ser. Why did you choose him?” Grant gulped, knowing that he had made another mistake.

“Jonah was killed in the battle,” said Cole. He had all but ignored Grant’s second blunder. “He had taken position in the rear, away from the thick of the battle. We were separated when I went to help your father. When the battle was done, one of your father’s bannermen came to me and told me that he had been caught in a melee in the rear,” he said, bowing his head. “The man said that Jonah had been very gallant. He slew a noble knight and four of his vassals before his horse was staked. The horse landed on his leg, and had shattered it. A soldier pierced his heart with a spear. He did not suffer long….” Cole said, once again falling deadly silent.


“What, Grant!?” replied Cole, clearly agitated.

“Why did you choose him….?”

Cole sighed heavily under the weight of so many sensitive questions. He felt silly. He has been in many battles, and he has never lost his cool. But when his squire asks some delicate questions, he is torn to pieces. Cole took a moment to compose himself, and then he began to answer. The tone in his voice revealed his reluctance to speak on the subject.

“Jonah was a stable boy around the time that I was born. He was a loyal servant of my Uncle, Lord Sembelyn. My uncle had grown in and out of the peoples’ favor for years. He had made many enemies during that time. One night some of his enemies entered the castle hoping to kill him, and the heirs of his family. The man was unsuccessful, but he did manage to grab me from my crib in the ensuing flight out of the castle. It was Jonah who stopped the man, wrestled him down and saved my life,” he said.

“And?” Grant asked, anticipation in his voice.

“And…..my father gave him and his family a place in our House as a reward. His family had been very poor. This was a blessing from the gods as far as he was concerned. Jonah was always there for me as I grew up. He was quick to praise me for my little victories, and he was just as quick to scold me when I had done something naughty. Whenever I come under the tutelage of our master-of-arms, Jonah was always there to make sure that I practiced. It was Jonah who taught me how to ride…” he said.

Grant nodded his head. He knew Ser Cole to be a master equestrian. If Jonah had taught him how to ride, then that was very impressive.

“He would tilt against me whenever I practiced the mounted joust. He would fight against me whenever I was practicing the sword and shield as well. By the time of my sixteenth birthday, he had taken up the duties as my squire, even though I had not been knighted. He came with me after I was knighted, knowing that I had struck a deal with my Uncle to travel the realm as a hedge knight,” he said.

“Aye, I can’t imagine your uncle being happy about you not swearing allegiance to him,” Grant said.

“He did not take it well. We never got along. That may have been the reason why it was so easy for him to let me go. I was not his heir, and I was not a very loyal knight to him,” said Cole.

“Why, Ser, if you don’t…?” asked Grant. He was interrupted once again.

“Because nowhere in my vow did it say that I had to protect him. The Septon said “In the name of the Mother, I charge you to protect the weak and innocent. Other knights may vow to protect their noble lord, or king. I made a vow to protect the weak and innocent. My Uncle is neither weak, nor innocent. He has phalanxes of knights. One knight will not hurt his position in our land,” said Cole.

“I understand, Ser,” said Grant.

“Good. Whenever you are knighted, Grant, you will have to make that decision. You will have to decide whether you will follow your vow to the letter, or swear allegiance to a king, or lord. You will face consequences no matter what path you choose….”

Grant looked up at his knight and saw the discomfort on his face. It was clear that Cole didn’t want to talk about his former squire. For whatever reason, Jonah’s death was still a sore spot. But looking up at Cole, Grant did not feel pity, nor share in the bitter memory. Instead, Grant felt honored. Despite the sour sensation Cole must have felt while telling the story, he still told it. He realized that Cole trusted him enough to reveal some of his most painful secrets. Grant smiled, despite the awkward moment, and looked up at Cole with a smile on his face.

“Ser? I am sorry for Jonah. I will try to live up to his example,” said Grant.

“…thank you, Grant,” Cole said after an extended pause.