| The Knight
The Sun streamed through the great big window of the grand hall. It was early in the day, but the hall was full of people, all come to see the bold new Knight whom had vowed to kill the dragon. The knight walked in through the big oak doors which moved silently on well oiled hinges. He stepped forward into the hall and everyone turned to look at him. He was wearing his full armour, top to toe except for his helm which he held in the crook of his right arm. It was a rusty red colour buffed to a high shine and appeared mirror like in the early morning sun. The visor of his helm was shaped to resemble the head of a minotaur. The horns curled viciously forward and the beast’s snout bared it’s teeth in a horrible snarl. The breast plate was emblazoned with the Bulls head, shiny rubies for eyes giving the beast a demonic look.
At his waist, the knight wore a double edged sword, sheathed in a red leather scabbard. The hilt was long and came almost level with the bull on the breastplate and was made of a shiny dragon’s tooth, the pommel a sharp point of bone. In his left hand, the knight carried a long kyte shield, half the size of a man, made of dragon scale and lined with silver bands.
As the knight approached the throne, every head turned in unison as he walked passed, almost silently on the thick carpet which lay down the middle of the great hall. As he neared the throne, the knight stopped and bent to one knee in front of the High King seated high on his throne of polished ebony. The knight kept his head bowed in respect till called by the High King.
-”Rise Sir Cantrell! You honour us with your presence.” The king smiled.
-”Please, Your Grace, it is you who honours me with the offer to rid your kingdom of this pest”. Replied the knight.
-”I understand you have fought our threat before, in the shadow hills,” the king enquired. “Pray tell, how did you come to defeat the creature?”
-”Your Grace, it was but a fight to the death which only one victor; me.” The knight said humbly. “I would have gladly laid down my life had it meant serving the high Lords and Ladies of the Shadow Hills. Fortunately, the beast was not as tough as he has been described, a mere juvenile and was easily dispatched with several swings of my sword. I even managed to get the local smith to fashion me this here shield” he said lifting the shield; it weighed almost nothing, yet was twice as tough as any steel he had come across.
-”Bravo Sir Cantrell!” the High King laughed, the remainder of the court following suit. “I should warn you however that this dragon is no juvenile, it is a full grown female. We believe she has been laying eggs, adding to the threat. Will this be a problem?”
-”Nay, Your Grace. A dragon is a dragon. Eggs are eggs and don’t tend to bite.” Sir Cantrell said. The king belly laughed again followed shortly by the court.
-”Well then Sir Cantrell, I bid you good luck. And I make you this solemn vow: If you defeat our dragon, you will have my blessing to marry my daughter.” Said the High King, gesturing to his left.
A woman tall and dark haired floated down the steps from a door in the far wall, adorned in the finest silks laced with gold thread. Her dark hair was worn in a long braid that circled and crowned her head. She swiftly glided over to The High King, hand outstretched and smiled at the knight.
-”Father, is this the knight you have been talking about?” she asked.
-”Indeed it is my sweet daughter. This is Sir Cantrell, the Dragonslayer. He has travelled far upon hearing of our situation and has vowed to dispatch the dragon that plagues our lands.” Answered the King.
-”Sir Cantrell, I trust you know that you are not the first knight that has gone up against our monster. How do you think you shall fair?” the Princess asked.
-”I fear that by the end of the week, your lands will no longer have this nuisance. And a new prince,” The knight smiled. “Do you no have faith in me, my lady?”
-”It is not your faith I question, Sir Cantrell, it is your resolve.” Replied the Princess stubbornly.
The King smiled and squeezed his daughter’s hand, “Come daughter, do not doubt our valiant champion. He will surely come back with this beats’ head” appeased the king.
-”So I shall your grace, and with that, I must bid farewell, the cave is several day’s ride from here, and I intend to make camp before the sun slips behind the mountains. I shall be back, with the beats’ head!” The knight shouted. The crowd of the court all cheered as the knight rose, spun on his heel and left in a flurry, a black cape flowing behind him.
