The Anarchy Store
We believe it’s time for a little anarchy. Our T-
Sir Eric Randolph, knight turned armorer, and Princess Alisha both have a fantasy. Ever since Eric saw the Princess he’s thought about her and dreamed about her. For him she was a fantasy he could never hope to obtain.
Alisha had a dream of a true knight who would come and sweep her off her feet and carry her off to his castle. She wanted a knight who would love her and always be there for her.
Events were about to cause their fantasies to collide with reality. Those events had a name, Damar the sorcerer, Dark Lord of the Castle Cragmar.
The horse pawed the earth in anxious anticipation of the coming battle. The only thing darker than the horse and the gloom of the forest in which it hid was his master. The man sat tall in the saddle, if man he was, his cloak drank up what little light that penetrated the tall trees of the forest. Behind him a hundred men and horses sat quietly waiting for the command that would send them charging down on the unsuspecting guards of Princess Alisha and her party.
“Wasn’t the fair grand, my Lady,” said one of the princess’s ladies-
“Yes it was, wasn’t it,” the Princess replied.
“And that young knight from Basel must have been the most handsome knight there. I still think he could have won if his horse hadn’t stumbled.”
Alisha though back upon the incident. “Perhaps, but Sir Gwynn has won the tournament for the last three years and most likely would have won had they met. As it was Sir Gwynn won this year as well. Next year your young knight will most likely win. I heard that Sir Gwynn won’t be in the games next year...”
On and on Alisha and her ladies-
In spite of the fact that she could pick any knight in the kingdom to be her husband, she waited. Alisha wanted more from the knight of her dreams than the knights she had met could or would give. She wanted a knight that would be true to her and give her more love than most knights could give or had time to give. So Alisha waited for her knight much to the consternation of her father who would like to see her married off as quickly as possible, and had hoped that sending her to the fair this year would do the trick, it only made things worse.
From out of almost nowhere arrows filled the air around the princess’s horse. A moment later a hundred horsemen charged down on the remaining guards as they gathered around the Princess. The guards were the king’s best and had more survived the onslaught of arrows the outcome may have been different, but twenty against a hundred. The sounds of steel and wood clashing filled the air and blood flowed until that forest path was covered and muddied by blood. The guards fought valiantly but to no avail when the last guard fell the fight was over, silence filled the air, but a silence filled with an evil intent.
The dead surrounded Alisha and the guards lay where they fell, nor had any of the women that had been with her been spared. She was the only one left alive. Alisha watched as the horse stepped from the forest. Black as the night it had eyes like burning embers. Its rider was tall, gaunt, and clothed in a black cloak. Evil seemed to pour out from this man. If Alisha had ever known fear she was afraid now for this man gave new meaning to the word.
Slowly he rode toward her. Never before had Alisha felt so lost and alone and utterly helpless. The man stopped his horse in front of her and stared at her for a long time.” At last,” he said, “a woman worthy to be my wife. I am pleased to see the claims of your beauty were not exaggerated. Yes indeed, you should make an excellent wife my dear.”
“Never, I will kill you or myself before I’d become your wife,” Alisha replied quietly barely concealing her anger toward this man who would dare destroy her dream.
“Never is a long time my dear,” the man replied simply.
Alisha wondered who the man was yet in the back of her mind she knew. There was only one man in the entire known world that was so evil that one could feel his hatred for all living things and that was Damar, the Dark Sorcerer, Lord of the Castle Cragmar. If this was indeed Lord Damar then there was no hope. She’d never see her home or her father again. Alisha wondered what her father would do. She wondered if he’d get the sword she ordered for him from that nice looking young armorer.
A month had gone by since Damar, the Dark Lord, had taken the Princess Alisha. King Fallon was returning with the remains of the army he had taken to do battle against Damar. To say that he failed in his quest would be understating the obvious. King Fallon had taken five hundred knights with him. Each of those knights had brought with them three to five men. The army had numbered over fifteen hundred men and of those men less than two hundred had returned with the King.
King Fallon and his men had not even gotten beyond the Black Forest. The trolls had fallen upon his men before they had gotten half way through the forest. Neither King Fallon nor any of his men even got a glimpse of the Castle Cragmar which lay beyond the Black Forest. King Fallon knew he and the men with him were lucky to be alive.
It was a tired and beaten group of men that passed through the castle gates. King Fallon left his men in the outer courtyard and rode on into the inner court and dismounted. A page took the king’s horse to the stables. King Fallon stood and watched as his horse was led away. One could see the despair on his face. He loved his daughter and that he failed her in her hour of need ate away at his mind.” Alisha, I’m sorry,” he said aloud, talking more to himself half wishing she could hear him and perhaps forgive him for failing her.
“It did not go well, my Lord,” said a voice behind him.
“No it didn’t.” King Fallon turned and found himself facing a tall young man. Yet, if one looked closer you could see great age in his face. His body was well muscled from years of working the forges of his art. The King knew little of the man before him; he was a mystery to more than just the King. King Fallon knew he was lucky to have the man for he was said to be the best armorer in all the land. Beyond his name, Eric Rand, and that he spent most his time over his forges in practice of his art he knew nothing of this man.
Eric Rand was more than just an armorer. In his craft he was legendary; many people stood in awe of his name, King Fallon was one. Yet, there were a few who knew more of Eric Rand, and feared him and his power.
Eric could see the pain in King Fallon’s face. He wanted to say something to ease the pain but he knew there was nothing he could say that would help. He remembered the Princess Alisha when she came to order a sword for her father. It had been the first time he had seen her and having seen he could not forget her. He found himself thinking of her beautiful eyes and her long black hair most of the day and well into the night. Never before had he been so entranced by a woman before. He remembered her smile and finding himself saying he’d make the sword for free although he did not say it quite that way. “I wish there was something to say at times like these that would make everything seem better my Lord,” he said.
“There is no hope. My daughter is lost. Left to what fate I cannot guess, and I’m powerless to help her,” said King Fallon hopelessly.
“One must not give up hope. There is always a chance my Lord,” Eric said as he turned to go, “As long as I am alive there is hope.” As Eric walked across the courtyard he hollered at a page. “You there, boy, go to the farmer Astrom’s house and tell him that Eric Rand has need of his horse and to bring him to me today and be quick about it.”
King Fallon watched as Eric walked toward the barn that housed his forges. Here was a man, he thought, who commanded instant obedience when he spoke. He knew Eric Rand was the kind of man who would take on the impossible and succeed or die trying.
