The Squire and his Knight
The Squire and his Knight
As the trees sway two and fro answering the call of the wind, a knight rides under the stars, singing into the night. Although the air was cold, a cape of red and blazing orange swathed his silver armor, warding away the biting chill. The dark red cloth flapped haughtily in the wind, as crimson as the noble blood that ran through the knight’s veins.
His eyes flashing with pride, the knight drew his sword, a great blade of steel almost too large to be held. In his other fist he clutched an oval shield, forged in orange and red like the colour of his thick mane of hair. Astride his mount, the noble figure bellowed –
“I am the great Sir Halifirien Von Drackenhof Sigismund the third, bearer of the sword of Castell, first son of the Ostland line, slayer of a thousand beasts and protector of the fair realms of…!”
As he yelled, his mount rolled its eyes almost as if in response, for Halifirien’s horse was no ordinary horse. She was a Pegasus. She resembled the sleekest horse, chased in silver from mane to hoof. Her figure was almost streamlined for speed, graceful curves flowing with liquid muscle. Yet she possessed wings that would put eagles to shame, sweeping angelic wings that glided on wind currents. Some say a Pegasus is as smart as a human…but some say a human is simply stupid.
Riding behind the boastful knight, his squire Nindalf mumbled to himself. The boy had a habit of muttering behind the knight’s back during his long rambling speeches on chivalry and heroism. Nindalf rode with his head down, his skinny frame hunched over his donkey. He disliked serving Halifirien for his vanity and raucousness. His irritation only increased when he was pressed to blow trumpets and bash cymbals to herald their grand arrival.
Halifirien didn’t seem to notice such reactions and continued singing his forty fifth verse.
Looking up from his endless hours of saddle-born boredom, Nindalf heard a rustle in the forest. His large eyes widened in surprise and he reined his donkey to a sharp halt. “Sir!” he cried.
“What? Don’t you know better than to disturb me when I sing the ballads of legend!?” snapped the knight, not bothering to turn around.
“Sir…I thought I heard a ghost…” Nindalf whispered, suddenly very frightened. He tugged his white cloak over his head and sunk into a miserable shape.
Halifirien slowly turned his head and on spotting Nindalf, shrouded in billowing white, began to scream - “GHOST!GHOST!GHOST!”
Nindalf, unaware of his master’s folly, sprang up in surprise, throwing his white cloak into the air. The white sheet fluttered eerily in the air before being snagged by a branch. It hung on the tree as a pale shroud.
Sir Halifirien began to scream in terror at the phantom in the tree. Upon seeing the billowing white of his cloak, suspended in midair like a ghostly wraith, Nindalf pointed and shrieked. Then Halifirien shrieked. The Pegasus only seemed to snicker to herself.
At sunrise they arrived at the village of Mullet Cove. Yet ‘village’ was a far fetched description. A handful of mud huts sat uncomfortably on the slick black rocks of the sea. The glossy black blades clustered around the little shacks, threatening to swallow them into the hungry ocean maw.
Halifirien snapped his fingers - “Cymbals and trumpet Nindalf!”
Nindalf groaned but soon the shrill squeal of brass echoed around the rocky cove.
“Stop that noise! No one’s in the mood for celebration – The Jabberwocky is coming!” came a voice from the mud shacks below. Soon a chorus of angry villagers gathered at the doors of their shabby homes, glaring at the knight in a mixture of hope and confusion.
Sir Halifirien adjusted his cape to suit a heroic pose and glided into the village, positioning his sword so it glittered in the rays of the early morning sun. The villagers looked too haggard to be impressed.
“Good people of this…uh…town. I am the grand Sir Halifirien and this is my faithful squire little Nindalf. Hear me when I say, fear not the arrival of any jabberwocky! Revere me for I am your savior!” The Knight roared, the coves echoed his declaration.
The villagers remained in a silent mob. Someone coughed. Finally after a painful moment of awkward silence, a frail old wisp of a man stepped forward.
“This beast is no animal. It is a Jabberwocky, a creature of ancient brutality. Unless we offer it the youngest of our children the beast devastates our homes. We are fisherman not fighters.”
Halifirien reared his Pegasus and on cue, Nindalf began to clash his cymbals. What followed next was a long winded speech rich with rhyme and metaphor. While the villagers applauded the knight like a flock of dull sheep, Nindalf chewed his lip nervously.
It was sunrise on the following day and Halifirien cut a resplendent figure on the rock shore. He stood alone, facing the horizon with the rising sun bathing him in a luminescent halo. In one mailed fist he clutched his sword and in the other he held a shield. The villagers in their dirty grey rags kept a fearful distance from the knight, huddled in groups like reverent worshippers. Halifirien wished the King’s portrait artist had been here to capture this moment.
Meanwhile, Nindalf had been lumped with the task of guarding the donkey and Pegasus, on a cliff ledge overlooking the shanty town. The boy chewed on collar of his wool tunic sleepily, detached from the drama unfolding below. In truth he had little stomach for heroism. Yet Halifirien had insisted that his squire hold a straw shield and spear, for purely ornamental purposes. The boy was almost nodding off to sleep when the surface of the sea began to bubble and tremor.
Suddenly wide awake, Nindalf witnessed the sea explode in a geyser of mist. From its depths rose the Jabberwocky. The creature was enormous, even from his high perch, Nindalf could see that. A twisted crown of horns, like upturned tree roots crested its spherical head; in fact the Jabberwocky’s head resembled the stump of a tree, its green skin knotted and scarred and rotted through with barnacles. With a sickening motion, the Jabberwocky began to heave itself out of the water, its body a shapeless mass of soft fat, puckered and rubbery. Wet tentacles slithered from underneath its shapeless bulk, clinging to the shore, like a mass of slimy spider webs.
As the monster rolled ashore the villagers scattered like marbles knocked by a cannonball. When the villagers had fled, the Jabberwocky fixed its attention on Halifirien, glaring with eyes like pale bloated sacs of pus. The knight stood motionless as the creature roared, its cry sounding like the echo of a dying whale. Halifirien’s sword clattered to the ground and the mighty knight ran. He ran faster than he had ever run in his life, and he didn’t look back.
Some say that heroes are made in the most unlikeliest of places. Whether true or not, Nindalf acted without thinking. He leapt onto the back of the Pegasus and gripped his spear with sweaty palms. Compared to the Jabberwocky, his spear seemed nothing more than a sharp twig. But none of that occurred to Nindalf as he spurred the steed off the cliff and into the air. The Pegasus streaked toward the clouds and swept down like a bolt of silver lightning, Nindalf closed his eyes and bit his tongue, thrusting the spear before him. The Pegasus became a blur of molten movement as it rippled through the air, the spear tip parting the air with a keening whistle. It collided with the Jabberwocky’s pulsating left eye. The effect was like piercing a ripe grape with all the force of a comet centered on a pin point.
When Nindalf came to, he found himself lying on the roof of a mud hut, plastered with a thick white mucous. The Pegasus lay next to him, panting heavily, her fine coat stinking of pus. He was dimly aware in the back of his mind that the Jabberwocky had slithered back into the ocean. But all of that seemed irrelevant because below him, a horde of villagers cheered, their hollow faces filled with an unsuppressed joy. They cried out his praise and wept with happiness. They had found a hero at last, one without shining armor or a brilliant name.