With a smile that grew more false every year, Sardamira would begin, “Yes, I’ve met two giants. One was good, and one was evil.”
Someone would say, “Giants are always evil!”
“Well, they’re always ugly and frightening,” she would answer, “and when they’re evil, they’re unspeakably evil. I met them both on my way to the royal court when I was only thirteen. This is how it happened.”
She had never left home before, but as a young noblewoman, she needed a broader education so she could marry well. Thus her parents sent her off in early summer with her daft old Aunt Clementina, who was a nun, along with a maid and a serving boy. Three days on horseback through the countryside made the rigors and boredom of travel painfully clear, as well as the fact that no one really enjoyed listening to her complaints, so what good were they? Besides, the ideal lady bore suffering with dignity.
Late on the fourth morning, as they left a forest and entered some fields along a river, Sardamira felt thrilled to see brightly colored tents up ahead and a young woman coming toward them on a side road. She was about eighteen years old and very pretty, and she wore an ostentatious black velvet dress, but it was rumpled and dusty. She seemed to have no servants accompanying her to keep her proper.
They met where the roads converged and had barely exchanged greetings when a giant loomed around one of the tents, uglier than Sardamira had imagined possible, with huge eyes and a gaping mouth in an over-long face.
“Oh my God! Flee!” she said.
She turned her horse, then stopped. Aunt Clementina was prodding her tired old nag, but it just stood there blocking the road. The maid, paralyzed with fear, had let go of the reins of the packhorse. It was trotting away toward a sunny pasture, and the serving boy had dropped his parcels to chase it.
Sardamira looked back at the tents, hiding her fear with all dutiful might, and expected to see the giant waving a huge mace, since everyone knew that was their favorite weapon. Instead a very young knight was running toward them. He was as handsome as the giant was ugly.
“Wait!” he shouted. “Don’t be afraid. He’s my father. He won’t hurt you.”
“Your father?” the other girl said.
“Well, my stepfather, but he’s good and gentle, not like other giants. Please, don’t flee. Where are you going?”
He smiled, which made him look even more handsome. He was husky and wore a new yellow surcoat and a gorget around his neck that sparkled with gilt decorations.
Aunt Clementina giggled. While Sardamira wondered what to do, the other girl answered him in a tone of voice that seemed more like a challenge.
“My lady has sent me to see an amazing battle. They say a lone knight is going to attack the giant at the Rock of Galtares, and she wants me to bring back news of it.” She pointed at the giant near the tent. “Would that be him?”
“Oh, no, he’s a different giant, a good one and a good man. He raised me well.”
The giant was helping a servant unpack a horse, and neither seemed afraid. Everyone said a giant was bigger and stronger than two bears, and this one was that big. He wore fine clothes, but he had a white beard and moved like a frail old man, using a cane the size of a tent pole.
The idea of such an amazing battle made Sardamira forget proper comportment. “Really?” she said to the other girl. “There’s a knight addled enough to fight a giant? I must see that, too. I’ll go with you to Galtares.”
“Wait,” the knight said. “We’re going too. Come with us.”
The other girl studied him for a moment, then smiled. “Yes, we’ll go with you.”
We, she had said, without consulting Sardamira, who still feared the stepfather-giant, though he seemed feeble. She looked at her aunt to see what to do. Aunt Clementina was gazing at the giant like a little girl seeing her first peacock. He began to sing a hymn with a voice as deep as a drum. The nun opened her toothless mouth and joined in with a high trill.
The knight said, “We need not fear those who share the love of God, do we?” He looked up at Sardamira with gray eyes that seemed the handsomest in the world. Her mother had told her that God could be invoked in vain, that good looks did not necessarily reflect good character, and that women must never be too trusting. But distrust was not the same as fear, was it?
She wondered if the servants would balk, but instead they were staring at the giant with curiosity, or perhaps they were staring at his servants, who seemed perfectly normal. The other girl began to ride toward the tents. Aunt Clementina, still singing, managed to urge her horse forward. Sardamira had no choice, though she wondered if they were riding into a trap.
The giant welcomed them with a stiff bow and introduced himself as Gandalaz. He addressed Sardamira as if she were a lady rather than a girl and her aunt in her threadbare habit as if she were a papal emissary. The other girl said her name was Pinela and then ignored the giant to flirt with the knight, who was Galaor.
