THORSTON THE HUMBLE
As one of King Alstan the Affable’s loyal henchmen, Thorston, Thane of Wealdham in the Kingdom of the Ingles, had been sent upon a most important task. He was to travel to a place called Biscopstone deep in the shire lands of Somer and collect a wondrous statue that it was said men had found buried in the earth and take it to the king.
So Thorston set off with Adric the carter, a wagon drawn by four of his strongest oxen, his own two loyal henchmen and Wilfreed his holy man. After two days of journeying, they reached their destination and upon a conical hill, they saw a great cluster of the simple folk gazing in awe and wonder at a most miraculous sight. For there lying in the ground was a statue of The Lord of All the Heavens, exquisitely carved in the blackest stone Thorston had ever seen. The figure had its arms across its chest as if clasping all men to its bosom. Upon seeing the holy object Wilfreed fell upon his knees in joyous celebration and said to Thorston,
“ It is indeed a marvellous sight. See how the simple folk draw strength and comfort from it. We must do as our king commands and take this gift from the Lord of All the Heavens straight away to the king’s capital and place it in the great holy chemple in Heafordburg.”
Thorston did indeed see how the simple folk gazed in awe at the statue and though he was not himself a man of great faith he was a man of great ambition. He thought of his humble hall in Wealdham with its leaking roof and rotten timbers and considered how he might use the object that inspired such devotion to his own advantage.
When Thorston told the simple folk of Biscopstone of the king’s command they lamented loudly at the loss of the statue but dutiful in their obedience to the king’s wishes they helped lift the wondrous object onto the cart and sent Thorston, his two henchmen, Adric the carter and Wilfreed on their way. However, when they reached a fork in the road not far from Biscopstone Thorston ordered his men to stop. One way led south to Heafordburg and one way led north to Wealdham. Impatient to reach Heafordburg Wilfreed , in his excitement and devotion to The Lord of All the Heavens, ignored his Thane’s command and rode ahead pointing southward.
“ This way my Thane, let us make haste and we shall be in Heafordburg this very evening.” For Wilfreed had for many years longed to see the great holy chemple in Heafordburg of which he had heard so much.
They were to be the last words the holy man spoke. For Thorston came up beside him and plunged his sword into his body. Then Thorston turned to Adric the carter and his two henchmen and told them that the previous night he’d had a dream in which the Lord of All the Heavens had warned him not to take the statue to Heafordburg or he and those who helped him in that task would be forever cursed. However, those who helped him take the statue to Wealdham would receive many blessings and riches.
Adric the carter and the two Henchmen looked at each other and each thought of their humble homes in Wealdham, each with its small plot of land.They thought of their unhappy, thin wives and their hungry children and they said nothing and followed Thorston as he led them northwards to Wealdham.
In his palace in Heafordburg King Alstan became less affable as each day passed and there was no sign of the wondrous object that Thorston had been commanded to bring to him. As he waited impatiently word came to him that many of the simple folk and many of the grand folk were travelling to Wealdham to see a holy statue that Thorston had taken to there. The very same statue, it was said, that he had commanded should be brought to the great chemple in Heafordburg. So the king sent for Godrigge, his Royal Standard Bearer in Battle, a man who had grown rich and fat in the service of the king and commanded him to go to Wealdham with a company of the king’s bravest henchmen with orders to collect the statue and bring Thorston to Heafordburg in chains.
When Godrigge arrived in Wealdham he saw a great crowd of the grand and simple folk standing outside a large hut where they were making offerings of all manner of jewels, coin, and corn to Thorston’s two henchmen. When Godrigge asked them why they were giving the henchemen coin and jewels the grand and simple folk replied;
” So we can go inside and see the wondrous statue of The Lord of all the Heavens and draw strength and comfort from it.”
But when Godrigge called out to Thorston and told him of the king’s command the simple and grand folk became angry and surrounded the king’s henchmen. They threatened to kill Godrigge if he tried to take the statue from them. Loud threats of violence and slaughter were made on all sides until Thorston strode amongst them and called for peace. He went up to Godrigge and spoke to him as a brother.
“Godrigge”, he said, “ We have stood together in the shield wall in many battles in the service of our king. Let us not spill each other’s blood or that of these good, pious folk and the king’s henchmen. I will come willingly to Heafordburg and see our king but you must leave the statue here. The Lord of All the Heavens bid me in a dream to bring it to Wealdham and said that any who take it away will be forever cursed.”
When the king’s bravest henchmen drew back in fear of the curse Godrigge agreed to leave the statue in Wealdham. Thorston went to Heafordburg with him and stood before King Alstan. He bowed as deeply as any man could bow and offered his apologises so humbly that the whole court named him Thorston the Humble.
” Your Majesty”, he said, ” I beg your forgiveness. It was my intention to bring the wondrous statue to you but I had a dream that troubled me greatly. Yet still, I was determined to bring the statue to you but when we reached the fork in the road not far from Biscopstone the four strong oxen who pulled the cart refused to go in any direction but to Wealdham.”
“ Did you not beat them?” said the king.
“ I did my lord until blood flowed but they would not be turned.”
” And what of your holy man? Did he not remind you of your duty?”
“ He did my king, but when he called on me to travel south instead of north he was suddenly struck down dead though no hand was raised against him. I took this as a sign of The Lord of All the Heavens intent.”
At this, there was much muttering and consternation in the court.
Then the king called Thorston to his side and spoke softly to him,
“ I hear the simple and grand folk leave many gifts in Wealdham so that they may see the wondrous statue. Is this true?”
“ It is true my king; they leave many gifts. All manner of jewels, coin and corn”
“ And what will you do with all the jewels, coin and corn?” whispered King Alstan in Thorston’s ear.
“ I will keep half for the Lord of All the Heavens so that I may build a great chemple in his honour and I will keep half for …”
The king looked deep into Thorston’s eyes and then looked over to Godrigge, his Royal Standard Bearer in Battle who had grown rich and fat in the service of his king.
“ I have often wondered”, he said, “Just how loyal to his king Godrigge truly is. Are you truly loyal to your king Thorston?”
Thorston followed his king’s gaze and whispered,
“ I am my king, but I hear say that Godrigge is very ambitious and yearns for yet more power and riches.”
Then Thorston leant closer and said, quietly so none but the king could hear.
“ My king, I will keep half of all the donations from the grand and simple folk for The Lord of All the Heavens in Wealdham and I will give half to you.”
And so Thorston the Humble became King Alstan’s loyal Royal Standard Bearer in Battle. The roof of his hall no longer leaked and the timbers were no longer rotten. He grew rich and fat in the service of his king who men called Alstan the Avaricious, but only behind his back.
Adric the carter and Thorston’s two henchmen lived well on their small plots of land in Wealdham. Their wives were no longer thin or unhappy and their children were never hungry.
Godrigge remained the king’s loyal follower, only now he was a poor one.
But most importantly of all, The Lord of All the Heaven’s continued to bestow his blessings on all those simple and grand folk who travelled to Wealdham, bringing all manner of jewels, coin, and corn, so that they might see his wondrous statue in the magnificent holy chemple in Wealdham.