Knight: Fragments from a Life of Gusto

Part III of VIII—A Slice of Revenge

For exactly five years, five months, five days, five hours, and five minutes, the wizard has hated the knight. The wizard remembers this at exactly this instant. He finds the series of fives significant because five is his favorite number for many very good reasons.

The wizard stares out the highest arrow loop of his tower, hating the knight. He must come up with a plan. He had meant to get around to doing something about this hatred some five years, five months, five days, five hours, and five minutes ago. It occurs to the wizard that he is a procrastinator. Some day he will solve this problem, as well, but only after he does away with the knight.

The wizard plans for exactly five months. The plan is flawless, simple, unimaginative. It is tested repeatedly on animals. It works on chickens, ducks, geese, a sampling of other water fowl, up through beaver, deer, bear, giant chickens, children, peasants, lesser nobles, obscure kings that won’t be missed.

This wizard has learned the hard way that one goes into one million exactly one million times. He is a very careful and proud wizard. He does everything the hard way because he distrusts shortcuts. If no hard way exists, he finds one.

The wizard looks into his ovens, hating the knight. This morning he sent a telegram even though it is a very expensive way to communicate. Grimly, he bakes today’s bread: a fluffy, delicate, whole wheat.

Part IV of VIII—Beer with the Lads

When the knight invites nearby lords over to his incredibly dusty castle, he sometimes slaps their thighs as he describes what goes through a champion’s mind after winning the most important joust ever, which the knight has done many times. They examine his trophies and shake their heads. Open another can of beer and pout.

“Not to worry,” says the knight. “Some day I’ll be too old to carry a lance. Some day I’ll retire. A new champion will come.”

When the knight says this, unable to look their host in the eye, the lords avert their gazes to the dusty flagstones. There is no broom in this entire castle, they think. They all think this, but never know that the others are thinking the same thing.

When the knight invites nearby lords over to his sparsely furnished castle, he sometimes argues with them about politics and then bravely slays his companions in a heroic and grisly fashion.

Some of the knight’s greatest victories: Mileth, Krath, Staren Fountain, and of course the Whispering Caves of Gromo.

Part VIII of VIII—The Gardener’s Solutions

There is a problem at the church. A chimera has burned the knight to ashes. This, however, is not the problem. The ashes were gathered and placed in a decorative urn, but no one knows for sure if the ashes were all found. There is very little ash in the urn. But this is not the problem, either.

The problem has given the priest diarrhea, so now the priest refuses to eat. Others become concerned about his health and confront him. Instead of telling them the truth, the priest blames it on God.

The knight was a very important man. The priest remembers a few of the knight’s past victories: Star Hill, Tucrinan, Boorinan, Tandfor, Cayblin Vale, and of course the Whispering Caves of Gromo.

He seeks the advice of a bishop. Not his bishop, another bishop. The priest wants a second opinion.

“Yes, the standard pyre doesn’t seem right, does it,” says the other bishop. The priest slowly shakes his head in agreement. “It would mock the dead man’s soul, wouldn’t it,” says the other bishop. “It would make people giggle. We can’t have that, can we. The church is a very serious thing, isn’t it.”

Because of the rules, which are very important and serious, funerals of this priest’s sect must contain a funeral pyre. There is no exception.

The priest sits on the toilet for the twenty-ninth time today and weeps.

After his bout of blubbering, he becomes desperate. He seeks out the church gardener, of all people, for advice. Unbelievably, the priest obtains a partial solution from this man. He modifies it, turns it into a whole solution.

The priest is ecstatic.

He prepares and delivers the only exciting sermon of his life. The congregation is impressed. The sermon is almost identical to last week’s sermon, but this week it is different, somehow. It is a sermon fired from a cannon.

The priest draws up the plans for his solution: a graceful water fountain carved from the planks that would have otherwise been used for the knight’s pyre, with the ashes displayed in the center. The holy wooden fountain, built to cleanse a great man’s ashes. What there is of the ashes. But that’s not a problem. There is no problem anymore.

The priest shows his plans to his bishop. “Hmmmmm,” says the bishop.

The priest announces to everyone that God is now allowing him to eat. Everyone is relieved. They were growing weary of praying for the priest every evening, every morning, every afternoon.

All are invited to the knight’s funeral. It is the largest funeral of the year, of any year.

