Mardin couldn’t sleep that night. His conversation with Sir Anthubas was repeated in his mind;
“It’s not a big favor I ask of you. I only ask that you verify my story as I tell it to the City Warden. And for your courage in such an event, you will be richly rewarded.”
But Mardin would not risk being part of a plot with illegitimate or immoral intentions. He sensed that Sir Anthubas was not being quite honest with him. Why would he be offered money for telling the truth?
“I am sorry, My lord,” he had replied, “but this I cannot do. If you were asking me to defend you for noble deeds, for dealing justice to criminals or for aiding the poor or less fortunate, I would gladly do so without any form of payment. But I will not twist the truth for you, no matter what you offer.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” Sir Anthubas replied. “I was hoping we could keep our good relation. Good day to you.”
Then he turned and left.
Mardin was uncertain what to expect from Sir Anthubas. He didn’t know him very well, but he knew enough to know that his intentions weren’t always true. He had gained some honor in a fight with some bandits that had ravaged the area some years ago, and for this he had been dubbed “Sir” Anthubas. He clearly was an ambitious man, and Mardin deemed that ambition combined with low integrity was a dangerous combination. Mardin was sweating. What would come of this? Sir Anthubas clearly hadn’t been satisfied with his answer, and he had even ended the conversation with a poorly concealed threat.
A couple of days later, Mardin was summoned to the City Warden’s office. He didn’t know why, but he feared the worst. Could it be something Sir Anthubas had set into motion?
“Come in and sit down,” the city warden said as Mardin entered the room. He didn’t look up from his papers.
“It gives me no pleasure to do what I am about to do, because you have a good record in His Grace’s service. But the latest events leaves me with no alternative, I’m afraid.”
Mardin had been in his Grace the Duke of Bargens’ service for many years. He had begun his career as a soldier at the age of sixteen, being the youngest of five brothers with little hope of inheritance. Four years ago he had been appointed sergeant and he did now command a troop of twenty three men in a regiment designated to guard and protect the walls of the city. But what could this be about?
“There have been reports of you breaking in and stealing from people in the city, and then abusing your position as a sergeant of the city guard, intimidating people to be silent about the matter. Normally I would dismiss such allegations as evil tongues wanting to smear your reputation, but it has been confirmed by several eye witnesses and not least by a nobleman.”
Mardin was lost for words. So this was what Sir Anthubas meant by “I’m sorry to hear that”. Of course! Since Anthubas had misjudged Mardin’s willingness to participate in his schemes, he had now become a liability because he knew about Anthubas’ plan. The City Warden continued:
“Sergeant Mardin, son of Hundin, you are hereby discharged from your station, starting immediately. Please deliver your weapons, shield, armor and uniforms to the weaponmaster tomorrow morning. You will no longer be allowed to enter the military buildings here in Bargens, and you will be considered a civilian in all respects. In addition, you will have ten days to leave Bargens, not to return while I am still warden here. Should you be seen in the city after ten days, you will be charged and prosecuted for your actions.”
Mardin knew his punishment was mild for this kind of transgression. He suspected it to be because of his unblemished service record through many years. Yet, the punishment still was harsh to him as he was not guilty. But there was no point in arguing with the City Warden, he was only doing his duty. The fault rested with Sir Anthubas and his intrigues, he had no doubt.
Five days later, he was riding his horse northwards. The summer was young and the grass was bright green. Birds were singing and the air was warm and fresh after a nightly shower. But the sadness in Mardins heart overshadowed all the beauty of the land, and he hardly noticed any of it. He was angry and sad because of a cold-hearted man that had now made him loose his home, his job and his friends. Never again would he set foot in the city of Bargens. All the people that he knew and loved there would now be lost to him. Although some of his closest soldier friends had stated their conviction in his innocence, he wasn’t sure if he would ever see them again.
He had decided to travel north to unknown lands and to settle down and build a farm somewhere. Maybe he’d find a wife and live peacefully and quietly for the rest of his life, far from the intrigues of noblemen and city life. Little did Mardin know at the time that his wife was already waiting for him a bit further north, and that the village Burno would be his home for the rest of his life. But many years later, two young boys fleeing from their hometown’s demise could thank Sir Anthubas for his actions. As the Elder of Burno, Mardin would save their lives because of his well-organized defense of the village.