Eric closed the door to the barn and walked around the forge to the back of the barn where he had built a great case which was the size of a small room and took up the whole back wall of the barn. He stood looking at the case for a moment and with a sigh he took a key from his pocket and unlocked one of the doors and opened the case. There on a stand sat two suits of armor one for a man the other for a horse. The armor seemed to glow and drink in the light at the same time. The Lady of the Lake had helped him to make this armor when he had study the art of making armor with her. She had made armor for many of the great knights in Arthur’s time and he cherished the time he had spent with her. Eric reached in and took out a sword, the sword of fire, a parting gift from an old wizard. A sword like no other. Eric pulled the sword free of its scabbard.
Alisha sat on the bed in her room. She was beginning to think of this room as hers she had been here for so long. The only other person she saw was the old woman who brought her food. She wondered what her father was doing. That he would try and rescue her she had no doubt. The fact that he had already tried and failed she did not know. The room she sat in was bare of furnishing except for the bed on which she now sat and a small table and chair.
A cold chill ran down Alisha’s back and the room seemed to fill with an evil presence. She knew she was being watched. Afraid to turn to see what it was Alisha hoped it would go away. She knew that Damar could have his way with her anytime he wished and she would be powerless to stop him or even take her own life.
At last he spoke. “Is this any way to greet your husband to be?” Alisha stood and turned to face him. Damar walked slowly toward her. As he got closer Alisha started to back away only to find the wall much closer than she thought. All too soon Damar was standing in front of her. She could feel the stink of his hot breath on her face. The wall seemed to hold her fast; her fear held her in place. Alisha closed her eyes to block out the horror of his face. This was not a man but a monster in a man’s body, she thought.
“I’ll never be your wife,” Alisha replied with her eyes still closed.
“I could take you anytime I wished,” Damar said as he threw her on the bed and pinned her there. “I’d rather you came to me on your own,” he continued. “But there are other ways to force you to do my bidding. Some of which could leave you a mindless plaything for my pleasure. Others would leave your mind and slowly destroy your beautiful body.” Unseen hands seem to hold her to the bed as his hand wondered over her body. “And you do have such a beautiful body. Before I’m through with you, you will beg me to take you.”
“My father...,” she began to say.
“Will do nothing!” Damar said interrupting her. He and his army didn’t even get beyond my forest. He was lucky to escape with his life. Leaving more than a thousand men behind in the hands of the trolls.”
“No, he wouldn’t do that.”
“Oh yes my dear, to save his own life he would. Perhaps you’d like to see the bodies of the men. Your father will never try again. There will be no rescue. You are mine and I may do with you as I please, but all in good time,” Damar said as he got up off her and walked toward the door. “All in good time.”
All hope gone Alisha rolled over on the bed and cried.
As the sword pulled free of the scabbard it began to glow. Eric struck the sword against the forge and it began to glow red. He stuck the sword against the forge again and the sword became bright red. Eric swung the sword at a nearby anvil there was a flash of light and the anvil split in to. “This sword will cut more than steel,” the old wizard had said as he gave Eric the sword.
“It is I my Lord, I have brought your horse as you asked,” Astrom said.
“Help me with this armor my friend.”
“What adventure are you planning this time?” asked Astrom.
“I’m going to go rescue the Princess Alisha from Lord Damar, the Dark Sorcerer,” Eric replied.
“Through the Black Forest to the castle alone?”
“Sure, nothing to it, want to come along; it’d be like old times again. You and me against the world.”
“That’s about the right odds,” Astrom said as he fitted the armor to the horse. “This is a mad adventure you contemplate my friend.”
“I must try or the Princess Alisha will have no chance at all. This may well be my last adventure, but I must try and I really can’t explain why in any way that you would understand.”
“Pull the strap tight. Eric I’d go with you if I didn’t have a wife.”
“I know,” Eric said. “Pass me that other strap.”
“You’ve seen the Princess haven’t you?” Astrom asked.
“Yes, I have.”
“Then that explains this mad adventure of yours. No one that has seen her could stand idly by knowing she was in danger and do nothing.”
“She is a woman in need,” Eric said. “What more can a true knight do than I am doing?”
“Then the fact that she is beautiful and has long black hair and a smile that could make putty out of the strongest man has nothing to do with it. And unmarried too!”
“Nothing at all,” Eric said as he reached under his horse for a belly strap. He stood up and his eyes met Astrom’s and they laughed. “Well, maybe a little.”
King Fallon looked down at the inner courtyard from the keep window in time to see the doors of Eric Rand’s barn open, and a knight on a fiery white stallion ride out. The knight’s armor was unlike anything he had seen before. A battle-
Eric reached down and clasp Astrom’s forearm. “Farewell my friend, see you...well whenever,” he said. “Last chance...”
“No Eric, I’ll stay here and pray for you. Somebody’s got to.”
“If I don’t make it back...”
“I know.” Astrom said. “Good luck Eric, where you’re going you’re going to need all the luck you can get.”
“You have so little faith in me Astrom. I’ll be back. I’ll see you then,” Eric said as he rode away.
Astrom ran up the stairs to the top of the wall and watched as Eric Rand rode out of sight This was probably the last time he would ever see his friend alive. He stood atop the wall looking out in the direction that Eric had gone until night fell. As he turned to leave he heard a voice ask, “Who is he?”
“He is perhaps the greatest knight that ever lived,” Astrom replied as he turned and faced the king. “And he is the only chance you have of ever seeing your daughter alive again. One thing I can tell you is that if he returns from this little trip into hell, it is going to cost you dearly.”
“Highwaymen, trolls, demons, and a slightly mad wizard,” Eric said to himself. “A piece of cake.”
“The time for choice is over,” Lord Damar said to Princess Alisha as they faced each other across the bed. Damar had come to her room every day for the last month. Always the same question to which Alisha would reply, “Never!” but lately her, “never,” had become a simple, “no.” That she no longer closed her eyes when Damar visited her was a testament that a person can grow use to anything.
“While I could not destroy your body without defeating the purpose for which I captured you. I can however...” Damar walked around the bed and grabbed Alisha by the back of the neck and pulled her to him. “...destroy your mind. There will come a time when you will beg me to do what I will just to save your sanity. After that you will become a whimpering mass of human flesh not even knowing who you are. You will be less than human willing to do anything I’d ask you to do just to please me and my desires.”
Damar released her and walked toward the door. At the door he turned. “Long before you reach that state you will spend long hours screaming into the night.”
Once Damar left the lights in the room began to fade until the lights at last extinguished themselves. Then the sounds began, things crawling across the floor toward her. Something touched her. Alisha jumped back stifling a scream. Something else grabbed her by the wrist and then Alisha did scream. Nor did she stop screaming as other things touched her and grabbed at her until she lost conscientious in this world. Then the dreams began. Damar’s creatures could strike at Alisha on more than one plane of existence, and the dreams were more terrifying than the reality.
Eric looked down from atop his horse to the valley below. “Well old boy, there lies the beginning of the land that surrounds the Castle Cragmar,” Eric said to his horse. “It’s haven to all sorts of criminals. Beyond that the Black Forest, home to trolls and other such creatures that eat human flesh. They should be well fed presently and off guard. Keep a sharp ear old friend, from this point on we must be on our best guard.”
