The Obstructive Knight

Finally back after quite a long hiatus. I certainly need to stop waiting so long to write these. Anyway, I hope you all had a good Christmas, and I hope you all have a happy New Year!

This is a short story that’s a kind of off-shoot of the theme I’ve been looking at for the last couple of months. I’ve been looking at courage, and what one does when one’s back is up against the wall, with no way out. This is closely related, specifically about choice.

Sir Claude stared up in annoyance at the armor-clad figure standing before him at foot of the bridge.

“What was that?” he asked.

“If you wish to cross this bridge, you must first defeat me in single combat,” the figure replied.

“You realize I could go a mile downstream and cross a different bridge, right?”

“I do.”

“Then why are you here?”

“To challenge you.”

Claude let out a few choice words regarding the figure and then turned away, heading down to the other bridge. “What a fool,” he muttered.

The figure just watched him go.

Claude spent two hours walking down to the other bridge and then returning to the road on the other side. From there, he continued on his way, until he reached a forest. But there, in front of the only road leading into the forest, was the same figure in armor.

“If you wish to go through the forest by this road, you must first defeat me in single combat,” said the figure.

Claude glared at the figure with a look of furious annoyance. He might very well fight this knight, just to be rid of him.

“You realize I could just walk through the forest around you?” he said instead.

“You’ll never find the road if you do.”

Claude chose some different, more insulting words for the figure this time as he walked into the forest, brushing aside branches and shrubbery that smacked into his face as he walked.

He did not find the road until he got out of the forest, a whole day after entering it.

After another three days of travel, he at last reached a checkpoint in his journey: a coastal city, from which he would board a ship to get to the place to which he desired to go. He walked along the docks, toward the only ship in the entire city that was bound for his destination. But there, blocking the entrance to the ship, was the armored figure.

“This is getting ridiculous,” Claude muttered as he approached the figure.

“If you wish to board this ship, you must defeat me in single combat,” said the figure.

“Look, is there any reason you keep insisting on getting in my way? Anyway, what if there’s another ship here that will take me where I need to go?”

“You know there is no other ship, nor will there be until next spring.”

“So I have to fight you?”

“No. You always have a choice.”

Claude muttered certain words under his breath. “Yes, I suppose I do.” He looked contemplatively at the ship, squinting his eyes and pursing his lips.

Then, after a long moment, he spoke.

“It’s not worth it anymore anyway.”

And then he turned and walked away.

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