The knight knelt at the foot of the altar, sword held high above his head in both hands, as if to offer it to God.
That was not his purpose.
He was sweat stained and travel weary. Unshaven for days and unbathed for just as many. There was dried blood on his tunic, darker red than the cross which adorned him, front and back, highly visible in the dirty white of his knee length garb.
There was dried blood on his sword, as well.
And he cried in anguish, "God! Is this what you have called me for?"
There was no answer but the echo in the long and cavernous church, empty but for him.
"God!! Is THIS what you have called me for?"
And he threw his sword forward and it clattered to the floor at the base of the altar.
"I have killed in your name, Lord!!! KILLED a man in YOUR NAME!! Is that what you have called me for?"
He fell forward, prostrate on the floor, arms straight out to his sides, and his sobs carried through the length of the church.
After a long time, after he had quieted, he heard small footsteps coming toward him, growing louder. The patter of small feet on cold, hard stone. The slap, slap, slap of a child's bare feet.
"Are you alright Sir Knight?"
"I am fine child. Now leave me alone."
He heard the slap, slap, slap of those little feet as the child trotted away. He got back on his knees and sat back on his heels and looked up at the figure on the cross above the altar.
Presently, he heard the footsteps again. And they stopped. He could sense the presence of the child standing next to him, but the child said not a word.
"What is it, child? What do you want?"
"I brought you water, Sir Knight."
"I am not thirsty, child."
"It not for you to drink, Sir Knight."
"Then why bring me water, child? Are you playing at games?"
"No, none of that, Sir Knight. I thought you might bathe. You stink."
"Stink, is it? Stink!!! You say I STINK?"
" 'Tis true, Sir Knight. You smell worse than sheep after a rain."
A slow smile came to his face. "Yes, child. I suppose I must be rank after these many days without a bath. I apologize if the smell of me offends you."
"Not me, Sir Knight. You should tell Him." The child pointed to the figure on the cross. "It's his nose you offend at this moment, not mine. I live with sheep."
The Knight looked up at the cross. "I guess you to be right, child." And he turned to look at the child but the child was gone. Just a cup of water sat on the floor, next to him, where the child must have stood.
"The Lord works in mysterious ways", he said. With that, he got up and walked to the altar, bent over and picked up his sword, and returned to whence he had been. He sat on the floor, dipped the corner of his tunic in the cup of water, and began to clean the blood from the blade of his sword.
"This will have to do for now, Lord, until I can get some oil to protect the blade."
When he had done cleaning the blade, he stood and put his sword in his belt, genuflected, and walked slowly down the center of the church, hard shoes creating hard echoes in the empty spaces of the place. As he neared the great wooden door of the church, he turned and looked back to the cross, over the altar.
"You are right, Lord. I stink. I am selfish and I am vain and I am a sinner, but a sinner, Sir, in your service."
He stood straight and lifted his right hand, his sword hand, open and ungloved, so that the backs of his fingertips touched his forehead, then brought his hand down and covered his heart in salute.
He turned and walked out into the sunlight.
His squire stood next to his horse, holding the reins. "Whither do we go, M'Lord?"
"Back the way we came, Squire. Back the way we came."