Eric set off down the slope letting his horse pick and choose his own trail. The rest of the day was spent reaching the floor of the valley. It was well into the night when Eric stopped for the evening.
The horse pawed the ground as Eric returned with some firewood. “You hear them too,” he said to the horse. “They’ll wait a while longer before they try anything.”
The fire was going strong as Eric cut more wood for the fire. Beyond the light of the fire four men silently surrounded him and waited for him to go to sleep for the night. Eric laid back against the trunk of a fallen tree and went to sleep. The men waited as the fire died. As the last of the flame flickered away the men slowly emerged from their hiding places and crept silently towards Eric as he slept. The men moved closer. Eric turned in his sleep and the men froze in their tracks. The men moved closer when they saw the man they stalked resume sleeping.
“Welcome gentlemen. I was afraid I’d have to wait all night.” The men looked startled to find their victim awake and talking to them. The surprise was short lived as the men charged.
Two axes sailed through the air to sink deep in the tree where Eric had been a moment before. The man that was behind Eric on the other side of the tree died with a battle-
Eric stood facing the last man his sword glowing red in the night. “Come join your friends or be gone,” Eric said. The man turned and fled into the night. “Not even a good workout,” he said walking over to retrieve his battle-
“They probably won’t be back,” Eric said to his horse as he settled back against the fallen tree. “But just in case it won’t hurt to sleep with one eye open.”
Early morning found Eric riding down a mountain pass. “Damn! I thought these highwaymen wouldn’t get up this early,” he said to himself. By midday there were almost a dozen highwaymen following him. ”They’ll try and take us at the river,” Eric found himself telling his horse. “They’ll wait until we’re in the middle of the river and then charge us from both sides.”
All too soon Eric found himself in the middle of the river with two men bearing down on him with lances. Eric pulled his lances free and with one in each hand he charged the two men. Eric’s horse plowed through the water. The horse and man became one with each other. Eric released his lances at the point of impact to keep them from breaking. Both lances found their mark and lodged deep in the chest of each man. Eric wheeled his horse around and charged three men on the opposite side of the river from which he had just come. As his horse charged through the water he reached over as he passed the body of one of the men he had just killed and tore his lance free of the body. One at a time, he thought.
The lance impacted on the shield and passed through it to bury itself deep in the chest of the highwayman. The lance bowed and began to lift the man free of his saddle when it snapped. Eric threw the remains of his lance aside and continued to charge down on the remaining two horsemen.
Eric watched as the lance came rushing toward his chest. A moment before impact Eric pressed the side of his horse with his right knee, and the horse jumped to the left only slightly, but it was enough. The lance slid by Eric’s side. As the horses were about to pass each other Eric grabbed the lance and tore it from the highwayman’s grasp, unhorsing him at the same time.
Eric swung the lance around his back and caught it in his left hand as the two horses rushed to meet each other. Eric dodged to the left as the lance passed over his right shoulder. His own lance had caught the man below the helmet and passed through his neck. The head was almost torn off when the lance broke.
Again Eric came about and raced toward the opposite shore freeing his battle ax as he went. The only man Eric left alive died a moment later his head split with a battle ax. Eric stopped to retrieve his unbroken lance and return it to its boot.
“I wonder where the other seven are,” Eric said to himself. The horse climbed up the bank of the river. “Oh, here they are.” On the bank surrounding Eric were the seven missing horsemen armed with axes and swords.
The leader of the horseman rode forward. You’re good,” he said, “real good. Too bad you have to die.”
“I tell you what my good man if you all leave me in peace I won’t have to kill all of you.”
The men howled in laughter. “You think you can kill all of us. There are seven of us and only one of you in case you haven’t counted.”
“There were twelve of you; I just killed five of your men. So the way I look at it you’re just two more than five.” Eric said as he reached behind his head.
“Who are you anyway,” the leader of the highwaymen asked.
“Eric Rand,” Eric said softly as he threw one of the knifes that was fixed to back of his armor behind his head.
The leader of the highwaymen died where he sat with a knife in his throat. Eric charged the line of men before him. His horse dug into the ground as Eric pulled his lance free of its boot. The man on his left died as the lance buried itself deep in his chest and tore itself free again. The man on the right died a moment later as a battle-
The remaining 3 highwaymen charged Eric. Their charge was short lived though. They died almost at the same time as three knifes found each of the remaining men. “I know what you’re thinking boy,” Eric said to his horse as he dismounted to retrieve his weapons. “It was a lazy way to kill them, but it’s a hell of a way to warm up to what’s ahead.
“I think I’ll keep a few of these long handled axes,” he said to himself as well as his horse as he searched the bodies and horses of the dead men. “Well what do we have here? This one was a bowman. Do you think we could use a good bow where we’re going,” he asked his horse. Eric tied the bow and arrows on the back of his horse along with the axes. Still a long way to go, Eric thought as he mounted his horse.
Alisha lay huddled in the far corner of the room that had been her dungeon for these many months. This was a quiet time; a time when the things in the dark did not reach out to drive her insane. At times like these she sat huddled in a corner quietly sobbing to herself. Her fine clothes were now little more than rages. Her mind was almost gone. The terrors in the dark had done their job too well. There was no safety in sleep and soon it would all begin again. The sounds would start to creep toward more slowly than the time before. Soon after things would reach out of the dark and touch her in such a way as to propose a more hideous design on her body.
The candles in the room flickered to life to illuminate the grotesque form of a man kneeling before her. He reached out and stroked her long black hair. “And how are you today my dear,” he said.
“You could be spared all this,” said Damar as his hand drifted from her hair to her body.
“I’d rather die first,” Alisha replied trying to pull away from his touch.
“Have it your way my dear. I can assure you that you will not die, but you will wish for it, even long for something to come and take your life, and you will die in time. Your body will live on but your mind will be dead, and I will win either way.”
Lord Damar walked back over to the door. “I have a bit of news you might find interesting,” he said. “It seems that you have a champion my dear. One lone knight is slowly making his way here in an attempt to save you. He will of course fail as thousands have failed before him. Even if he should reach the castle by some chance, your mind will be broken and your body will have satisfied my desires long before then.”
Alisha clutched at the hope of rescue like a drowning man would grab at any rope thrown to him. The thought of being saved gave her new strength to hold out against Damar. At last, she thought, my knight has come to save me. Then the nightmare into which she had been plunged began again.
The trip to the Black Forest had been uneventful since the river. Almost too quiet, Eric thought. He had stopped for the day at the edge of the forest not wanting to tempt fate at night in a forest full of trolls and other such creatures. Trolls in the daylight are alright because they don’t care for bright lights, but trolls at night is another matter altogether.
