Chapter Two: Unwanted Revelation
Summary: Adhemar visits Will in the gaol.
Disclaimer: 'A Knight's Tale' is the property of Columbia Pictures. I make no money from this work of fan fiction.
Notes: The flip side. Looks into Adhemar's mind when he visits Will in the gaol.
The presumptuous boy is ready for the stocks, a piece of wood laid over his shoulders and wrists tied tight to it. Looking through the tiny window in the door, I wonder why I felt the need to come here. I am the victor and he nothing but a boy playing at being noble. This is a just punishment. How dare he raise himself up and put on airs?
I nod to the guard and he lets me into the cell. Slowly, I walk to the center where William Thatcher, peasant, is standing. Caution is foremost in my mind. It is not unheard of for prisoners to attempt to use that piece of wood as a weapon, an awkward fight to be sure, but I don't fancy it striking my flesh. No, I have taken my last hit from William Thatcher.
No lowly peasant will best me, ever. That is not a possibility. He has to understand that. He has to understand that I am far better than he. I am a noble and I am therefore, the right. My place in the universe is superior to his, as everyone knows that nobles are the highest of man. Peasants are the lowest, animals in contrast to nobles, for look at how they live and behave.
They are stupid and dirty as a whole. The men are only good for labor and only some of the women are good for a nights toss. Like that farris in Thatcher's band. Or Lady Jocelyn's maid Christiana. The farris is passably pretty and fairly clean, tiny enough to be subdued easily. Christiana is a middle class peasant and a slightly better quality of peasant than the farris. Those are the women that aren't repulsive to consider. It is the others who are beyond my thoughts. I see no need to deal with those wretched women. Or the men, for that matter. After Thatcher has acknowledged his true station I shall not give another thought to upstart peasants.
William Thatcher dared to raise himself up. The sheer audacity of that! The arrogance! That sort of thinking must be stopped. No man can raise himself up. No man can, by sheer will, change what makes him the man he is. We are all what we are and that is that. We were all born where we were born by God's will and any man trying to break out of his role is challenging God's judgment, yes?
I will break him. He will crumble before me before I leave this cell. This man shall know his place without a single doubt. I will see his tears and hear his cries for compassion.
I circle around to his front, say what I've come to say, striking him as hard as I can with my fist. Weighed, measured and found wanting. Once more I have judged him and found him unworthy. Who am I to judge, to mete out punishment? Why, I am the noble! It is my right.
He gives involuntary grunts, each of my blows harder than the previous, but otherwise makes no sound. No pleas fall from his lips. Not one single syllable slips out. Why does he not cry? Why does he not break down? He is humiliated thoroughly, arrested before the entire arena and still he stands with stoic resolution. What strange character for a lowly peasant to possess. Such character is almost noble....
The thought enrages me. I am the noble, not him! I feel my anger welling up inside me, and the tiniest sliver of fear as well. That sliver is shoved back, barely acknowledged.
Fall William, damn you!
I grip the wood, stare into his face, searching for the tiniest crack. He turns blank and resigned eyes to me, not a resignation of realizing he is the lowest of men, but a resignation of his punishment.
He is not sorry. He is not regretting. He'd do it all again given the chance to. Why? Why isn't he begging me to stop hitting him? Just that one word would be sweet to my ears, would reaffirm my mastery over him. Stop. He won't say it though. He will never say it. I could keep hitting him until he keels over and keep hitting until he is bloody and bruised and whimpering on the ground, but he will not ever ask me to stop.
This man will never ask me to stop, never throw himself on the ground in hopes of leniency.
It is a pain in my gut to know that I would not be so resolute were our positions unthinkably reversed. If I were he, I'd be flinging myself on the mercy of...me. I have no mercy. Mercy is a weakness. He shows mercy and he is weak, but he is also strong, for he doesn't break! It is unfathomable. He is not stronger than me. He is not the better man.
He is not the better man.
"In what world could you have ever beaten me?"
Or is he?
My last blow crumples him to the ground onto his knees, but I've no illusion that he has been beaten. He kneels only because he cannot stand with the wind taken from him. This man will never kneel before me in his rightful place, not willingly. I glance around the cell, my fist tender, my mind whirling. I should feel better about meting out justice by turning him in. I should feel good about reminding him of his place. There should be a joy rolling through me that I've done the proper thing.
So why do I feel like I am somehow in the wrong? Why do I feel sick in the stomach, my words bitter and ash-like in my mouth? Strangely, in this moment, I hate myself even more than I hate him.
If I am, inconceivably, wrong in my actions and he right in his, then what sort of man does that make me? I do not think I want the answer to that.