When the knight exited the castle, his squire was waiting with the horses. His squire was young and new at his job. He had replaced the squire who had got in the way when Sir Cantrell had fought the last dragon, a fierce green scaled monster which had shot a flurry of flame and hit his squire square on, igniting him instantly.
This new squire was keen but very new at the job and still not always ready. As the knight approached the horses, the squire saw him and jumped to his feet, nervously trying to untie the reins from the post they were attached to. He was so nervous and his gloves so thick he could not manage to set the horses free. The knight stood by impatiently taping his foot on the floor. The squire finally managed to untie the reins and helped the knight atop his destrier.
-”I warn you know, if this is the quality of your work you won’t last longer than this dragon!” The knight scalded. The squire bowed his head in shame and mounted his own horse. They both lead their horses out of the castle courtyard, headed through the portcullis and out in to town. The streets were lined with people, most of which were cheering. The knight smiled grandly and waved at the people. The squire kept his head low and followed at a distance behind. By the time they had made their way out of the town, the knight had given up waiving and the crowds had thinned. The guards on the eastern gate looked at the knight and bid him farewell and good luck. No one paid any mind to the squire.
The land beyond the castle wall was lush and green. Many of the fields were being tended to by the farmers, fishermen in the river and lumberjacks in the woods. The road was quiet other than a couple of peasants hauling their load to the local market. The odd peasant would stand in the ditch of the road to let the knight pass. Some would bow. Nobody knew who he was. The squire kept pace behind the knight and kept quiet as they rode through the countryside. The further they went, the quieter the road became. The sun was already beginning to slip behind the great mountain that lined the kingdom. The light was dimming the further they went on. After several hours more travelling in silence, the knight bade the squire come forward.
-”Make way to the town up ahead and procure me a bed at the local inn.” He ordered. “Make sure that the wine is cold, the food is hot and the bed clean. Then I want the horses tended to before you find yourself food, am I understood?” The squire nodded silently and rode ahead.
By the time the knight arrived at the village, it had begun to rain. The fat drops bounced off his armour making the metal sing. He saw his squire in front of the inn, standing under the thatch of the doorway. “Come get the horse and tie it up. Then come and get me out of this armour, I am soaked. Which room is mine?” Asked the knight.
-“The one on the ground floor m’lord. It’s near the hearth and nice and warm.” The knight nodded approvingly and made his way inside.
The inn’s interior was warm and empty. A strong smell of cooking was wafting from the kitchen in the back. A buxom serving girl stood behind the counter, wiping down the surface with a damp cloth. She smiled sweetly at the knight, showing off her rotten teeth.
-“Evening m’lord. Welcome to the River Inn. We are honoured to welcome you to our little abode. I trust your stay will be restful.” Said the serving girl with a short bow. The knight nodded briefly and moved toward the hearth. The heat was a welcome relief from the chill of the evening rain. A clash from behind him bought the knights attention to the door, where his squire stumbled in, dripping water all over the stone floor. He hustled over to the knight, and assisted him with taking the armour off. The knight noted that the squire was so eager to help, he was unclasping plates here and there. Before the knight could utter a word, the armour’s breast plate clattered to the floor, bouncing off his armoured boots. The serving girl jumped with a shriek at the sudden noise. The squire blushed and bent down to pick up the breast plate. The knight lifter an armoured foot and kicked the squire smartly in his rear. The squire went sprawling into a nearby table, dropping the breastplate again with another loud crash and repeat shriek from the serving girl.
-“Watch what you are doing you confounded oath!” screamed the knight. “If that armour is bent, I will run you through with your own sword!” Spittle flew from his mouth and his eyes seemed to glow red as he stared at the squire.
-“Many apologies m’lord, it slipped from my fingers,” the squire stammered. “I shall make sure the armour is spotless by the morning.”
The knight ignored him and started to take his armour off himself. By the time the servant girl bought the knight his food, he had shed his armour and the squire had retreated to the stables to check and polish it. The food was a simple haunch of rabbit with a few potatoes all served in a hollowed out piece of bread.