Eric had just got his fire for the night going when his horse began to paw the ground. One could almost taste the evil in the air. Eric listened to the night for the sounds that might mean danger. Eric felt more than heard the disturbance in the air behind him and ducked just in time as talons of steel raked the air where he had stood. Eric saw for a moment a winged creature land on his horse’s back before he himself was engaged with a similar creature hand to hand.
The horse reared back the moment the creature landed on its back forcing the creature to get a better hold to prevent itself from being thrown off. Dropping to the ground and rolling over the horse crushed the creature that clung to its back with its massive weight.
Eric found himself face to face with a nightmare. Teeth as long as a man’s finger snapped at his face. Leathery wings beat his body. Claws and talon feet raked his armor as they rolled over and over in the dirt. Eric couldn’t hold back the teeth much longer. Inch by inch they drew closer. Suddenly the creature was jerked backward off Eric’s body and sent sprawling into the fire. From out of the fire the creature came at Eric again. A moment of time was all Eric needed to throw four knifes. For a moment it looked as though the creature wouldn’t die, but only for a moment. Even as it lay on the ground dying at Eric’s feet it tried to strike out at him.
“Thanks for pulling him off me,” Eric said to his horse. “I guess from these creatures the Dark Lord knows we’re coming. I wonder what other surprises he has in store for us.”
Eric put more wood on the fire and leaned back against the rock that was to be his bed for the night. “I wonder how the Princess is holding out,” he asked his horse. Eric could still see her slender form in his mind. The night wind became her soft gentle voice. The stars became her blue eyes. Eric could see her smile and feel the warm glow that seemed to radiate from Alisha. He longed to hold her in his arms and run his hands through her long black hair. The Dark Lord was going to die, Eric swore in his sleep.
Sunup found Eric riding through the Black Forest. The sooner on the other side the better, Eric thought. It was bad enough that he had to spend two nights in the forest. The idea that he might have to spend the whole night fighting trolls didn’t appeal to him. Eric had plans for the trolls. He had no intention of fighting trolls on the way back.
It was almost nightfall when Eric saw his first troll on the edge of a small clearing in the forest. The troll vanished a moment after being spotted. Trolls you can see are much better than trolls you can’t as anyone can tell you. “We’ll make our stand here,” Eric said dismounting his horse.
Eric had a rather large fire going in the middle of the clearing when the first troll stepped from the forest. That troll was followed by another troll and then another troll and then another until the whole clearing was walled in by trolls. Eric had expected a howling mob but these were as silent as death. Armed with clubs and spears the trolls slowly and silently advanced.
Pulling two more knifes wrapped in oilcloth from his saddlebags Eric locked them into the sheaths on his forearm armor so the blades stuck out passed his elbow several inches. Eric folded the spikes in his horse’s armor out and locked them in place. This is it, Eric thought as he circled the fire. This whole mad adventure could end right here. Eric thought of what Damar might do to Alisha should he fail. Eric and his horse drew closer to the fire and awaited the charge of the trolls.
“Come all ye demons from hell and meet your death,” Eric yelled in the fading light of the fire. Then the trolls charged down upon them.
The horse free of Eric became a demon from hell. Reared high in the air he struck down troll after troll. The horse seemed to have eyes in the back of its head. He’d turn almost in midair to kill the enemies behind him. Many a troll died impaled on the spikes of his armor as he turned to face more of the horde that Eric and he fought.
Eric remembered what a wizard once told him, “...all trolls are are grotesque forms of humanity that had gone off to live by themselves. Breeding together only passed on the deformities to their children. Trolls tend to travel in small bands,” he said, “although in time there would be places like the Black Forest full of them. “Grotesque forms of humanity. I’ll bet,” Eric said to himself, “that wizard.... never in his life.... stood before a two headed, four armed.... monstrosity with only one thought...in mind, namely to make you his dinner!”
“Damn,” Eric said after he lost his battle-
How many trolls are there, Eric wondered. The fire had bought him some time; how much he couldn’t guess. The night seemed to go on forever, much like the trolls, no end in sight. He knew he couldn’t go on much longer. His body cried out from the fatigue and strain he had placed on it. Already he was slowing, twice now he had nearly missed a block that would have ended his life. His horse was tiring as well. Once it had stumbled and would never have risen again had Eric not kept the trolls from him till he could regain his footing. On it went, Eric and his horse drawing closer together in an effort to keep the trolls from themselves and each other.
Alisha sat on her bed the things in the dark could not harm her now. All she thought of was the young knight coming to save her from the nightmare she was living in. She had come to think of him as her knight. Her dream come to life. That he might fail she did not think about. Only that he was coming to get her.
Damar had seen the mistake he had made and was powerless to change it. He had inadvertently given her hope and that hope now consumed her. There was no way for him to crush that hope short of showing her the body of that knight, he had tried. Princess Alisha was willing to wait as long as it took, and that was much too long for Damar.
They say it’s always darkest before the dawn. In the darkest hour a man and horse stood back to back in a small clearing in the Black Forest with bodies of trolls piled high around them and still the trolls fought on. Another troll was impaled on the spike of the head armor of the horse and flung high into the air to land among the other dead trolls that surrounded them. Eric’s sword lashed out at the trolls to keep them from his horse’s flanks and himself. The bodies were high around them as to make it hard for ether of them to move about and still they fought on.
Suddenly there were no more trolls. Those that were left had melted into the forest to return to their hiding places to await the passing of the sun and daylight. Eric and his horse climbed out from the bodies that surrounded them and laid down in the grass just beyond the dead. Sleep came quickly. Eric knew he could reach the other side of the forest if he left now, but he had no intention of leaving the forest until the next day. When he was finished with the trolls they would know the meaning of fear and would fear the name Eric Rand forever.
After sleeping for most of the morning Eric walked his horse through the woods in search of another clearing. It was just past midday when he found what he was looking for. It was smaller than the clearing he had spent the night in the night before. Eric spent the rest of the day fashioning a wall of dried wood around himself and his horse. Outside the wall Eric set up other piles of wood along the forest edge. From his saddlebags Eric took out a large bag of powder and poured a small amount around each of the piles of wood he had set along the edge of the forest. The remainder of the powder he poured around the outside of his barricade. Waiting the coming of the trolls Eric built a small fire in the center of his camp and fashioned several torches as night fell. It was a determined army of trolls that faced Eric at sundown.
Once fully dark the trolls began to move slowly toward the encampment. Eric hurled flaming logs and torches at the coming army in an apparent vain hope of frightening the trolls. The trolls only stepped aside or ducked the fire brands. On they came from all sides at once determined to crush this one man by sheer numbers.