The servants hustled to set out dinner, and soon they were seated at a table with a fine white tablecloth. Galaor and Pinela sat on one side and the giant sat between Clementina and Sardamira on the other side. That meant, by rules of etiquette, she would have to speak with him! He was seated so close that he could reach over and crush her as easily as reaching for a piece of bread.
He ate with excellent manners. Properly and politely, he asked her about the hardships of travel and whether she missed her family, and she answered as politely as she could, though far too briefly. He spent more time talking with Clementina about theology. The pair across the table had eyes only for each other.
Sardamira ate and pondered her future. Soon she’d be old enough to marry, and she would have to be well-read and able to compose letters, embroider, sing, dance, play musical instruments, and perhaps write a song. She would need to organize a household, raise children, pray, help the poor, and know basic rules of government and how to treat injuries and illnesses. Much of this she would learn, or at least polish, at the royal court.
But a wife could really help her husband with a discrete bit of alchemy. During the trip she had daydreamed that a unicorn would spring like a giant grasshopper out of the forest with a powerful healing ruby in its mouth and drop it in her hand. Alas, she had encountered no wonders until now—but a giant might possess a magic gem! She could look at the rings on his hands as he reached for food without improperly raising her eyes.
Instead she noticed Pinela’s hands. The older girl had not taken proper care in washing her hands before dinner. Now she was reaching across the table to a plate of stewed onions and poking among them to seek out the best one. Sardamira lost her hunger. It would be rude to eat too little, but maybe she had eaten enough. And she was already getting tired of this other girl who seemed high-born but not well-bred. Who was the lady who had sent her?
The giant turned to talk to her again.
“Your aunt says you play chess very well. Perhaps you would honor me with a game after dinner.”
“I’ll play you,” Pinela interrupted. “I know how.”
Sardamira courteously relented, secretly resentful. After the tablecloth was lifted, the servants brought them a beautiful chess board with pieces made of bone and dark wood. Pinela knew the rules but no strategy. She made basic mistakes and suddenly excused herself and left halfway through. The giant seemed disappointed.
Sardamira gathered up her courage and her desire to out-do Pinela. “If it pleases you, I shall take over her game.”
“You begin at a clear disadvantage, my lady.”
“If chess mirrors the art of war, a captain must learn to lead a battle not of his choosing.” Her father had often said that.
The giant laughed and they completed the game, discussing her options as they did. She lost, but not badly, and learned a little. Then they played again, and although she was sure that he played his best, she won. She had defeated a giant at chess!
“This has been a rare pleasure,” he said, and he seemed to mean it.
She tried to formulate a proper response. “For myself as well, this has been a pleasure, with an exceptional opponent.” Then Aunt Clementina, who had been watching, thanked him for his patience and forbearance with a mere girl, etcetera, until it embarrassed Sardamira and perhaps even the giant.
Galaor called his stepfather aside, they spoke, and it was time to travel again. The knight wore his armor and brought three of his squires. Pinela rode at his side, followed by Sardamira, her aunt, and pack horses. The giant stayed behind. He stood in the road watching them leave, and his eyes were too huge to hide his tears. Sardamira surprised herself by feeling sorry for him.
The trip wasn’t far, only a few hours, not long enough for the knight and the other girl to tire of each other’s company, nor for Clementina to tire of interrupting them. The worst was when she dragged Sardamira into it.
“Show them the cross I gave you, dear. We make them ourselves at the convent.”
Sardamira had hung it from a silk cord long enough to hide it under her clothes. Dutifully she pulled it out, a cross made of two iron nails soldered together, and near the top of the vertical one, several strands of copper wire had been looped around to try to resemble a crown of thorns.
“We do our own smithing, small jobs of course, but we strive to be self-sufficient in every way we can. We create as many items for devotion to give away as our poverty allows, for Christ himself sought no riches besides the gift of everlasting life and service to all God’s children.”
Galaor listened, but as far as Sardamira could tell, out of politeness, not interest. Pinela wore a wicked smile. Was she laughing at the jabbering nun or at Sardamira for wearing something so inelegant?
As evening neared, two leagues from the Rock of Galtares, they stopped at a church. An old hermit there welcomed them, and they made a meal for him with the food they had brought. He gobbled it down and talked nonstop—poor manners, Sardamira thought, but he was clearly a peasant.
“The giant Aldaban took this kingdom from another giant many years ago. What fine ham! I haven’t had meat in a year. I daren’t leave the sanctuary of holy ground, which is the only thing Aldaban respects—certainly not his subjects. Oh, the beatings they get!”
