The Coat of Arms Bears A Fork!

The coat of arms was a method used to identify medieval knights in battle. It’s easy to forget that not every knight was of the same kingship, some were sworn elsewhere to else-lords and just had to fight because of their lord’s loyalty. There were icons of many designs and it wasn’t long before clever households with clever seamstresses bore imagery that bragged of family-doin’s, real or imagined.

My master’s own coat bears the four images he’d like others to believe his family stood for: a split tree, a male boar’s snout, a fork, and a bow and four-arrow quiver, surrounded by the same general “fluff” as all the others; cross-shield frame, ivy, all that rot.

I was sold into the house as a lad, so I had no idea what these things were supposed to mean. As I was forced to go with the master’s idiot son into a particular battle in some French land, I brought that up in a public house where I hoped the crowd would deter violence. Between beatings he told me the fascinating story behind each image, and with his whiny, nasally, voice that was just as torturous.

The first, the split tree; a story of profound untruth. The mad squire would have me believe that once his grandfather owned land filled with trees. Trees of all kinds, big trees, large trees, round trees, large and round trees…; the best type of trees for building brew-houses or fortifications. The fool claims remnants of these trees exist in the gate-posts that mark the hog-pens. Driftwood off some sod’s slipshod raft is what those looked to me.

The family made their fortune by selling off all this great lumber and then the grandfather spent the fortune on pigs. Smelly pigs; but they seemed happy enough.

The second image, a male boar’s snout; another story lacking in truth to take advantage of the dull. I was fortunate to hear this tale, too, while the young master had a cold, so it was riddled with coughing and sneezing and phlegm. I first asked how he knew it was male boar’s snout and he rapped me on the head and said, “You know it’s male because it has tusks, dummy!” but I don’t think that’s true. I pulled another pub patron over and made the same inquiry.

The old man inclined towards my master’s son who lent the man his club to beat me with and the pub patron ambled away when his arm was tired. Satisfied, my master resumed his false tale and grossly exaggerated the grandeur of his family’s hog-rearing and the greatness of the family’s hunting prowess.

This, of course, attracted some boar spirit from the mountain’s forests who wouldn’t stand for the imprisonment of his people and the slaughter of his kith and kin and told he told them so somehow through a male boar’s snout. The boar’s name was Unmathlan, a beast that had to tower over armies, but somehow had a tusk big enough to fit on a shield.

The boar stamped and stamped and growled and the last tree on the property fell on his head, killing him instantly. Or after he cursed somebody. The grandfather chopped off the head and put it over the mantle, but I’ve never seen it. But then, I’m not allowed in the house, either.

The third image, a fork; a utensil I’ve never been allowed to use. I thought it was something else, but after a hearty smack and a boot I learned that it was, indeed, a fork. But, the fork represented something else, the family sausage.

I’ve actually stolen a bite or two of the sausage, it is tasty. Of all these useless tales, this one may have a ring of truth.

Every time a hog keels over, it’s set upon and dis-parted and everything goes somewhere. For my masters, they sent the best cuts of meat to the curing-house and divvied up some quarters and bones for a butcher friend.

They kept some thigh and snout for the sausage. There were also some of the fattier pieces of organ-meat and mortared pine needles from someone else’s land. I know because I had to fetch these before I was sent to war with the French and this filthy kid. There was honey from wild bees I also had to fetch. And some apples. All the servants before me did this when we weren’t hog-rearing.

The sausage was famous in our town and I heard that the family’s name was mentioned in villages across Europa. Some king, the king, probably, sent for some and rewarded the family with title, land, men, and hogs. As tribute, the king demanded a ransom of sausages. And money.

The fourth image, a bow and four-arrow quiver; this represented the family’s eternal claim to fame, the hog-string bow and hog-feathered arrows. I was only conscious for most of this story as I thought to feign to feint to avoid any more exposure to this lunacy. My snoring gave me away.

Apparently, even before the pig farmers had started to think of pig herding, they were visited by some fantastic guy who asked if they’d do him a favor and hunt some winged boars out in the mountain’s swamps.

Naturally, the men were up to challenge and they went to hunt the game in mountainous marshy, foggy, lands that aren’t there anymore. There were four men, all friends; brothers, at least, and there was only one winged boar. If there were others, they had flown too close to sun and plummeted back to the earth as hog cannonballs. Just this one remained and it was no match for four idiot-brothers.

When it was dead, they tied each of its hairs into a bow-string and after so many failed attempts to feather arrows with the hog’s feathers, each brother had one arrow as a keepsake. The fantastic guy appeared to claim the rest of the corpse and mentioned something about the family being known for hunting prowess forever and he when he left, he burned up the hog-string. I guess that’s the part that lives on in legend.

So that’s the coat of arms my master’s family and their knights wear. For most, it’s a wide, slow-moving, target since these knights are all as round as spoiled pigs and are too fat for any horse. They are popular for their sausages. On both sides of the battle.

My fervent hope is to snatch a satchel, stuff it with sausages, and make for the mountain’s port before anyone knows I’m missing. With the sausage in hand and receipt in mind, I’ll be a high-hog legend overseas, in no time!


Justin Lehman

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