As the trolls neared his barricade Eric threw his last torch save one. “You who are about to die remember well the name Eric Rand,” he yelled. “Those whom I spare count yourself lucky to have escaped with your miserable lives this night.” Eric dropped the torch over the barricade wall. Suddenly there was a wall of fire around the outside of the barricade. The barricade itself caught fire ringing Eric and his horse with a wall of fire nothing could pass through and live.
The trolls blinded by the light of the fire retreated back to the forest only to find it too was ablaze. Fire was everywhere. There was no place to hide. Trolls were running every which way. Death lashed out her fiery hand and consumed many a troll that night. It is said that the name Eric Rand still strikes terror in the hearts of trolls today.
Damar looked out from the window of the castle’s keep and saw the Black Forest ablaze. He wondered what had caused the fire. No, it couldn’t be him, the trolls should have killed him by now, he thought. Fear ate away at Damar. If the knight lived that could kill a thousand trolls then it would not be a difficult task to kill one such as himself, he reasoned.
The princess Alisha also saw the fire from the window in her tiny room in the keep. She knew it was her knight doing battle with the trolls. He was coming for her; that she would be his and his alone she had no doubt.
Her door opened. “So you’ve seen the fire,” Damar said. “I wouldn’t build your hopes up too much my dear. The trolls have surely killed him and if they have not the fire will do what they could not.”
“I know he is not dead. As for the fire, it is a weapon he is using against the trolls as one would use a sword.”
“I have other traps and an army at my command. One man cannot lay siege to a castle the size of Cragmar,” he said as he walked over to stand by Alisha.
“Fear works two ways Lord Damar. I know, you’ve taught me well. You think your army will stand in the way of a man who has alone and unaided killed a thousand trolls. Such a man as that would not let the walls of this or any other castle stand in his way. You will be lucky if your men do not let down the gate in fear of his wrath.”
“Perhaps,” Damar said suddenly pulling Alisha to him. “Long before he reaches my gate I will have taken what you will not give willingly. Then I’ll let my men have you that they might fulfill their depraved sense of pleasure. After that, if he does by some chance make it to this castle, perhaps I’ll give you to him; what’s left of your body after my men have finished with you. You might, if you’re lucky, still be alive.”
“Touch me Lord Damar, harm me in any way and he will kill you. If you are not already a walking dead man,” Alisha said defiantly.
Her words so angered Damar that he grabbed her neck and would have choked the life out of her if he had not thought of the pleasures he would be robbed of if he killed her now. “There is time enough tomorrow to fulfill all my desires,” he said as he released her.
When the barricade had burned down enough Eric rode out. Tonight if I ride hard enough I should almost reach the castle, Eric thought.
On through the forest he rode in the dead of night. His horse ran like the wind through the burning forest. The unlucky troll that got in his way died where he stood run down by a horse or cut into by a sword. Out of the forest and on to the plain that separated the castle from the forest Eric rode. His horse was the wind. An untiring animal that lived for the will of his master.
Eric had almost reached the castle when his horse stumbled and fell. Even as he fell Eric threw his lance aside as not to hurt the horse in the fall. Both of them survived the fall but Eric knew his horse couldn’t go on. Hanging his shield on the saddle Eric untied the axes and bow from the back of his horse. “Rest here old friend,” Eric said. “Follow when you can.”
Eric set off toward the castle on foot. Running all out Eric thought to himself that he needed to get out and run more often. It was almost dawn when Eric reached the castle gate. Un-
Four long handled axes and a battle-
The inner court gate guards died with arrows protruding from their necks. The gate was locked from the inside. It was a simple matter for Eric’s sword to cut the hinges from the gate. As Eric cut the last hinge free he could hear the bell that sounded the alarm of invasion. The guards on the other side of the gate were crushed as the gate fell in on top of them.
Damar’s men expected to find themselves facing an army so one man went unnoticed in the confusion. Knights and foot soldiers poured out from everywhere. It was midday before Damar’s men knew for certain that they faced only one man. A lone horse stood before the castle dressed for battle and covered in blood. As Alisha had said, fear works two ways. Damar’s men found themselves locked in a castle with a man who must have killed more than a thousand trolls just to reach the castle. Then there were the dead men that had been found and the inner court gate that had been cut from its hinges. Whatever this man, demon, or wizard might be, it was something that no one wanted to run into.
“I want him found! You’ll pay with your lives if he is not found quickly,” Damar yelled at the men before him. “Now get out!” The men left shaking in fear of their master. Their only other fear was that they might find the man they were searching for.
“I wonder who...,”Damar started to ask himself.
“Eric Rand,” came the reply.
“Who goes there?”
“Your death,” Eric said stepping from out of the shadows.
“I know you,” Damar said. “It was another time, another place, but I know you. Lord Randolph wasn’t it. The youngest ever to be knighted by Arthur. It’s said you know the ways of wizards and were once the apprentice to the Lady of the Lake. I thought you had faded into legend.”
“You know why I’m here Damar. Where’s the Princess.”
“Lord Damar if you please.”
“I’ve heard of you too Damar. I know the treachery by which you obtained this castle. It takes more than owning a castle to make one a Lord, wizard. Now release the Princess to me!”
“What gives you the right to demand that I turn over anything that is mine to you,” Damar yelled.
“I regret that I can only kill you once,” Eric said as he began to walk toward the wizard.
“It’s not you who will do the killing,” Damar said as he waved his hands before him.
The creature that formed on the floor before Eric was nearly twice his height. The teeth that set in the creature’s long snout were like daggers. Wings folded across its back and the claws on the short powerful legs dug into the stone floor. Eric dove and rolled across the floor as the dragon that Damar had conjured snapped at the place where Eric had once stood. The long neck snaked back as it inhaled. When the dragon exhaled fire lashed the floor and walls where Eric had been. Again the dragon snapped the air that had been Eric. Eric rolled over a table to dodge the dragon and a moment later the table became kindling. Slowly the dragon pushed Eric back toward the back wall and then into the corner.
As Eric dodged fire and teeth he tried to think of everything he knew about dragons. One old wizard had told him that there are no such things as dragons. “Sure there are animals if we saw them we might think of them as dragons,” he said. “But, the fire breathing dragon as we think of him does not exist.” Another wizard told him. “Give a dragon form and fear will make it real. Dragon fire does not burn except in the mind. To kill a dragon one must kill the fear.” All the sorcerers Eric had known had said much the same thing, dragons were not real. Of course none of those wizards were here looking at a very real dragon that was trying to eat them.
Eric looked around for a way out one more time. That’s strange, he thought. With all the fire the dragon had sprayed about the room was not burning. A knife flew through the air and vanished when it hit the dragon. Eric heard the knife as it hit the floor behind the dragon. Then he knew to kill the dragon he must kill his fear. Fire engulfed him and teeth closed about his body.
Damar watched as his dragon began to fade. “No, it can’t be,” he said.
