h1

Knight Hunt

Splash! Sir Jasper woke abruptly from his drunken slumber, water drenching him from head to toe.

“Wake up you filthy oaf!” a churlish voice barked.

“What the . . .” The shock of the icy water prevented the knight from spewing forth a list of profanities that rushed out of his stupefied cerebrum. Instead he shook himself and fluttered his eyes wildly in an attempt to get the water out of them. A few seconds later his eyes started to communicate with his brain again, although they were not yet cooperating entirely.

“Wha . . .? Where am I?” he slurred. Through blurry vision he became aware of the prison cell around him. It was dimly lit by a window high above him in the wall, he was presently slumped against and by its high angle he deduced that it must be mid-morning. The cell itself was made entirely of stone save for a stout set of bars to his left through which he could see the guard, who had so rudely awoken him, shifting impatiently.

“Welcome to the King’s prison wretch,” the guard said in a strangely foreign voice. He slid a plate of something resembling gruel across the cobbled floor, “here, eat this.”

What had he done and why was he behind bars? Sir Jasper wracked his brain over what had transpired the previous day.

“I remember . . .”, he strained as his senses slowly returned and began to feel the searing burns on his face and hands, “the dragon ! Yes, that’s right, terrible, fiery breath. Ouch. Killed it of course!”

“Yes, yes, you killed a dragon,” the guard mocked.

“Shut up!” Sir Jasper roared as he tried to move, “I did kill a dragon!”

“Perhaps, but not the dragon”, the guard continued, his voice filled with loathing.

“I’ll get him too, one day,” Sir Jasper grumbled suspiciously, pushing back a lock of damp hair. He dreamed about what prestige would be his amongst the knight’s fraternity, if he was the one to bring down that king of dragons he would be assured a place in the hall of heroes.

The alcohol was wearing off fast now and Sir Jasper was becoming acutely aware of many other aches and pains. Blearily he looked down at his left leg and with horror discovered his left one was covered in dried blood; it looked like it had several large bite marks in it.

“What the . . .”, he tried to shift his leg but it was completely dead, he was going to need a good surgeon this time.

The guard pushed his face between the bars to take a look at the wound, “Ooh, nasty, dog got your leg?”

“What? I told you I defeated a dragon!” Sir Jasper yelled, he’d had just about enough of this peasants attitude, how did he know so much? Then he remembered what had happened after he had killed the dragon. Just as he was making off with the treasure a dog had appeared out of nowhere and latched onto his leg, not an ordinary dog mind, but a terrible, nasty one with two heads!

He recalled that with one swift blow he’d put his sword through the head which had ripped into his leg. The blow sent it yelping away, dragging its limp, twin head with it. He would have gone after it had his leg been in better shape, he’d been sure the creature would die of its wound anyhow.

“Ha ! I sent it back to the hell, where it came from!”, Sir Jasper boasted uncertainly. He was feeling more confident though as details of the previous day drifted back to him. He still had no idea why he was in this prison cell though, as far as he was concerned he was a hero.

“To hell? Yes, but a far more mortal one than the one you speak of. The poor animal is with the royal surgeon now, although the second head has had to be amputated,” the guard said, his eyes flickered darkly.

Sir Jasper was taken aback by the fact that anyone would save such a hideous thing. All he knew was that he should not be in a prison cell, “Guard, open this cell at once, or . . .”, he paused for effect, “I’ll remove your numskull head!”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, but I’ll make a note here that you threatened me,” the guard said as he produced a notebook and scrawled onto it, “It will go along with at least 8 other city ordinances you’ve broken, but who’s counting right?”

“Ordinances?!” Sir Jasper roared. “What the devil are you talking about man!”

Then he paused to reflect for a moment, what was going on, had the king gone mad?! Looking down he then realised, with some embarrassment, that he was dressed only in his underwear.

After beating off the dog he’d returned to his boat (for he was on an island in a lake) and sailed back across the golden waters, but a strong, malign wind had blown up out of nowhere and before he knew it he had been fighting for his life again. Sure enough a massive wave swamped the little boat and he was knocked overboard, his armour acted as an effective anchor sending him straight to the bottom.

Thinking fast he had whipped out his stiletto, from his ankle-scabbard, and cut the leather straps that held his armour together; the pieces fell away while he held his breath. Finally, free of the weighty mass, he had shot back to the surface like a cork and was able to take a huge breath into his air-starved lungs. Thankfully, he was a good swimmer and made it back to the shore where his horse had been tied up next to the boathouse. Before he departed he had written a note for the fisherman whose boat he had ‘borrowed’, and lost.

“I heard the fisherman was mighty angry when he found his boat gone and then, later, when pieces of it washed up on the shore,” the guard said reading Sir Jasper’s mind.

Sir Jasper eyed the guard suspiciously, “I left him an IOU, he’ll get his money”.

“I’m afraid that just isn’t going to stand up in court, you can’t just take off with someone else’s boat, especially when it is a man’s livelihood,” the guard frowned. “And what kind of a note was that anyway: ‘Awfully sorry, buy you a new boat soon, (signed) Sir Jasper’?”

“Court? You’ve got to be kidding! I’m Sir Jasper, knight of the King, renowned though all the seven kingdoms, keeper of the Holy Sword of Jarou!”

