by Tallis Baker, Age 17, Australia
The fiction prompt for April was “revamped fairytales.”
THE SILLY KNIGHT
There are three different types of heroes. The first type is the one that everyone knows is going to save the day; even the other characters know it. There’s the “unlikely hero,” who the readers know is going to save the day but everyone else dismisses. And then there’s the third type, that unfortunate circumstance where, in fact, there is no hero at all.
* * *
It was a bright winter’s day, when the whole world looked like a black-and-white movie because not a shred of grass stuck its head through the layer of snow, and not a leaf marred the perfectly bare tree by the side of the road, when out of the white came a horse.
This horse was black, but on its back lay a red saddle and on the saddle sat a–well, sat nothing. The person who had been on the saddle now sat in the snow, blinking in surprise. He raised his hands and appeared perplexed at the redness of his bare skin. He put his hands back in the snow and pushed himself off the ground awkwardly. Then he leaned against a tree.
The horse, meanwhile, pawed at the snow and huffed irritably. He cast one contemptuous look at his hapless rider and took off along the road.
The rider pushed himself off the tree so fast that he overbalanced and landed face down in the snow. His voice from underneath his helmet was muffled. “Wait! Wait, you stupid boogie-eating donkey! Horse, I mean. Come back! I didn’t mean it…any of it…Bugger.” He slumped back against the tree and removed his helmet.
His mother had often said he might have been smarter had he not been so handsome. When the gods had dished out the goodies according to their five-star system, they had given him four and a half stars for looks, and no one knew where the last half star had gone. He wasn’t very handsome at the moment, though. His hair was sticking up and his face was red from–in his opinion–unnecessary exertion.
“No donkey,” he muttered. “Horse, I mean. No horse, no food, no codswalloping nuffin‘. Hang on–.” He inserted a finger up his nose, then thrust it into a tiny pouch in the side of his helmet. When he removed it, stuck to the tip was a scrunched-up piece of parchment. His tongue came out of his mouth as he worked diligently to unfold it.
Finally he opened it up and examined it. He rotated it left, then right, then decided on left and stood up. Following the squiggly line drawn on the map, he started off in the way he assumed was home.
Too bad he could never sort out his north from his south.
Adira wondered when someone would come to get her. She was sitting on the very top of a tower, one hand holding the length of hair wrapped around the pinnacle and the other resting on the stone shingles beneath her. Gazing into the white distance, listening to the mess the giant was making in the hold of the castle and knowing she would have to clean it up, she sighed. Being wife to a giant was not very exciting.
Adira cursed her flimsy shoes and thought longingly about summer, when she would be able to lower herself down from the tower and skip away through the meadows. But even more longingly did she think about the handsome knight who was going to come rescue her. She’d seen many already, and would have ridden away on their horses had the giant not eaten their horses as well.
A tantalizing smell drifted from the kitchen window, and she sniffed it appreciatively before remembering that it was the leg bone of that blonde knight from yesterday. She shifted so that the wind could blow the smell past her.
In that mass of white, she saw something–something small, black, and fast. Her fingers tightened on her hair in preparation. Then she secured the makeshift rope and slid down the side of the tower.
The knight trudged on. He sank into potholes, bumped into trees–generally ran into anything that made him wish the princess had not been kidnapped by a bloodthirsty giant, and his mother hadn’t all too eagerly volunteered him for the next knight to go on the quest.
The horse shot past him, turning him into a pinwheel and leaving him lying in the snow, dazed. He occupied himself for a few minutes making snow angels, then sat up. That horse–there had been something vaguely familiar about that horse. And that girl on its back–she looked awfully like the princess. Wasn’t the princess supposed to have awfully long hair?
He puzzled over it for a second, then tripped and promptly forgot about it. He stood up with difficulty and continued his walk in the direction he dutifully assumed was home.
That castle in the distance–that looked like somewhere the princess might be kept, didn’t it? Oh, what was that delectable smell? Maybe whoever lived there might care to share a meal with a poor, misunderstood–and, truthfully, failed–knight.
He quickened his steps.
When Princess Adira rode into the city on the back of a black horse, a cheer went up. In the middle of the rejoicing, a small woman hurried to the princess’s side.
“Your Highness,” the woman said, “you didn’t happen to notice a young man on your way here, did you?”
“Oh, him,” said Adira. “I think we may have knocked him over. He was heading to the giant’s castle.”
“Oh, that’s alright then.” The woman went to prepare her son’s funeral.
Tallis writes: “I enjoy experimenting with different styles and this story is very different to what I usually write.”