“I live Damar. Your creatures of the mind cannot harm me, I’ve conquered my fear,” Eric said walking toward Damar.
Damar stood up and walked over to the wall. “I regret that I can’t stay to watch you die so I‘ll my good-
“Now what,” Eric asked himself and then he saw the thin stream of smoke from the arm of Damar’s chair. “Flash powder!” Eric dove over a nearby table and pulled it over on top of himself. The chair exploded in a ball of flame that consumed the room and almost everything in it.
“Nothing could have lived through that,” Damar said to the air. “It’s all that woman’s fault. She’s going to pay for the damage she’s done. I’m done with waiting. When I’m done with her she’ll wish she’d never been born.”
Eric crawled out from under what was left of the table. His ears still rung from the blast. Damar would not get away that easy. Through the false wall’s door he went following in the sorcerer’s wake. The passage ended at a blank wall. Eric drew his sword and began to cut through the wall. Great sections of wall were cut free as Eric’s sword sliced through the stone. In no time Eric was through the wall and in pursuit of Damar
“Now you’re going to pay for all the trouble you have caused me. Your young knight came for you and has died for you,” Damar said pinning Alisha to the bed.
Alisha struggled to free herself from Damar’s grip. “He’s not dead. It’s another of your lies to make me lose what little hope I have left,” she said despairingly.
“Oh, he’s quite dead my dear,” Damar said pulling and tearing at the rags that were now Alisha’s clothes. “Nothing could live through the trap I set. Tomorrow I’ll show you the remains of his body, but now I’m through waiting. Now, I’ll take what I want.” Alisha screamed and struggled desperately to free herself from the clutches of the madman on top of her.
Alisha broke his hold for moment and scrambled free. Damar grabbed her foot and wrestled her to the floor. “No,” she screamed.
The door to the room exploded inward and a man in full battledress stepped through the door. “Damar stand and meet your death like a man or die like the whimpering dog you are,” he said.
“Surprised to see me Damar? It would have been a good trap for any other man not as well versed in the ways of sorcery as I.”
A knife suddenly appeared in Damar’s hand. “If I must die I can promise you that the Princess will die before I do,” Damar said pressing the knife against Alisha’s throat.
Four knifes appeared in the air one behind the other. The first hit him in the wrist forcing Damar to drop his knife; the rest followed the motion of Damar as he rolled free of Alisha in an effort to dodge the other knifes. Alisha backed toward the knight away from Damar. Alisha was standing in front of the knight when Damar pulled another knife and threw at her. Eric pulled Alisha roughly aside and caught the knife in midair and threw it aside.
Eric drew his sword; it glowed as it felt Eric’s anger. “Now wizard, you will die. There’s nowhere to run this time.”
“I’ll die someday but not today,” Damar said before he leaped to the window and looked down at the moat below. “Perhaps we’ll meet again,” he said and then he jumped.
As Damar turned to jump Eric pulled a knife from his forearm armor. Even as Damar jumped from the window the knife flew through the air. If Damar had just dropped off the ledge instead of leaping out away from the window the knife might have missed.
Eric walked over to the window and looked down at the body floating in the moat. “Are you alright my Lady,” he asked.
“Yes my Lord I am, but I could use a new dress,” Alisha replied.
“Let us look around my Lady, I’m sure there is something we could find in this castle that would be suitable for you to wear.
“I must ask. How is my father?”
“He’s alive and well when last I saw him,” Eric replied. “I think we should find your dress now. The sooner we are away from this castle the better.”
“Lead on my Lord,” she said. Alisha had never seen armor like that of the knight before her. He was tall and seemed very sure of himself. Even as he walked before her she got the feeling that he hadn’t taken his eyes off her. He appeared unconcerned that there was an army still in the castle all of whom must be looking for him.
“What about Damar’s army, they must all be looking for you,” Alisha asked as they made their way down the corridor.
“I’m sure they don’t want to run into me any more than I want to run into them,” he replied. “Let’s look in here for your dress.” They looked through two more rooms before Alisha found a suitable dress.
“Might I know the name of the brave knight who has risked his life to save me?” Alisha asked while putting on her dress while Eric stood guard outside the room.
“Eric Randolph my Lady.”
“Why did you come to rescue me?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Why did you save me?”
“Well..., well..., well, a..., a..., I’m a, a knight it’s my job. We knights are supposed to go around rescuing fair maidens. You did need to be rescued didn’t you?” Eric was stunned. How do I tell her I’m hopelessly in love with her and make her believe it too and how do I tell her in such a way that she’ll love me too, Eric asked himself.
Unknowingly Eric had already done just that. Alisha smiled to think that this knight loved her. Though she hadn’t seen his face she knew she loved him too. Here was a man, a knight that was true and of all the knights in her father’s kingdom this one had been the only one to come to her aid. And he had come only because of his love for her. That he would love her till the end of time she was certain.
Eric would not force his love on her. It was her choice. If she came to love him he knew he would spend the rest of his life just trying to make her happy. She was his sun, moon, and stars. She was life itself. If she did not chose to love him it did not matter. He wouldn’t love her any less for it. That he could serve her would be all he could ask. For Alisha he would live or die.
A man and woman stood in the middle of the outer court of the Castle Cragmar facing the remains of Lord Damar’s army. The man, a striking young knight, seemed to radiate power. Equally as striking was the young woman standing behind the knight. Her long red gown only served to accent the beauty of an already beautiful woman.
“Stand aside. There is no reason for you all to die. Lord Damar is dead. Unless you all wish to meet his fate let us pass,” the knight said. One might have found the scene laughable from the standpoint of the hundred or so men that faced that knight. It would have been laughable if one had not seen the trail of dead men across the inner courtyard.
Eric started to walk toward the line of soldiers between him and the front gate. Those before him stood their ground for a moment, then started to back up, and then finally fled as Eric bore down on them. Alisha followed in Eric’s wake confident that had they stood and fought her knight would be victorious. Eric threw the crossbar aside and pushed the gate open. Standing before the gate was a blood encrusted white charger fully armored for battle.
Until that moment Alisha had not really appreciated what this knight had gone through just to save her. Before her stood a horse that one knew to be white from a spot here and there, but for the most part the horse was a rusty red brown in color. Armor that once sparkled was now the same color as the horse. A closer look at the knight before her showed his armor to be the same rust brown color as his horse’s armor. Never in all the battles had Alisha seen her father return from had she seen anyone so covered in blood as Eric and his horse. Not in her wildest dreams could she imagine a battle so terrible as the battle Eric and his tireless steed must have been through.
Eric lifted Alisha up onto his horse and then mounted behind her. Soon the castle dwindled behind them until it was at last just a bad memory. On into the night they rode Alisha resting comfortably in the arms of her knight and Eric could not have been happier than at that moment with his arms wrapped tightly around the woman of his dreams.