Sardamira studied the little church next to the hermitage. The architecture seemed old, and though the grounds were well cared for, the statues over the portal needed fresh paint. The narrow windows had wooden shutters but no glass.
The hermit continued: “They have too little, after he’s taken his share of their produce, to give me more than a pittance. And when he needs servants in his fine castle, suddenly some poor souls have committed grave offenses, and he finds them guilty and condemns them to slavery to serve him, a sadder fate than any deserve.”
By then it was night. The women slept in the hermitage, which was spare and small but clean. The men slept in a tent. Sardamira lay awake much of the night, not because of Clementina’s snoring, which she was used to, but because she had too much to think about. Pinela slept well. Perhaps she had no thoughts to keep her awake.
The next morning, they rose and heard Mass in the church, which needed fresh paint inside as well. Galaor put on his armor and they prepared to leave. Aunt Clementina said such a fine knight and his three squires could protect the girls during the battle, and she and the hermit had much theology to discuss, so she would stay behind.
Thus Sardamira, Pinela, Galaor, and his squires rode off. Two leagues later, they left the forest, and there was the giant’s castle with tall beautiful towers perched high on the Rock of Galtares. No one was in sight.
“Are there no crowds?” Sardamira said. “A fight such as this would surely be of great interest.”
“Few know about it,” Galaor said, admiring the castle.
“Do you know who is going to fight?”
“I believe I have seen him. Were you told who it would be?” he asked Pinela.
“Only the knight who will fight knows that,” she said. “But I see no one here yet.”
“I shall remedy that,” Galaor said and smiled. He rode right up to the gate, which was shut. “Hailing the castle!” he shouted.
Two armed men appeared high on the walls.
“Tell Aldaban that Gandalaz’s knight is here and comes to fight him,” he said. “If he does not come out at once, I shall kill any man who leaves or enters the castle.”
The guards laughed. “Fight? You? You’ll lose your head,” one of them said. And they withdrew.
The girls rode up. “Sir Galaor, are you the knight who will fight?” Sardamira said.
He looked utterly confident. “Yes.”
“Oh my Lord!” she said. Even she could see that he was too young and too small. And she could only think of a formality to say. “May God help you and give you honor!”
“And may fate be with you,” Pinela said, “but we don’t dare wait for the giant.” She began to turn her horse and grabbed at Sardamira’s reins.
“My dears,” he said, “don’t worry. Either stay and watch or go back to the hermitage. If I don’t die here, I’ll return there after the battle.”
Sardamira tugged her reins from Pinela’s hands. “I’m staying. Whatever happens, I want to see what I came for.”
Galaor saluted her, and the girls backed away and hid at the edge of the forest.
“We’ll flee if it goes bad for him, right?” Pinela said.
“Of course.” But Sardamira thought she might stay to help with his injuries or to pray over his corpse. She just might. “How did you know about this battle?”
Pinela looked at her with disdain. “My lady has her means.”
The squires adjusted Galaor’s armor, checked his weapons, and joined the girls. They seemed confident.
“With a sword like that,” one of them said, “he can’t lose.”
“What about his sword?” Sardamira said.
“My lady, it’s a magic sword.” The squires laughed.
“Magic? How so?”
“And why didn’t he say earlier that he would be the one to fight?”
“If everyone knew, do you think the giant would have let him live? But he has prepared his whole life for this.”
The castle gates swung open and the giant rode out—and indeed, he was the size of two bears. His horse had to be the biggest in the world. He wore shining armor and carried a huge iron mace. A helmet with sparkling gold ornaments covered most of his face, and a thick black beard hung beneath it. The girls and squires were too far away to hear, but he and Galaor seemed to quarrel. Then they charged at each other as fast as their horses could gallop.
Galaor’s lance struck the giant’s chest and shattered. The giant swung his mace at him as he passed, but Galaor had lost a stirrup and was almost falling off his horse, so the giant missed. The club continued forward in its arc. It struck the giant’s own horse on the head and smashed it like a melon. The animal dropped to the ground, writhing in agony, with the giant on it.
The squires cheered. “The giant’s too feeble for his own weapons!”
“The poor horse!” Sardamira said.
The giant tried to get up, but Galaor trampled him twice with his own horse before the giant grabbed one of its legs, broke it, and the animal fell. Sardamira shuddered. Galaor leapt off his downed horse and drew his sword.