Before long, the knight had finished and made way to his room to rest and sleep.
The next morning, by the time the knight had finished his breakfast, the squire had already got the horses saddled and the armour was wrapped in linen and packed on the back of the squires horse. The knight stepped into the chill of the early morning sun and approached the bashful squire. He was dressed in loose fitting silks which were simple yet also carried across a certain grandness.
-”If you react like that whilst undressing me, I hate to see what you’d be like in battle. When we reach Dragon Point Rock, you will stay well away and only approach when I call you, do I make myself clear?” the knight glared.
-”Aye, my lord, I understand. I will only approach when you call.” The squire repeated obediently.
The pair moved off from the inn and rode out west towards the rising sun. As they ventured over the mountain pass, the scenery suddenly changed. Instead of the lush green fields they had ridden through the day before, the valley bellow them was scorched and blackened as if burnt by fire. Not one of the fields had any life growing. In the distance, the remains of a small village left standing in the middle of all the black fields. There was very little left of the village, just a couple of walls stood to denote the outline of several houses.
As they approached the remains, they could see that there were wisps of smoke from walls still smoldering. The remains of the houses showed that there had been a total of maybe 12 houses, but only the ruins of 3 remained. There were patches of scorched earth everywhere, and at the far end of the town, the squire spotted a mountain of charred bodies pilled up. This indicated that someone was still about to have done this.
-”Go find the surviver,” the knight ordered “and see what happened. Assist him in any way you can while you’re at it.”
The squire rode off towards the pile of bodies as the knight dismounted from his horse. Reaching into his saddle bag, he withdrew a gourd and drank.
Sir Offra Cantrell had been fighting dragons for many years. He had been called for from all over the many kingdoms and had defeated every monster he had been charged with slaying. He had visited countless villages and countless kingdoms all of which were plagued with a dragon or other monster to slay. In all these encounters however, he had never seen such selective destruction. There was nothing left in this valley. They had ridden for miles over blackened earth and smoldering fields. He could see this village had taken the brunt of the attack. This was not normal dragon behaviour. His attention was drawn from a lot of shouting coming from the far end of the ruins. As he looked over, he saw the squire galloping towards him, a look of terror on his face.
-”M’lord! There is only one villager left, and he states that the dragon is in a cave not far from here. But it’s…”
-”Not a dragon.” The knight finished.
-”Aye, m’lord. This is not a dragon, but a hydra!” The knight frowned and cursed. Had he been mislead, or did the High King not know the gravity of the situation? Going up against a dragon was bad enough, but going up against a multi headed dragon was a death sentence.
-”What is your plan m’lord? Do we wait for reinforcements, or seek help from the High King himself?” The squire asked.
The knight looked at him, his eyes glowing with a red rage again. “Do you take me for a craven boy?! Should we run and hide while we wait? I told His Grace I would slay this dragon, and slay this dragon I shall. I will not run back to court begging for help!” The knight screamed.
-”M’lord! Going up against a hydra is suicide! Even you won’t be able to beat it alone.” The squire pointed out astonished at the knight’s stubbornness and pride. The knight unslung his dragon scale shield off his back and struck the squire square in the face, throwing him from his horse.
-”How dare you question my orders and prowess!” The knight screamed. “I am the best dragon slayer in all kingdoms. I have fought more dragons than you’ve had hot baths and I’ve been doing so since you were still suckling at your mothers teat!” He added a kick to the squire’s belly for effect. “Don’t you dare get up, or I will run you through!” He warned. “Now get me dressed in my armour!” He commanded.
The squire, still retching from the kick to his belly struggled to his feet and unpacked the armour from the back of his mount. Within a matter of minutes, the knight was dressed head to toe in his gleaming armour, sword at his hip, shield on his left arm.
-”Now leave me, and pray I never see you again, or you will taste my steel.” The knight warned again. The squire looked on incredulous. “From this time forth, you are no longer wanted, or needed.” The knight said with a touch of menace in his voice. With that, he mounted his destrier and rode off towards Dragon Point Rock.