Eric did not stop for the night, but continued on through the charred and still smoking remains of the Black Forest. He would not risk a stop in what was left of the forest on the outside chance he had not destroyed all the trolls. Indeed he had not for he saw small bands of trolls along the way. The trolls on the other hand went out of their way to stay out of Eric’s way. The trolls remembered Eric all too well.
The next evening found them camped beside a small stream on the edge of an unburned portion of the forest. With Alisha’s help Eric removed his and his horse’s armor for a much needed washing. For the first time Alisha got to see the face of her knight as he removed his helmet.
“You,” was all Alisha could find to say.
“You were expecting someone else,” Eric teased.
“Well, no, it’s just, well..., your just an armorer.” Alisha couldn’t hide the disappointment in her voice.
“And you don’t think you could love an armorer?”
“It’s just that I expected a real knight.”
“What makes you think I’m not a real knight my Lady?”
“Well, armorers aren’t knights,” Alisha said not liking where this conversation was going.
“Why can’t a knight be an armorer? Because I chose to do more with my life than sit in a castle and run around doing good deeds does not make me any less a knight.”
“I can see the rightness of your argument my Lord. But why, when you could easily be the...”
“Be one of the greatest knights,” Eric finished for her. “I am not one of the great or even one of the near great knights. I am well learned in a great many things my Lady, and have had dealings with wizards and other people that most will hear of only in legend. Knowledge is power. Your father could have rescued you had he known what I know.”
“Don’t you want to be a knight?” Alisha asked trying to find out more about the man before her.
“I never thought about it,” Eric replied. “What I wanted to be was an armorer and so I am an armorer. I’m a knight too, it’s something I can’t change nor would I want to. About the only time I think about being a knight is when there is something that needs to be done and it appears that it won’t get done unless I do it myself.”
“Like rescuing me,” Alisha said.
“Well, yes, I mean no. I hide from the world around me behind my forges. I would have been the first to try had I heard that you had been taken. The first I heard that Damar had taken you your father was returning from his ill-
“I think your horse is going to die if we don’t get him out of that armor and turn him white again,” Alisha said to change the subject.
Eric never remembered a time when washing his horse was such a pleasurable experience. He spent more time watching Alisha wash his horse than he spent washing the horse himself. At the same time he had never taken as much time to wash his horse as he did that evening.
“Sometimes I get the feeling I’m washing this horse all by myself,” Alisha said.
“Oh no my Lady, I’m watching... I mean I’m washing the horse.” Alisha smiled. She knew what he meant because she was doing much the same thing. At the rate they were both going the horse was lucky to have gotten clean at all. That night they each slept soundly for the first time in many a night.
The next few days Alisha spent in Eric’s arms as they made their way to the river that marked the beginning of King Fallon’s kingdom. During those days and nights Alisha told Eric all about herself. Eric in turn told her tales of King Arthur and enthralled her with stories of wizards he had met in his adventures of earlier years.
Eric did not hide from her the fact that he was for the most part a knight for hire and that the cost for his services were quite high. For Eric there had come a time when money meant nothing when he began to do seemingly impossible jobs just for the adventure of it all. In time he had stopped playing hero and made a name for himself as an armorer. As for money Eric had more money than he knew what to do with. In his lifetime Eric had given away three castles and sold one just to get rid of them. All Eric wanted now was peace and quiet which is why he worked for King Fallon. The King left Eric alone to do what he wanted in return for the trade and fame Eric brought to the kingdom.
It had been many days since they had left the Castle Cragmar. They presently sat on the banks of the river that marked the beginning of King Fallon’s land. It was late evening, Alisha was leaning against Eric as they watched the fire snap, crackle, and pop before them, each lost in their own thoughts.
“Eric,” Alisha asked.
“Yes my Lady,” Eric replied.
“Eric do you love me?” she asked again because she wanted to hear the words.
“Yes my Lady, with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my being. No one could love you more than I,” he replied.
Alisha leaned back against Eric and sighed. Eric’s arms tightened about her. “Alisha,” he asked. Alisha turned so she could face him. Their eyes met. Eric leaned down and crushed his lips to hers. Long into the night they lay passionately embraced in one another’s arms.
The next day as Eric and Alisha crossed the river and their horse climbed up the river bank six highwaymen came thundering down on them. Eric spurred his horse on. At first Eric gained ground on his pursuers but ever so slowly the highwaymen began to overtake them. His horse could never out run them as long as he carried both of them.
Eric pulled his horse up and jumped off.” Alisha take my horse and ride on,” he said as he jumped off. “I think I’ll stay and detain these fellows a moment.
“My Lord, Eric...“
“No, my Lady, you cannot stay. There are too many of them and I will not risk any harm to befall you my love.”
“I love you,” Alisha said.
“And I you my Lady and will always as long as there is a breath of life in me.” Then to his horse he said. “Take her home and keep her safe.” Eric pulled his lance from its boot, slapped his horse, and watched as Alisha rode out of sight. “Well, on to the problems at hand,” he said to himself.
The first horseman to come upon Eric was impaled on a lance and lifted free of his horse. Eric grabbed at the horse as it went by. “Damn. That one was too skinny anyway,” Eric said as he watched the horse run down the road. Eric deflected the incoming lance with his sword and then followed the sword on around and cut the rider through the middle as he passed by. There wasn’t enough time for Eric to grab the horse before the remaining highwaymen came charging down on him with lances in hand.
Alisha stood stroking the neck of a tall strong white horse. “I know he’s alive,” she softly cried to the horse. Alisha had come every day for a week to see that the horse was well cared for. Where Eric was she could not guess but if ever she needed him it was now.
“Alisha,” her father said at dinner that night. “Alisha!”
“Yes Father,” Alisha answered.
“Alisha, I’ve been patient long enough. If your young knight was coming he would have been here by now,” King Fallon said.
“He’s alive Father, I know he is. Something must have happened to him.”
“My dear, it is just possible that he died there on the road where you last saw him.”
“Oh Father wait awhile longer. He’ll be here, I know he will.”
“I can’t Alisha. Your young man could have walked here from the river. No Alisha, tomorrow at the tournament I will find you a husband.”
“I’ll not hear any more Alisha. This subject is closed,” King Fallon said sternly.
Alisha ran out of the hall and into the night. Alisha looked at the horse with tears in her eyes. “He’ll be here I know he will,” she sobbed to the horse. “I know he’s alive, I just know it,” she cried and hugged the horse.
