Chapter 22: Reactions

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The ground was hard and unyielding. As Grimbert lay curled up on his side, a small stone dug into his shoulder and he shifted his weight to try to dislodge it. It was only a minor discomfort, but it symbolized all that was wrong.

Why wasn't he back in his own bed in Loconge? What mistakes had led him to this moment? Maybe if his mother had appreciated him more, he would have stayed behind to care for her. Maybe if he had had any hope of being granted master status with the weaver's guild he would have been motivated to continue focusing on his craft. He just never got any breaks. It wasn't fair. None of this was fair. And it certainly wasn't fair that Richart was dead. His thoughts spun so fast that it made him dizzy.

Grimbert turned his eyes skyward, hoping to be steadied by the familiar and reliable patterns in the stars. But while looking out at the vastness of the universe he wondered, where was God? Why was this being done to him?

As he gazed up at the sky, he noted how the full moon drowned out the brightness of the stars. The pale-yellow orb dominated the night sky, just as Richart had dominated so much of his life.

Grimbert inventoried his memories: happy moments, like when he received an apprenticeship as a weaver; sad moments, like when his father had died; and the mundane moments that filled in the spaces. Richart seemed to be there for all of it.

As boys they had been inseparable. When they were very young, they would play by the river, throwing stones and catching frogs. Sometimes, when they were feeling especially devilish, they'd carry the poor creatures, squirming and kicking in their mud-caked hands, back to Grimbert's house and release them where Boda and Marta were sitting. They'd then watch in glee as Grimbert's two older sisters ran and screamed.

Later, when peach fuzz had sprouted on their cheeks and lust had sprouted in their hearts, they sat along the market square, cracking jokes and trying to attract the attention pretty girls who were shopping with their mothers. The girls did look at them, but never in the way that they hoped.

Now there would be no more new memories. All because of a pack of bandits came to their camp, and Hildegund had awoken them and sent Richart into danger.

And here Grimbert was, curled up like a coward, and whining like a baby.

The weight of his sobriety made his legs feel heavy and slow. The stone by his shoulder no longer bothered him. He was stone. Immobile in his sorrow.

He felt so pathetic and small.

Grimbert starkly remembered one of the first times that he'd felt this weak. He had been a round-faced ten-year-old. His hair, a dull mousy brown, was always getting in his eyes, and he habitually wiped at his brow with the back of his wrist. So, on one breezy autumn day, it happened that young Grimbert had accidently streaked dirt across his face. He was sitting along a short stone fence, the tall grass tickling at his ankles as orange and yellow leaves floated and twirled in the gusts of wind. He was waiting for Richart, and as he sat there, periodically wiping at his bangs and glancing down the road, a small group of slightly older boys approached him.

Loconge was a city of substantial size, but it was still small enough that most of the boys knew each other by sight, if not always by name. Grimbert didn't know any of these boys well, but he'd once seen them push over an unattended cart and then run away laughing when the merchant came screaming towards them. So, when he saw that they were walking towards him, he clenched up.

"Hey fatso," taunted a tall boy with long stringy blonde hair, a square dimpled chin, and squinty eyes, "Why aren't you in the sty with the other pigs?"

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