older knight, he was certain, would not be as quick on his feet as in the days of his youth, but the strength of the preceptor’s arm would more than make up for his lack of speed. They traded a few tentative blows and then Bascot was taken by surprise as d’Arderon surged forward and rained blows on his helm. He had not expected the preceptor to move with such alacrity, a mistake he would not make again. Turning so that his sighted left side gave him more clarity of vision, Bascot locked his shield into that of his opponent, and pushed d’Arderon back, then aimed a blow at the preceptor’s momentarily exposed sword arm. D’Arderon barely had time to ward off the attack and retaliated with eagerness, his blunted sword whirling.

The battle went on for some minutes, both knights enjoying the fray, with first one gaining the advantage and then the other. The watching men-at-arms could not contain their admiration for the skill they were watching, and above the clang of metal, their whoops of approval could be plainly heard. When the small bell in the chapel tower rang out a warning that it was almost time for the service of Vespers, it was to the disappointment of all that the contest was called to a halt. Reluctantly, both combatants lowered their shields, and then grinned at one another.

D’Arderon slung his buckler across his shoulder and, coming over to where Bascot stood, clapped him on the shoulder. “Are you tired enough now to let your anger rest?” he said.

“I am, Preceptor, and thank you for your instruction,” Bascot replied gratefully.

“Then come, and we will go and worship Our Blessed Lord together.”

As they and the other Templars filed into the church, Bascot felt the warmth of camaraderie engulf him. The strenuous exercise had lifted the cloud of his despondency and it was with a joyous heart that he went forward to join his brothers in prayer.

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