Monday, November 2, 2015

The Ladye and the Knight

This is a short story I wrote last year.

'I don't want a knight in shining armor. I want a knight in dinged-up, seen-its-better-days armor. That way I know he's battled my dragons on his way to me.' --Author Unknown

There once was a maiden from a very poor family, but one day she discovered a great chest of jewels and became the richest person in the land. And then many suitors came seeking her hand in marriage, but she knew they only wanted her money.

One day, when she was walking in the forest, a wild beast attacked her. But a knight in shining armor came at the last minute and slayed the beast, saving her life. Then he went down on one knee and begged her to marry him. She refused, thinking he wanted her fortune. The knight went away sadly.

After three months of suitors coming from all the faraway kingdoms, which she all turned away, she began to despair. Would she never come across a man who wanted to marry her because he loved her, not because of her money?

That night, she hatched a plan to stop the flood of insincere suitors. Taking her large chest of jewels, she dumped it into the lake.

The next day when suitors came calling, she showed them the empty chest. They did not believe her when she told them that she had thrown away her fortune. So she showed them the gold, sinking into the silt at the bottom of her lake. At first, they wanted to salvage it, but over time the treasure sank so deeply beneath the mud that it would take incredible efforts to bring it to the surface. And never, she declared, would that treasure be brought up!

Finally, when they realized the treasure would never be theirs, the suitors slowed to a trickle and at last disappeared completely. For two years, she was alone.

But she was sad, for she wished a man would come who loved her, even though she had no more treasure.

One day, she heard the pounding of hoofbeats coming to the castle. Going out onto the ramparts, she beheld a sight she had not seen for two years. A knight approaching.

He rode a war-horse. His armor was dull and and dented and dirty, no longer shiny as it must have once been. He looked weary and battle-worn; his face was caked with dust. He came to a stop and looked up at her. “Do you remember me?” he asked.

"I do not," she replied.

"Do you remember the knight who killed the wild beast in the forest two years ago?"

"I do," she said with a smile. "He wore such shining armor."

"I am that knight," said he.

She shook her head in disbelief. "Can it be? Where have you been these years?

"I wish to tell you a story," he said.

"I have plenty of time, sir, tell away."

"Once there was a poor knight," he began. "And he loved a fair lady who was also poor. But that mattered not to him. He planned to ask her to marry him. The day he went to ask her, he found her in the forest in danger and he killed the bear that was threatening her life."

But when he asked her to marry him, she refused. He learned that she had just come into a great fortune, and believed every man who wished to marry her wanted the money. As she walked away, he knew he had come too late.

But how to prove his love for her? He rode away to war and traveled for two years, trying to find the answer.

And after two long years, he found what he sought. And he rode home to find his lady.”

She was touched by his tale, but she must be sure his love was true. “My great fortune is gone,” she said. “I flung it into the lake, for I wished to find a man who cared for me, not my money.”

"Are you now married?" he asked.

"Nay, for the suitors were all false, and they have stopped coming."

His smile was like the sun. “I am glad to hear that you have lost that cursed fortune,” he said.

She hardly dared to hope that here before her stood a knight who loved her true, who had traveled for two years to find a way to prove it. “Indeed?”

"Aye, for it stood between us," he said.

"Perhaps you think to dig it from the lake," she said, to test him, watching his expression.

"Never," he said. "Let it lie there forever. I hate that gold." Then he took from his horse saddlebags filled with coins. "Over my travels, fair lady, I have gained a treasure larger than the one in the lake. I have no need to marry for money." He knelt on the ground below, looking up at her. "I would marry for love."

She leaned over the rampart. “Would you not suspect me of marrying you for your money, sir?”

"Nay," he said. "For I give half this treasure to you. We neither of us need marry for money."

She came down from the ramparts and out the gate and they looked into each other’s eyes. Then she gave him her hand, and he took it. “I have waited so long for you to come,” she said with tears. 

"So have I," he said.