“Yes, that sword, we had to confiscate that”. The guard looked gravely at Sir Jasper, “I certainly hope you have a licence for it?”

Sir Jasper shook his fist, “This is preposterous, I’m a knight! Knights need swords, they don’t need licences!”

“I take it you don’t have one then,” the guard smugly scrawled the words ‘no licence’ in his notebook then pointed his quill at the knight. “We can’t let any-old-body have a sword can we? That is why we have licences and testing, you know, to make sure only the right people have access to them.”

“But . . .”

“But nothing!” The guard interrupted. “The law is clear and doesn’t make any exceptions, that would be undemocratic wouldn’t it?”

“Undemocratic?” Sir Jasper was turning a bright red colour, “ Last I heard King Rupert sat on the throne, if that is no longer case I will need a stiff drink indeed for he was my friend and partner in many an adventure.”

“Rest assured that the King is in good health, but I think you’ve had quite enough to drink don’t you?” The guard raised his eyebrows.

Sir Jasper recalled what had happened next: He had been traveling along the King’s road towards the imperial city when he had come upon a merchant caravan. It had been attacked by goblins who had made a terrible mess. Riding up to the scene of the crime he found the raiders had discovered that the merchant, who was now a headless corpse, had been carrying barrels of fine wine and now were rolling drunk. Pulling forth his glowing sword he quickly dispatched them and secured the wine shipment. Of course, he had to try a small sample didn’t he, and he had figured that the merchant wouldn’t mind him being headless and all.

As if reading his thoughts the guard said, “But our decapitated merchant turned out to be not so dead after all, his family were rich enough to afford the exorbitant resurrection service offered by the High Temple of Jarou™. Although apparently they are not rich enough to loose a barrel of the rare scarlet brother’s dew-burgundy which, according to this invoice, was worth approximately eight hundred thousand gold sovereigns and was to be a gift to King Rupert himself.”

Sir Jasper shrugged, “so I had a few drinks, since when is that a crime.”

“You were in your underwear.”

Sir Jasper frowned and put his hands on his hips. The two men stared at each other.

“I’m a bloody knight !”, the knight erupted like a volcano, “you can’t just lock me up, you NEED me . . .to kill dragons and stuff !”

“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong you see. There isn’t much call for ‘killing stuff’ anymore,” the guard explained, “What with all the ‘killing stuff’ you and your friends have done of recent we have had to put up a laws to save what is left, it’s called ‘The Endangered Species Protection Act’ or ESPA, it’s got a nice ring to it don’t you think? Actually it’s been a law for a month or so now. If you could have been bothered to visit your municipal office it’s been there on display, for public comment, for the past 6 months.”

“Mucipl . . . Office? . . . Law, what the @#$%! That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” He was really angry now.

“Tell that to the judge.”

“I will,” he sulked.

“Fine,” the guard smirked and promptly turn and left Sir Jasper alone with his fury like a firecracker with no onlookers.

The next day, bright and early, Sir Jasper appeared in court. He stood slumped over and dejected as the guard, who surprisingly was also the court bailiff, read off the list of charges:

1. Murder. Sir Jasper, did maliciously slay a dragon by the name of Maisy-Bell (which he has admitted to) Dragons are, as we all know, a well know protected species.

2. Larceny. After the murder Sir Jasper did unlawfully steal the personal property of the victim.

3. Grievously Wound. Sir Jasper did savagely stab, by his own admission, the dog of Maisy-Bell the dragon.

4. Grand theft, Marine. Sir Jasper did steal, for his own profit, one small fishing boat and thus deprive the owner of his income.

5. Possession and operation of an unlicensed lethal weapon. Sir Jasper has admitted to not possessing a licence for the piece of evidence marked ‘A’, otherwise known as ‘The Holy Sword of Jarou’.

6. Indecent exposure. Sir Jasper was apprehended dressed only in a pair of bloodied long-johns.

7. Drunken and disorderly. At the time of arrest he was intoxicated.

8. Receiving and using stolen goods. Namely the wine of the Scarlet brothers.

9. Threatening an officer of the law. Last night the accused did swear to ‘wring my neck’ if he was not released.

The following proceedings were short on account of the overwhelming evidence against Sir Jasper and despite his half hearted attempt to defend himself the Jury found him guilty of all charges.

“I’ve never seen such flagrant disregard for one’s fellow citizens and the law in general,” the judge said in summary, “I have no qualms about sending you to prison for a very, very long time where you will have plenty of time contemplating better relations with all of the great maker’s creations, especially the cockroaches amongst whom you should find good company. I sentence you to life imprisonment. Guard take this man away.”

With the court hearing concluded Sir Jasper, who now looked a totally broken man, was carried back to his cell by the guard who had taunted him so much. Neither of them said a word until back in the solitude of the King’s prison.

“You enjoy your job too much friend,” Sir Jasper said sullenly sensing the deep satisfaction from the guard.

“Not nearly enough I assure you . . .”, the guard paused slowly and deliberately then added, “. . . human”. His voice had changed into something that made the hairs on the back of Sir Jasper’s neck stand on end, something serpentine.

Sir Jasper turned around slowly, straight into the eyes of The Dragon.

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