The fair promised to be the grandest fair ever. There were multicolor tents everywhere. Pennants and flags flew high above the tents and from the lances of the knights that had come to compete in the tournament. Never had there ever been such a tournament for such a prize, the hand in marriage of the princess Alisha. Smells of food drifted across the fairgrounds. Merchants plying their wears to the knights and ladies. Roundabout jugglers and other such entertainers went about entertaining those who were willing to watch. All-
Alisha rode to the fairgrounds on Eric’s white charger. She went with all the dignity and poise of someone who was going bravely to meet their death. That was exactly how she felt, like one going to her death. Squires looked lively as they ran to take charge of the horses from the King’s party.
As the King was being seated the heralds announced the knights that would take part in the tournament. All was in readiness. A dozen lists had been set up down which twenty four knights and their horses would charge with lance in hand with the aim of unseating their opponent from his horse all for the favor of a woman. There were more than twenty knights to be sure. In fact the lists could be filled three times before any one knight would get a second opponent.
“My Lords and good knights, as you all know the winner of this tournament will win a great deal more than money. For I also offer my daughter’s hand in marriage to the winner of this tournament,” King Fallon said to the ranks of knights before him. “Now let the tournament begin!”
Twenty four knights lined up before the King’s pavilion to salute the King and court the favor of the Princess. They then rode off to the head of the lists to start their charge. As a man all twenty four knights charged each other. Their horses thundered down the lists. The sounds of shattered lances as they struck the shields and the clamor of fallen knights could be heard over the roar of the crowd that watched.
Five times this scene was reenacted before some of the lists remained empty. After the sixth pass through the lists only six knights remained. By the sixth pass through the lists it was lunch so King Fallon declared an end to the tournament until after lunch. Lunch gave the knights time to rest, the people a chance to eat, and the squires a chance to clear away some of the lists not in use.
After lunch six knights sat on their horses before the King’s pavilion and saluted their King. After the run through the lists three knights remained. Soon there were only two knights left and then there was only one knight, Sir Gwynn. Sir Gwynn had waited a long time for just such a tournament and now at last the Princess Alisha would have to be his wife.
Above the noise of the crowds a pair of ears picked up the sound of a low whistle. One of many horses pulled back against the reigns that held it tied to a hitching post. The reigns held. Again the large white horse heard the whistle. Then it went mad trying to free itself. Squires came running to try and calm the horse. Again the horse heard the whistle. By now a few knights had come to lend a hand in trying to regain control of the horse. But before they could be of any effect the post pulled free and the horse ran off trailing squires and post behind it.
“Sir Gwynn will now entertain any challengers for the hand of Princess Alisha,” King Fallon announced as a formality before giving his daughter away to Sir Gwynn.
From the far side of the lists a knight rode out onto the field. The knight’s cloak of red and gold was pulled tight around him. His shield was a black field with a flaming sword slashed across it. The whole shield was trimmed in gold. Slowly he made his way across the field. The heralds had yet to identify the strange knight.
An old herald waken from his sleep looked at the knight with failing eyes as he drew closer. His eyes widened as he remembered who the knight was. How does one introduce a legend, he thought. “Who is he,” a young herald asked. The old man stood up and looked out at the crowd.
“My Lords and Ladies. The knight who challenges Sir Gwynn, whose shield is a black field with a flaming sword, is Sir Eric Randolph of Camelot, the last knight of the roundtable in the days of King Arthur.”
Eric rode slowly over to the King’s pavilion and halted before the Princess. Eric tossed his cloak back over his shoulders to reveal an all black suit of armor richly inlayed with gold and silver. “If you will permit me I would deem it a great honor if I might champion your right to choose whom you wish to marry and not have marriage forced upon you.” King Fallon was about to say something when Eric spoke again. “I have destroyed whole kingdoms for less reason than what I fight for here today. So think well before you speak my Lord.”
“My fate is in your hands as it has always been, my Lord,” said Alisha as her father sat back down. After Eric and Sir Gwynn rode off to prepare to enter the lists Alisha looked over at her father. “He’s killed a thousand trolls, conquered a castle and killed hundreds of men all for love. It is because of him that I’m here at all.”
“So he is your knight,” King Fallon mused.
Horses pawed the ground as they waited for the signal that would send them thundering towards one another. In to the lists Eric and Sir Gwynn went lances held high. Each shattered their lance on the others shield as they passed. Each picked up a new lance and entered the lists again. Once again they shattered their lances only to replace them at the end of the lists. Again they charged each other this time their lances struck square on the others shield and both riders were lifted clear of their horses.
Both fallen combat would continue from foot. Eric waited as Sir Gwynn had his sword brought to him. Swords clashed as the two met. Each traded blows with the other neither giving nor taking much ground. Slowly Eric gave ground as Sir Gwynn rained blow after blow on him. Eric blocked mostly with his shield as he waited for a chance to disable Sir Gwynn without killing him. Eric stumbled and rolled back on to his knees in time to block the sword that would have ended his life. Sir Gwynn pressed his advantage over Eric so that Eric could not regain his feet,
Eric knew he was losing the fight. He glanced over at Alisha and saw her eyes pleading with him to get up. He knew he was holding back. He was fighting for the one he loved and he was holding back! Eric saw his sword glow red in the daylight, power crackled from the blade as his sword reflected his desperation and anger. As Sir Gwynn struck out at Eric as he stood up into the incoming sword and shoved Sir Gwynn back. “No quarter,” Eric yelled as he flung his shield aside.
Eric seemed to strike everywhere at once. Sir Gwynn was hard pressed to defend himself much less think of mounting an attack of his own. Eric’s sword bit deep into his shield. Sir Gwynn watched as great gouges appeared in his sword until at last his sword shattered and he stumbled backward into the pavilion wall. I’m a dead man, he thought.
“I yield my Lord,” Sir Gwynn yelled in fear for his life. The sword stopped and hovered in front of Sir Gwynn’s chest. “I yield to you, sir. Spare me.”
“I give you your life,” Eric said. “I want nothing from you except perhaps that you return to them who have lost against you, the things that are theirs. I would have you leave here with nothing more or less than what you came here with.”
“I thank you for my life my Lord. It shall be as you say,” Sir Gwynn said and then turned and walked away.
Standing in front of the King’s pavilion Eric looked up at Alisha in her silver white gown, her long black hair draped about her shoulders. “My Lady, the freedom to choose the man you wish to marry is yours, but I beg that I may ask a question of you.”
“Ask your question my Lord,” Alisha said.
“Will you marry me?” Eric asked looking up into Alisha’s smiling face.
What does it take to become human?
How close can we get to true A.I. On simple software alone?
These and other questions we are trying to find answers for with this experiment in Artificial Intelligence written in pure AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language). This is a component that answers some of our overall educational goals and a small step toward providing a basic education to the world for free.
The Ship Computer Library contains a growing collection of stories that I have written over the years. Even as the Ship Computer is designed to tell stories, it is also a character within a story, a computer named Pandora with all the expectations of that character built-
As odd as this may seem, this is part of an even larger story. This all leads to still other stories that are all part of a never-