The Last Battle - and more...

By William Black

The knight went straight back to the Keep where he and his Lady were logged. But as he went up the stairs, he had a very uneasy feeling that all was not well. Not just with his relationship, but with this whole situation in general. He reached the top of the stairs and went straight to the door leading to their room.

He knew as he reached for the key (yes, this door had a lock) that his Lady was not present within the room. He entered it and found it as he had envisioned; empty. The room was cold, but not like the night before. This was cold as death itself. The feeling of loneliness and impending doom grew; yet he was a warrior and knew that this was just something that had to be lived with.

He looked around the room one last time, remembering the night before and the joy that was now a part of this room and the sorrow.

He went back down the steps to go out to the stables. He went through the Great Hall were men were still drinking, boasting, and arguing. He did not care for them nor their company. He went through a side door to where his squire was sleeping with other squires. He felt, for some reason, like kicking the lad awake (he knew other knights which handled their squires roughly). But he had no such intention; so he leaned over and gently shook the young fellow awake.

After reassuring the squire that all was well, but that they needed to go out and check on the equipment and the horses, they left the keep and went quickly to the stable. The sense of dread was very close, and the knight looked around for an unseen enemy. He wished that his Lady were here. She could see well into the night and hearts of others. But she was gone; and he was not in a position to follow.

He and the squire checked the equipment and the horses. They were all fine. His war horse was grey and not much to look at, but was loyal. Just like his squire, the knight chuckled to himself. No, the horse was more loyal. Only one other creature was so caring, untameable, and independent, and she was no where to be found.

The knight sent the squire back to the keep (to stay warm) and he laid himself down on some fresh hay. He had all of the "keep" he could take. He slept and dreamt of his Lady, the stone circle, and the battle that was not in his heart. His honour bound him to his lord and the lord's oath to the King. Would to God he had become a Priest and only vowed loyalty to the one and only LORD. But then his Lady would be totally out of his reach; maybe she was at this point. Why had he allowed the argument? Regrets were worthless... what was said was said. He wished he could take it all back, but that would have been false. He was who he was, and she loved him for it. He thought he loved her enough; but knew, given time, the love would surely grow.

The morning came and a damp fog hugged the ground. The knight stood up stiffly and got both himself and his mount ready. He had a small donkey to which he tied his supplies and armour. This was the squires job, but the knight felt something... that he should do this. It might be the last time. By the time he was ready the squires and their Masters were coming out of the keep. The other knights were in bad tempers due to the drinking of the night and early morning.

The knight and his squire rode (yes, the squire had his own mount; an eager strong little horse) to where the battle was to take place. The squire rode in front and slowly as to not tire the mounts out. The fog was persistent and cold. But the knight felt good. Things were going to work out; they always did for him.

When they arrived at the camp (dozens of tents had been set up, with a larger one in the middle of the camp), the sense of disaster grew stronger. But the knight got off his horse and greeted an old knight, one who was quite the veteran and much older than himself. They were friends and had fought side-by-side in a number of battles. They walked, joked, and generally got on. They came to the large tent in the centre of the camp. The older man went inside.

The knight felt troubled. He wondered if only his lord was there or if the King himself had made an appearance. However, he did not care. He looked up and saw the valley where the battle would be waged. But on the other side was a rise. The sun had just broken through the higher level clouds and he felt the fog would disappear any moment. The sun hit the other side of the valley, gelding the rise. It had a village on its slope. He wondered if the people there were awake, and if they cared one wit about what would take place in their valley in a few hours time.

He wished with all his heart that his life could be tied with theirs. That he could wake up in the morning, go milk the cow, feed the chickens, laugh with his wife and children... sigh. He smiled wondering where his Lady had gone. It was a sad smile, for he felt he knew. He wished that they were together again. His "honour" would be the death of him, he thought.

Then he felt it... an experience that he would remember forever but not willingly. He felt sick; a thick wave of nausea enclosed him. He wondered why there wasnít more pain. He turned to see his squire smiling a very cruel smile. The squire had a short sword in his hand and it was covered with red sticky stuff.

The knight tried to speak, but only a whisper left his lips. "My Lady, remember and forgive me". In vain, he hoped that his last thoughts would reach her in time. He prayed his Lady would continue to love him.


*********


A father grew anxious as he saw doctors rush a small bundle from one operating room to what he thought was another. He knew something was wrong, but not what. He also knew that the bundle was his. He asked the doctors about his wife (she was fine), and the child.

The child was born upside down and they could not get the baby to breath. The child was a "blue baby" or so they called it. They had to put the baby boy in an iron lung to persuade the infant to take life giving oxygen. The baby started to cry, and they named him Richard William.

The child grew up, but was rather weak and sickly. He was small for the family "average" but had an apparent (or so his parents told him later) inner strength. The child grew. Again, the parents noticed something odd about the lad. The boy stayed to himself. He grew interested in the world around him; the plants, animals, insects, rocks, water, and everything else. He took everything in. His brother often told him how "odd" he was and, "why canít you be like everyone else?" Good question, the boy thought, "I wish I knew".

William Black ©


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