“That’s the magic sword,” one of the squires murmured. All three were standing in their stirrups with excitement.
The giant raised his mace, but Galaor cut through the iron handle.
“By God, it is magic!” Pinela said. “Galaor! Strength to you!”
The giant struck him on the helmet with the rod that remained in his hand, still big and heavy enough to knock Galaor down, and Sardamira doubted he’d get up. But, amazingly, he got up fast, dodged another blow, swung his sword, and chopped off the giant’s arm at the shoulder. The sword continued its trajectory and cut the giant’s leg almost in half.
Yes, it was magic. It had cut through flesh and bone as if they were smoke. Sardamira suddenly wanted to flee—from the perilous weapon, from the savagery. But the fight could not last much longer.
The giant dropped to the earth and tried to grab Galaor as he attacked again. The knight cut off his fingers, then half his hand. The giant fell flat, and the knight swung the sword in one final arching blow and cut off his head.
The giant’s blood began to form an enormous pool on the ground. Sardamira felt ill. She had never seen a fight to the death and had imagined them to be less like butchery, but this had been horrid both for man and innocent horses.
Pinela whooped—most unladylike—and her face shone as eager as it had once been afraid. The squires urged the girls to accompany them as they trotted out to Galaor, all but Sardamira shouting praises. The knight ordered one of his squires to carry the giant’s bleeding head in its gilt-adorned helmet back to Gandalaz. He had another squire bring him a fresh horse.
Then from the castle rang the sound of a large chain being dragged across the ground. Ten men marched out, as proud as they could be in rags and bound in iron. Galaor rode forward, spoke with them, then waved for the girls to join him.
“These knights were the giant’s prisoners, but now I have freed them, and Galtares Castle is mine. Ladies, let us remain here tonight.”
Pinela agreed immediately. Sardamira hesitated, but when she saw some sad-faced servants watching them from the top of the wall, she agreed. The hermit had said such terrible things. Could they be true? So they rode through the castle’s fine stone gate, which was carved with elaborate lions holding shields.
She had never seen a more beautiful castle. The courtyard’s stone was worked in filigree. The main hall sparkled with polished furniture and golden threads in colorful tapestries. Its ceiling was inlaid with complex patterns and gilt finals. Everything was immaculate, including the gleaming white tablecloths the servants soon brought out for a superb dinner. The dead giant had known how to live properly and well.
But despite that finery, the servants wore rags—clean rags, at least, but she saw bruises on an old man’s face that could have only come from blows. The servants behaved so submissively that it almost interfered with the presentation of their meal. The giant may have lived well but he must indeed have been a brute—but how bad?
As they ate, Galaor told the amazing story of how he had been made a knight. “And when I went to take up my sword, the sorceress told me to take the one in the tree. Though there had been none there before, suddenly it was plain to see, with a shining blade and a sheath worked in silk and gold. You have seen what a fine blade it is.”
“It cuts like magic,” Sardamira said.
“It is magic, a gift of a mighty sorceress!”
“What else has she given you?” Pinela asked in a tone of voice that made the question improper. “My lady wishes to know.”
Their flirtation left out Sardamira, and her mind wandered. Her parents had taught her that servants were like family and should be treated with love. They were also the public face of the family, and if they went ill-clad and hungry, they told the world that the family was secretly poor or cruel.
The evil giant was not poor, so he must have been as cruel as she had heard.
Her mother had also told her that the lady of the household must oversee the servants with care and wisdom. Pinela had neither care nor wisdom, so Sardamira decided she was the lady of the castle. She was a noblewoman and duty-bound to comport herself properly regardless of the failures others. After dinner, as soon as she could excuse herself, she rose, leaving Pinela and Galaor to entertain each other, which they could surely do better without her. The seneschal at the door bowed.
“What does my lady wish?”
“Take me to the kitchen.”
He looked startled but obeyed. She attempted to walk erect and maintain an impassive face as he led her down a long hallway. When she entered the kitchen, he announced her arrival. Everyone bowed or curtseyed and stayed down until she said, “You may rise.” Then they stood silently at attention.
Everything seemed to be in exceptionally good order. The kitchen resembled that of her parents, except for its size: an enormous room with fireplaces in opposite corners. Its immaculate state puzzled her. Even her mother, renowned for her skill at running a household, could never achieve something so... bare.
