zack reynolds

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Knights At Odd

A very long time ago, when the woods were gray-green and the flowers wereówell, colorful, the sky was sky-blue, and I was happy with the way that the world was happy with meóat least I would have, had I been alive then; when knights in dented armor and dented shields wielding dented swords roamed the land in search ofówell, I never figured out, exactly, what they were looking foró, there was once a particularly odd knight who happened to be at odds with another particular odd knight. And when knights are at odds, the odds are that at some odd moment, by all odds, the odds and ends of the knightís armory will be testing each otherís metal, with the odds-on favorite at five-to-one.

These two particular knights had a long-standing feud, something that had been fed and stoked for a long time with no profitable production. Now the trouble with feuds is sometimes they lead to jousts. Now jousts are something that are fun and safe, as long as both of the knights are experienced. Just the other day, a beastly accident occurred when a barmy knight poked somebodyís eye out with a lance. They really ought to make sure those chaps donít know their stuff before letting them loose with such dangerous weapons.

So anyway, one of those knights was saddled, very unfortunately, with the name of Sir George, while another had a benevolent granddaddy graciously bestow the name of Sir John upon him. Now Sir George was a nice sort of chap. He played straight, he fed his horses, and he only made faces at the girls occasionally. Sir John, on the other hand, kept aces up his sleeves at all possible moments (the ticklish bit was when he didnít have a sleeve), didnít feed his horses (though why not feeding nonexistent horses would be a crime is beyond me), and made faces whenever he saw the girls (though it may have been due to the fact that his only experiences with girls had been bad ones. When he was seven, a girl had thrown a stone at him, a fact he resented. When he was twelve, a girl had kicked him in the shins, a fact he resented (especially since it was when he was trying to kiss her). When he was seventeen, a girl had turned him down for a date, a a fact which he no longer resented, since she had taken a bad fall and scarred her face horribly).

One day, Sir George went for a ride on a beautiful horse from his stable, taking only himself along for the ride. Suddenly he met, wonder of wonders, an enemy more ticklish than Sir John. It was Baron von Doe, a formidable enemy indeed.

It so happened that the Baron more or less caught Sir George with an iron-fisted glove, and before Sir George was aware of the fact, he was being held for ransom. Now being held for ransom is not all that itís cut out to be. Itís quite an exhilarating experience. First, the exciting, heart-shopping action of the capture, and then the enjoyable experience of seeing your friends wriggle and squirm before reluctantly spilling forth enough dough to set you free. As I said, itís quite an experience, and it only gets better the more frequently it occurs.

So thus it was that Sir George was not terribly put out of sorts by being captured. It is even said by some malicious fiends (among whom, it is said, are some of his friends), that Sir George went riding for the sole purpose of being captured, but I disagree. Sir George simply couldnít be capable of doing such a thing.

Sir George rode behind the Baron until they reached the Baronís noble castle, a magnificent castle covering many thousands of square inches. Sir George was thrown into his dungeon, and lo and behold! Sir John was also a prisoner.

Sir Georgeís countenance fell. He was disappointed. It ruined a pleasurable experience to be thrown into the same mess as Sir John.

"Hallo," Sir George said dispiritedly.

"Hallo?"

"Howís the food?"

"Worse than usual."

"He shouldnít charge so much."

"Rather."

Sir George was silent. The problem with being silent during a conversation is that it leaves you vulnerable to interpretation. The other party might interpret your silence as an assent, dissent, or simply as an insult.

Sir John didnít take it as an insult. It was an insult. He threw down his gauntlet. Sir George stared at the fallen gauntlet absently. Sir John nudged the gauntlet with his boot. Sir George stared thoughtfully. Sir John kicked the gauntlet. Sir George rubbed his chin.

"Dash it all! Donít you see the gauntlet?"

"Hmm?"

"The gauntlet!"

"What gauntlet?"

Sir John gestured impatiently towards the fallen, nudged, and kicked gauntlet.

"Oh, please sir, don't address me; Iím not your servant."

"What do you mean?"

"I donít pick up things that people drop."

"Is that an insult?"

"A statement of fact, my dear boy."

Now, if there is anything more degrading than being called "my dear man," I must admit that it is being called "my dear boy." Sir John did not care to be precise as to which he was called. He threw down his other gauntlet. Sir George stared at it absently.

"Blast it all! Pick up the gauntlet!"

Sir George stared thoughtfully.

"Iím tempted to spit you right here and now!"

Sir George rubbed his chin.

"By my sword," he said, "I just had an excellent idea."

Now if there is anything that absorbs Sir Johnís interest more than fighting, itís an idea.

"What is it?" he asked eagerly.

"Iíve thought of a way to put the rope over the dear Baronís eyes."

And if there is anything more interesting to Sir John than an idea, it would have to be an impractical joke.

"How?"

Sir George blinked one eye impassively. "Itís simple," he said. "We refuse to be ransomed. All we have to do is get a few more knights to join us, and why, weíll eat the Baron out of lock, stock, and castle!"

"By your sword! That is an idea!"

Sir George slowly shook his head. "No, no," he said, "that wouldnít work. Iím afraid the Baron simply wouldnít tolerate it."

"But he doesnít have any choice!" Sir John said excitedly. He was rather caught up in the idea. "I can see his big fat face getting all red..."

"Heíd refuse in turn," Sir George said.

Sir John continued excitedly. "Why, I can just see him, dejectedly walking away from the castle, while weóhey, wait a minute, whose castle would it be, anyhow?"

"Weíd die of starvation," Sir George continued.

"Huh?"

"And then the Baron would add two more skulls to his collection."

"Whatís that?"

"Oh, I was just saying that the Baron probably wouldnít give us any food. You know, turn and turn about."

"Nonsense! Heís bound by the rules of knightly conduct."

"Refusing to be ransomed would free him from his knightly duty."

Sir John looked at him distastefully. "Who ever listens to anything you say?"

When their friends came (none too quickly, either) to ransom them, Sir John refused to be ransomed. Sir George went willingly, and once he, his friends, and Sir Johnís disappointed friends were riding home, Sir George allowed himself one chuckle before subduing to a silent laugh.

True to Sir Georgeís prediction, the Baron had a simple solution to dealing with knights who would not be ransomed. In a simple matter of weeks, Sir John was gracing the pile of skeletons behind the Baronís castle.

And thus the knights at odd (which actually should be knights at even, since two is an even number), were now a knight odd. And Sir George rode contentedly through the countryside, ransoming and being ransomed, and having a jolly old time.

Farewell, dear sir, and I hope you come again tomorrow, when I tell a tale that breaks many a fair damselís heart, and brings a tear to many a kind sirís eye.


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