THE BLACK KNIGHT’S CURSE
Slowly, the aging knight opened up his eyes and looked at the glossy black armor he wore. How long had he been asleep, he wondered. Three days, maybe four. It was getting harder and harder to tell.
Years had passed since he first entered this trance, and now all he could remember was the battles. They were all that was left to him, all he knew. One by one, the lords of this realm had come here to challenge him, and, one by one, they had died by his hand. So many men. So many faces.
The Black Knight tried to imagine them all. There were young men and old, weak men and strong, noblemen and commoners. All of them had come here to kill him, but why? Who was he? What did he guard? He then turned around to see a long bridge of stone over a gorge behind him. On the far side of the bridge, there was a mighty black fortress with eight tall, slender towers. Oh, yes, he remembered.
He was here to guard his master, the sorcerer. And if he tried hard enough, he could even remember what the sorcerer looked like. He could see his long, angular face and smoldering black eyes. He could hear his sharp laugh and see his bitter grin. But no matter how hard he tried, he could not remember the sorcerer’s name—or his own, for that matter. He closed his eyes again and tried to think, but the only thing he could remember was what the sorcerer had told him the last time they were together: “Soon you will complete your masterpiece, and then your work for me will be finished.”
When the Black Knight opened his eyes again, he saw two riders approaching, a young knight and his squire. Together the two men galloped forward, the young knight on a brilliant white stallion, his squire on a dappled grey.
Another champion come to die, thought the Black Knight. But then he saw the banner that the squire was carrying. There was something strangely familiar about the symbol on it. Two grey towers upon a field of blue. Where had he seen that before?
The Black Knight had seen countless banners since he took up this post. There were lions, boars, bears, and herons. He had even once killed a man with a sphinx emblazoned on his armor. In fact, if there was a heraldic device within twenty days ride of this place, the Black Knight had probably killed the man wearing it. So why was this symbol different? The Black Knight shook his head, trying to remember, but it was no use. He only knew what the sorcerer wanted him to.
The two young riders halted their horses before the bridge and dismounted. The Black Knight studied them. The young knight was tall and strong and dressed in a suit of shining, silver armor. Beside him, his squire was short and thick and dressed in blue and grey homespun. The young squire walked forward and planted his troublesome banner in the ground, as if to mark the spot where the two men had decided to die.
The young knight then raised his visor, revealing eyes the color of rain clouds. “I am Lord Gabriel Carrock of Shacklefree Keep,” he said in a clarion voice. “And I am here to avenge my father.”
“If it is death you are after, boy, then I will oblige you,” replied the Black Knight. “Come forward and arm yourself, Sir.”
In a blink, the boy had a sword in his right hand and a spiked mace in his left. Raising his shield, the Black Knight stepped backwards and drew his sword.
The two men stared at one another in silence, and then it happened. The boy flung himself forward with a flurry of attacks. Sword and mace. Sword and mace. He drove the Black Knight backwards, blocking and parrying as he went.
Then, all at once, a surge of dark power flowed through the Black Knight. He lifted up his shield and drove the edge of it into the young knight’s chest, knocking him backwards with brutal force. As the young knight hit the ground, his spiked mace went spinning off into the gorge below.
“Stand up and die,” commanded the Black Knight.
Enraged, the young knight climbed to his feet and grabbed his sword with both hands. He then attacked with renewed strength. He stabbed and hacked and thrust, but none of it worked. None of his attacks got past the Black Knight’s guard. Then, quick as a viper, the Black Knight shot forward and disarmed the boy. As he lost his sword, the young knight stumbled backwards and hit the ground again.
The battle was over. Exhausted, the young knight raised his visor and waited for the end.
The Black Knight walked over and put his sword against the boy’s throat. He then took a long look into his rain colored eyes. And then, just as he was about to kill the boy, his memories struck his mind like a hammer. The Black Knight cried out, dropped his sword, and then fell to his back.
It all came back to him now, everything. He suddenly knew who he was and where he was. He knew his name was Lord Tostag Carrock of Shacklefree Keep, and he knew the boy he had just fought was his own son. He knew the squire at the end of the bridge was his nephew, and he knew the symbol on his banner was his own coat-of-arms. He remembered the names and faces of every man he had killed in the sorcerer’s service. And now, most importantly, he remembered the sorcerer. The sorcerer’s name was Ivar, and he had once held Ivar as his prisoner at Shacklefree Keep. This curse was his revenge.
The Black Knight watched helplessly as his son stood up and grabbed his sword.
“This is for my father,” the boy said as tears streaked down his cheek.
And then he remembered the most horrible thing of all. He remembered how he had become a Black Knight. For in order to become a Black Knight, a man must slay one.
He then raised his hands and tried to call out, but it was no use. The boy did not recognize his voice. As his son’s blade fell towards him, he realized just how complete the sorcerer’s revenge truly was.
Barry is a former United States Marine with a B. A. in Political Science. He enjoys fencing, studying ancient history, and reading and writing speculative fiction. He currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where he is slowly but surely compiling all of the necessary components for his first novel.
Tags: Barry Sykes, Fantasy