She tried to locate the head cooks. They would be the fat ones. But everyone was thin as famine. Of course the kitchen was immaculate! It held food only for the lord, not for the servants. She walked solemnly around the room, gazing at each face. A few bore fresh bruises.
As Sardamira neared a girl of her own age leaning on a gaunt woman, the girl began to weep. She tried desperately to control her tears, but her sobbing turned into a frightening coughing fit, and even with the woman’s help she could barely remain standing. Sardamira did exactly what her mother would have done in this situation. She reached out to hold the girl and comfort her, but the girl winced at her touch. Her skin felt feverish.
“Are you well?”
The girl didn’t answer. Sardamira gently placed her hand under the girl’s elbow to help support her and turned toward the awaiting servants.
“Would I be wrong to assume that you are all hungry?”
They stood silently with lowered eyes, then a woman called out, “Yes, my lady, we’re very hungry.”
“Then I order you to prepare food for yourselves and the remaining servants and occupants of this castle as would be fit for them. And I ask that someone who knows more about the state of this girl come forward.”
No one moved.... Oh, she had forgotten!
“Blessings on you, my lady!” the woman called out.
“Yes, thank you,” an old man said. “May God give you favor!”
As they hurried about their tasks, the old man approached Sardamira. His face was filled with wrinkles but no smile lines. “Our lord the giant had special attention for this girl.” He didn’t lower his voice, so it must have been common knowledge.
The girl had ceased to weep, but she stared at the floor and continued to cough.
Sardamira’s mother had warned against “special attention” from men at the court that could lead to a loss of her virtue. At the time, it had seemed like yet another admonishment, but this girl was her age, almost as tall, with the same color hair, in a situation that Sardamira could barely imagine—she had only ever imagined unicorns and wonders.
“Where are her parents?”
“Dead, my lady. They resisted when the giant wished to take her.”
As the lady of the castle, even for just a day, it fell on her to do what she could. Sardamira had no idea of what to do, only that duty required her to act.
“Come, Matilda. We shall talk, you and I.” She helped the girl walk toward an alcove with an arrow-slit window and stone benches. The seneschal ran and fetched them pillows. The girl sat at her side as directed. Her ribs rose and fell above the worn ruffle of her blouse as her breath rattled in her chest. Starvation attracted illness, Sardamira knew, and hunger could kill in many ways. She tried to be consoling.
“Matilda, I want you to know that things will be better now. The evil giant is dead, and you will have a new lord, and he will be good.”
After a few moments, the girl choked out: “No, my lady. No. I pray that God takes me now.”
“Aldaban is dead. I saw him killed.”
“The other lord, he is also a giant, and giants are evil.”
“Ah, our lord Gandalaz. I have met him, and he is good and kind. You need not fear him.”
The girl did not react.
“I too thought that giants were evil, but I was wrong. He will be a good lord.”
The girl did not look up.
Sardamira needed more than words. She was reaching for the red silk cord around her neck even before she had thought clearly about what she was going to do. She took off the cross from her aunt.
“Take this. May faith give you strength.”
The girl looked at it, unsure.
Sardamira leaned over and put the cord around her neck, placed the cross into the girl’s hands, and then put her own hands around them. “Let us pray....”
The girl joined her in Latin by rote. Her hot hands trembled. At the end, in the common tongue, Sardamira added a prayer for the return of good health to Matilda, amen. Then she helped the girl back to the kitchen and ordered the bustling staff to give her a good meal, rest, and medical care. She didn’t know herself what kind of medical care could help, or she would have done so herself.
She felt useless. She didn’t actually know that the giant was good, her gift was a worthless ugly bauble, and prayers weren’t always answered. As a real lady, would she do better?
The seneschal led her back to Galaor and Pinela, who were admiring the beauty of the coverlet of a bed with glasses of wine in their hands.
“Where were you?” Pinela asked.
“That is very noble,” Galaor said, but Pinela, whose face he could not see, sneered. Sardamira retired soon afterward, preferring solitude to their company.
The next morning, people from all corners of the giant’s lands had gathered in front of the castle, and the staff stood on the walls and in the windows. When Galaor came out, the crowds cheered and sang, as befitted a hero who had freed them from an evil and unnatural lord. He saluted them with confidence.
Sardamira and Pinela watched from the gate, and when the cheering had subsided, they rode out to witness the meeting between the knight and a representative of the subjects. The castle servants began to cheer again. Sardamira looked up to see if she could spot Matilda—and realized that she herself was being greeted as a hero by the servants. While the men spoke of lords and oppression and fealty, she blushed.
