Brave Knight

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Fantasy Realm


A lone knight draws close to the end of his quest, hoping to find answers he seeks.

Submitted: June 27, 2018

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Submitted: June 27, 2018

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The afternoon hung heavy in the air as a lone knight and his trusty steed trod along the narrow path through a bright green meadow. He stretched his back in an arch while pushing a fist against the tension. He reached for the map from the nearest saddle bag and unfolded the parchment. His finger traced past the lake, ending at the edge of a great forest. His journey had been lonesome, leading him to this remote part of the kingdom. His food supply had significantly dwindled since the last village he passed through. But it seemed to almost be at an end, he hoped. He sighed and folded the map.
"We're almost there," the knight said aloud. Almost by his command, he could see the top of the forest peek over the horizon. The day's sun dropped far to the west as he rode on, turning the bright blue into a shaded orange.

The knight stopped a few paces from the edge of the tree line. The night sky would not offer any light if he pushed on. He clambered off his steed and led him to a tree in the meadow away from the forest. The knight proceeded to tie him off around the trunk. The animal made it a challenge, neighing, and pulling in the opposite direction of the trees.
"Whoa, easy now," he tried to calm the horse. He looked back at the woods as the struggle continued. His eyes strained to try and see what spooked his horse,
"I see nothing. Be calm before you attract something that might put us in real danger."
The horse never stopped but the jumping and whinnying subsided into a nervous pace. The knight gave him a feed bag and faced the horse away from tree line. The knight unloaded his armor, sword, and camp supplies from the saddle. He left the saddle strapped to his horse, so he may be off with haste in the morning. He laid his gear against the tree and made camp. The knight finally rested against the tree after his fire roared to life. He quickly ate his rations of rabbit meat and bread.

After the meal, he pulled a folded note from a pocket in the breast of his jerkin. He unfolded it and read it to himself,
"To the brave knight who takes this noblest of tasks, I seek rescue. Far to the north, in the heart of the oldest forest, I am held captive against my will. I pray this note finds one who is chivalrous to release me from my prison. My captor has me locked away in the tallest of towers. This castle is cold, and the days grow long. I promise a reward of great value to the one who takes me from here, for I am of royal blood."
This letter intrigued the knight, not because of the promises of gold or bedding a princess. The knight found the letter posted on a notice board in his village. He took it from the board then returned to it a week later. A similar letter had been posted again. Different wording, but the same message begged for a brave knight to come to her aid in the far north.

The cold air cut through the knight's leather jerkin as he fought for sleep. After fixing his bedroll and making the ground as comfortable as humanly possible, he slept as his fire slowly withered to nothing.

The knight leaned up from the from his slumber with heavy eyes. He looked around at the camp. The fire had burnt out, the gray morning wore a blanket of fog, and the nearby tree had a loose rope wrapped around the trunk. His blood immediately ran cold as he jolted right out of his bedroll. He ran to the rope and held it limp in his hands. The severed end was frayed with twine, as if it had been cut. The knight turned the rope in his hands, running his fingers through the fray. Why didn't they take him? They took the horse but left him, along with his weapon. He left the rope and picked up his sword. He decided against bringing the armor for it would greatly slow him down. He buckled the sheath around his waist and proceeded to the path inside the forest.

The gray morning gave way to a darker journey inside the thick of oak trunks. Their canvas shielded more light as the knight found a path among the fallen leaves and roots. Something about these woods troubled him. He couldn't hear any birds singing, or the buzzing of insects, or even the rustling of wind through the branches. Just the repeated thud of his boots on the path. The woods appeared alive but held no life. The knight continued on, trying to keep his thoughts on what lay ahead.

It was Midday, or that's what the knight had guessed, when he found the a clearing. Some time back, he could smell something different in the forest. He knew the smell and he wasn't pleased with what it is; the stench of decay. The clearing opened to a grisly scene. He counted ten men strewn about the clearing, each to varying degrees of butchery. Some men were missing limbs while others missed innards. Blood coated the ground like a morning dew. Then he turned to the mound of eaten flesh of a horse in the center.
"Bugger all, that's my horse," the knight quietly muttered to himself, stepping through the carnage. He immediately recognized what was left of the horse's color and his saddle.He went
to the most intact of the bodies and checked him for anything usable. He wore a long brown coat with belts across his chest. The belts holstered something peculiar to the knight.
"Pardon me sir, I don't think you'll be needing this," he said, pulling a wooden handled weapon out from the holster. The device measured as long as his forearm with a shimmering silver blade attached under the wood and metal tube. The handle connected to a trigger much like a crossbow but held had a strange metal mechanism that his thumb could reach. He pulled it back with his thumb and aimed the device across the clearing. He pulled the trigger. His arm flew upwards with a flash of smoke and a loud bang that rattled his ears. The knight shouted and dropped the weapon. He stood up, rubbing his ears. He walked towards direction he fired. He found a tree with damage in the bark. Inside the bark around the impact, he found a silver metal ball lodged deep in the wood.
"I've only heard legends about weapons such as this," he said as his fingers ran over the splintered wood. He was also certain that anyone in earshot heard him. As he frantically searched for another one of the devices that were unfired among the bodies, he noticed an odd layer of gray substance on a majority of the carnage. The knight wiped his fingers across one of the coats and brought it to his nose.
"Ashes," he looked around, brushing his hand on his jerkin, "but there is no fire damage on the trees," the scene didn't add up. Ten men armed with mysterious weaponry, completely slaughtered. Upon closer inspection he found teeth marks on his horse's remains. And a fine layer of ash. He started back into the forest, hoping the worst lay behind him.