The fountain is constructed. The priest is confident that he will be famous forever, and that all people in the future of human existence will be purified and put to rest by his method if they, too, are burned to ashes by a chimera. The priest is pleased. He truly believes himself to be a permanent cog in the clockwork of history.

People attending the funeral: Duke Legain, Earl Butan, Queen Elliganthur, his bishop’s homosexual lover’s wife, Cardinal Quar Moe, the late wizard’s stepfather, and many others.

No one else in history will ever use this fountain design again, even though the funeral was a smashing success. The priest lives the rest of his life in the past until the day he realizes that life is, obviously, not worth living. On this day he drinks a solution of weed poison from the gardener’s shed because he discovers, at last, that the chimera is a purely mythical beast.

Part V of VIII—The Last Gasp

The knight receives a telegram from the wizard. Even though the knight hates the wizard, he goes to the wizard’s tower. The telegram is very persuasive.

The knight takes his favorite sword. This sword talks to the knight. “Remember when we lopped off that waiter’s legs?” it asks. “Yes,” says the knight.

The sword speaks to no one else and only whispers to the knight, so no one knows for sure if it really talks or not. People only hear the knight say, “Yes.”

In the wizard’s colorful living room, over a tray of recently baked muffins, he skillfully changes the knight into a giant frog. The knight lashes out with his tongue, wraps it around the hilt of his sword, swings it somehow, and lops off the wizard’s left arm.

The wizard had not considered this to be a plausible outcome. He lies upon the floor and slowly bleeds to death. When the spell fades, the knight reverts back to human form and stands over the dying wizard in triumph.

The wizard dramatically gasps out his last words:

“H-h-how did you—”

The knight shrugs. “Instinct.”

Part I of VIII—Spoiled Reflections

After his great victory at the Whispering Caves of Gromo, the knight sits by the fire, staring at the remains of a giant chicken drumstick. The bone is smooth. The flames make it glow in the night like a beacon.

“The giant chicken drumstick is like my life,” says the knight to his sword.

Closer inspection shows the greasy, torn joints at either end of the bone. This frustrates the knight. He considers the joints.

“Of course, there is sickness and some defeat along the way,” he decides. “Our path in life must have some hardships if we are to keep interested.”

This seems to satisfy the sword for a while until the knight realizes the joints are firmly attached to each end only, and that the bone between the joints has been picked clean.

“Birth and death are our most important struggles,” says the knight.

The sword looks unconvinced.

With a flick of his powerful wrist, the knight tosses the offending bone into the fire. He cuddles his sword. “Yes,” he whispers, “yes.”

Part VII of VIII—The Irascible Stranger

Today the knight is merry as he walks through the woods with his sweetheart, picking fistfuls of crabgrass for her hair. She looks stunning in her purple polyester evening gown.

A stranger emerges on the trail in front of them.

“Greetings,” says the stranger.

The stranger is very odd-looking. He seems to be fashioned from a variety of animal parts. The knight’s sweetheart is horrified, and she hides behind her eyelashes.

The knight laughs. “You’re the funniest thing I ever did see,” says the knight. “You’re a myth if I ever did see one.”

“I am a chimera,” growls the stranger. “And I am not myth. In fact, if you do not stop laughing, I will breathe my terrible breath over you.”

The knight does not believe in the stranger.

“And if you do, I’ll fart my terrible fart over you!” shouts the knight.

The knight’s sweetheart becomes offended by the conversation so far and leaves. An hour later, she returns to find her lover’s sword crying over a very small pile of ashes. She sighs and scoops the ashes into the folds of her beautiful gown.

Part II of VIII—A Lover’s Gift

The knight decides to let his true love know that he loves her. He will solve her problem personally instead of sending a vassal. Doing this will forever win her heart.

She watches from behind the curtain of her father’s home: the knight’s boyish features, his curly locks hanging down as he brutally draws and quarters her father’s naughty servants on the front lawn.

The knight enters the house, finds her. He looks at her sheepishly. Hands her a bouquet of roses in a vase half-filled with blood.

Part VI of VIII—Golden Recollections

All the knight’s trophies are displayed in a case in the center of his great hall.

Every other weekend, the knight takes out each trophy and polishes it. His sword whispers to him about each memory and about future memories they will make together. “Yes,” says the knight. He closes the case only after cradling each trophy to his bosom. Then he walks around the case, sprays the Plexiglas with Windex, and wipes it clean with perfect circular motions.

Carl MummIdaho Review2006