She had only done her duty. But so had Galaor, though he had had a magic sword to stave off fear while she felt more unsure of herself than ever.
Soon they were preparing to return to the hermitage, and the servants gathered in the courtyard to bid them farewell. Sardamira spotted Matilda. Her face had more color and she could stand without aid. She still wore the crucifix. It looked good on her, even elegant.
Sardamira approached, and the girl curtsied, then boldly raised her eyes to look at Sardamira directly. Instead of insolence, it made her seem like a sister.
“I hope your future will be happy now,” Sardamira said.
“Thank you, my lady.”
“This whole land will be a better place.”
“You have been most kind.”
“I have only done my duty. May God give you blessings.”
“And you, my lady, many blessings forever and ever. I will pray for you.”
“And I for you, every day.”
She never recounted this exchange when she told the story. She could think of no way to repeat those words and not make them sound like empty formalisms, when in fact nothing she would ever say or hear would be uttered with such sincerity. She rode off with Galaor, Pinela, and the squires, but looked backwards at the castle from her saddle for as long as possible, hoping the giant Gandalaz would indeed be good.
Her aunt and the hermit met them with tears of joy, but as soon as she could, Pinela said:
“Sister Clementina, your niece gave away the cross that you had given her so piously, and she gave it to a mere kitchen wench!”
Sardamira knew she was in trouble. “I did, but she was very ill, and so we prayed together, and I thought it would help give her faith more strength. And this morning, she was more healthy, thanks be to God, and we will continue to pray for each other. She was very ill and very sad.”
“And now she is better?” her aunt said, looking at Pinela.
“I suppose,” Pinela said. “I heard someone say that.”
“Indeed! Then thanks be to God and thanks to Sardamira for doing His work on earth. Don’t worry about the crucifix, my dear. We make them to give them away, and I’m most pleased that you have been so kind and faithful with it....” Her aunt continued on for some time.
When Sardamira could, she shot the other girl a triumphant look. Pinela drew a little cross on her chest and sneered.
They traveled back to Gandalaz at the tents, who welcomed them with all imaginable honors and a festive dinner. Pinela showed no signs of leaving the young knight, and in fact she seemed to have a plan. It most certainly would not include Sardamira, which was just as well. It was time to go, with all the ladylike comportment she could muster.
“I must thank you most sincerely for your hospitality,” she said to Gandalaz. “I came here only to see the battle, yet I have seen so much that I will recount it again and again wherever I go.”
“And I must thank you,” he said, “for all that you have done for me and for my servants in my castle, my lady. I add my deepest admiration to theirs.” He bowed over her hand and kissed it. He must had heard of what she had done, and he approved. Perhaps he would be good indeed. Perhaps she had not been useless.
As they rode off, her aunt said, “Why, you’ve met two giants, beaten one at chess, and seen the other defeated and killed. You’ve learned so much!”
“Yes, I’ve learned more than I can say.”
And that was how it happened. Soon she arrived at the royal court, where she received a fine education. She married well and raised a happy family—as happy as possible, at least. For the rest of her life, she often told the story about meeting the giants.
“What happened to Sir Galaor?” someone would ask.
“He went on to do many more brave deeds,” she said. She had occasionally seen him at the court and had heard a great deal more about him. At first, he had played a prominent role in her story, but as his fame became tarnished by deeds of the carnal sort and ill-advised intrigues, she spoke more about giants and how they could be good and evil, and how people could be good and evil, too.
“Was Gandalaz a good lord?” someone else would ask.
“Yes,” she would answer.
Then one day someone said, “He’s not the lord of Galtares anymore.”
That proved to be true. Perhaps because Gandalaz was a giant and presumably evil, or because he had become quite elderly and presumably vulnerable, neighboring lords had united to wage war against him. Galtares was divided among the victors, and it seemed that most of the new lords were not good, not at all.
“What about Matilda?” someone would always ask.
“She is well,” Sardamira would say, but it might not have been true. She had tried, discretely, to learn the fate of Matilda, but nothing had come of that. All she could do was remember the girl in her prayers and keep her own servants well and safe.
So it was hard to smile and tell the story again while thinking of all the souls trapped in troubles they had not caused. If Sir Galaor had not, that time at least, fought for what was right, and if she had not gone to the kitchen, she did not know what would have happened to that girl who was so much like herself.