Time escaped the knight as he continued along the path. He fought to keep his wits about him, between the silence of the forest and the cloudy sky offering no sense of hours. The massacre at the clearing still raced through his head. There wasn't a single solution to all the dead men and the ashes. He figured his horse had become the meal of a bear or pack of wolves. His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden, piercing gust of wind. The trees rustled with the wind as his path finally opened to another clearing. He found himself at the entrance to a small abandoned village. Beyond the dilapidated homes, he could see his destination. A great castle towered above the village. He noticed a flickering light in the tallest window. He pressed on inside the village, heading straight for the castle's outer wall.

The knight looked up at the great oak doors of the castle. The cold winds made him wish he had brought furs for his journey. He prepared himself, fully expecting a trap waiting for him inside. He took a deep breath and pushed open the doors with all his strength. His footsteps echoed off the foyer's high ceiling when he entered. At the great stairwell, a row of lit torches burned. Someone had prepared them recently, as if the knight was expected for dinner. No other torches were lit aside from the row beckoning him up the stairwell. His eyes adjusted to the dim light as he approached the steps. As soon as his boot landed on the first step, he about faced as he heard the doors swung shut. He slowly turned back around, drew his sword, then proceeded up the stairs.

The torches led him through the deserted halls. Each stairwell took him farther upward toward the highest room. He kept his sword at the ready, checking each corner with the utmost caution. The castle echoed his isolation, much like the prior forest. Instead of having an open space, the knight felt trapped. He truly felt alone in these halls while the torches led him to uncertainty. His grip on his sword held firm as he came across the tower stairs. He looked around in the darkness, straining to hear anything besides the crackle of torchlight. He shook his head, took another breath, then proceeded up the final flight. The tower's stairwell proved to be a more cramped ascent than the rest of the castle. His shoulders often rubbed against the stone walls as he climbed ever higher. At last, he found the door at the top. His hand wrapped around the cold metal of the handle and pushed inward. The room seemed larger than it was, given the large window letting in the day's light. A silhouette of a young girl outlined the window. Her dress hung still around her shoulders, much like the rope around her neck that kept her suspended in the air. The high-altitude temperature had slowed her decomposition. The knight felt his stomach turn as he walked forward. Suddenly, a pair of arms grabbed him from behind. One wrapped around his neck while the other constrained his sword arm. The arms were unnaturally cold to the touch. He struggled against his captor to no avail."Well done, Brave Knight," a voice hissed in his ear like a serpent that grew human vocal cords. "Unfortunately, you're a bit late. Tis a shame. But don't worry, I still have use for you!" The knight grunted, struggling to pull himself away. His captor laughed to himself, pleased with the trap he had set for the knight. With quick thinking, the knight used his free arm to grab the mysterious weapon from his jerkin. He gripped the metal tube and reached around his head to stab the captor with the silver blade. The man screeched into the knight's ear in pain as the knight fumbled with the firing mechanism. He eventually pulled down the mechanism then quickly followed with a trigger pull. A loud bang rung in his ear after discharging the weapon so close. The arms released him as he turned, bringing his sword around for the kill. The momentum of the turn let the blade cleanly slice through the man's neck while he writhed in pain inflicted by the silver. His head hit the ground with a thud, along with the weapon. The knight stepped back, watching the headless body drop to it's knees. It finally fell over and disintegrated into a cloud of ashes. The knight, exhausted, sheathed his sword and made for the door. He dared not to disturb the body of the girl, fearing another unnatural occurrence like the one he had just dealt with. He descended the castle the way he entered. The torches remained lit as he proceeded to the exit. Nobody would believe what he experienced on this journey. Creatures with weakness to silver who preyed on the living. Who would have thought something so evil could exist in this world? He finally realized the band of strange men encountered a similar creature. Before his return journey, the knight determined to look for any supplies that may still be in the village. He reached the foyer of the castle and sighed with relief. He walked to the door then gripped the handle. The knight pulled, then pulled harder, yet the door didn't budge. He gripped the handle with both hands and pulled with all his strength. The door didn't move. He stopped. In the silence, he heard clicking on stone coming from the foyer's high ceiling. Then he heard a raspy whisper.
"Braaaave......Kniiiiiiight." his heart sank deep in his chest.


© Copyright 2018 Aaron Thomas. All rights reserved.

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