“This be Edithvale,” replied the villager. “Willim, be it?”
“Gwilym, actually! Did my knight friend give you one of these coins?” He pulled out the coin Fred had given him and compared it to the villager’s.
“That he did, yet he gave no feeling that he were a friend of yourn. He told me I’d get a gold coin if I gave word of you.”
A horse galloped by, the rider staring at Gwilym as he left. Gwilym looked around and noticed other villagers mounting up.
“It’s a long story. Join me on the cart and I’ll tell you.” The man clambered aboard. “You have me at a disadvantage,” Gwiylm said as he clasped the man’s hand helping him up and turning it into a handshake. “You know my name and I don’t know yours.”
“Name be Dale. Where be ye headed?” He was scrutinizing Gwilym, Grainne and both carts. Gwilym stood and stretched to his full height. Dale’s shoulders drooped. They drove the carts out through the other side of the village.
“Dale, you want that gold coin and I don’t want that knight catching me. But he has me at a disadvantage. He only has to give one gold coin to the few people who point him my way. I can’t afford to give a gold coin to everyone who doesn’t.”
“Now, three villagers have already left on horseback to tell Palomides where I am. What do you suppose he’ll give to the second villager who tells him my whereabouts?”
“Another gold piece.”
Gwilym shook his head.
Dale thought. “He should give the first one a gold piece. But the second one will tell him the same so he won’t give him anything.”
“And what about the third and fourth?”
Dale nodded and said, “Nothing.”
“Right. The next person to get a gold piece from him will be the first one who tells him where I went after I left the village. I imagine there are already villagers who have figured that out and are vying with each other to be that person.”
Dale nodded again with a sad expression.
“But when Palomides comes to the next crossroads, there is one person who can tell him which way I went. And that, my friend, is where you will get two gold pieces. More gold than anyone else in town. Plus, you will get something even better. Peace of mind that you were the only villager who earned money without sending an ungodly Saracen to kill a pious Christian.”
Dale’s expression cleared with a new hope. “How’s that, sirrah?”
“What was your opinion of Palomides when he talked to the people of your village?”
“He were dark and hairy, with one eyebrow and a huge nose. He smelled bad and talked funny.”
“Did you trust him?”
“I believed he would give the gold. He showed a handful from his purse.”
“Yes,” said Gwilym. “But did you trust that he was looking for me for good intentions. Or did you suspect that he was up to no good?”
“I had my doubts. But he was offering gold. I could buy a fine milk cow for a piece of real gold.”
“And now that you’ve met me. Would you feel right about sending him after me?”
“Don’t suppose so. But it were real gold.”
“Aye,” said Gwilym. He fished around in his belt-pouch and held out a gold piece of his own. “When Palomides comes to the cross-roads, he will ask you which way I went. For the price of this gold, I ask you to tell him the wrong way. You can take Palomides’ gold also.”
“Do you know why Palomides is after me?”
Dale shook his head.
“I have a secret about Jesus that I found while traveling in the
Holy Land.” The mention of this place
elicited the usual awed expression Gwilym had seen in British villagers.
“Palomides wants to use this secret to hurt Christians. He will torture my
children in front of me to get this secret from me.”
Dale looked glum.
“So Dale. I ask you. When Palomides comes to the cross-roads and asks you which way I went and you feel the warmth of this gold piece in your pocket. Which way will you tell him?”
Dale’s expression brightened and he replied, “The wrong way!”
“Good man!” exclaimed Gwilym and clapped him on the shoulder. “How many days ago was Palomides in your village?”
They spoke no more for the next hour until they reached a fork in the road. Dale stole the occasional glance at Grainne when he thought Gwilym was not looking. Twice he looked back at the children following in the other cart and smiled at them.
Dale stepped down off the cart at the fork. Gwilym threw him the gold piece and the family traveled along the southern road.
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