Sir Gossabel mounted his steed, then beheld his opponent from across the field. What was going through the mind of that wretch, he could only guess. And what did Princess Gertrude see in him? He didn’t want to think. This duel would settle the matter.
At the signal, the opponents goaded their horses, and they galloped towards each other, their swords drawn and ready.
Gossabel knew better than to glance at the spectators. That could be fatal. The hazy image at the extreme periphery of his vision still showed the curled blonde ringlets of the princess’s head next to the grey locks of King Redbert’s, surrounded by all the important people of the kingdom. No doubt she was tense — as she had been when Gossabel had taken the liberty of looking.
Her father looked solemn, though some of the lords took the whole affair in a light-hearted manner:
“Let’s see which of these two upstarts will be left standing!”
“I could have told you it would come to this!”
“Ten Ducets says Norbert’s blood will flow…”
“I say Gossabel’s…”
The peasants were also gambling what few Ducets they had, calling out their favourite champion. But those who cared which one lived and which one died, weren’t so jovial.
Gossabel now approached Sir Norbert. Their swords clashed…
* * *
So far so good, thought Mark. This new medium had a special feel to it. They had said this would render images in greater than 100 percent reality. Mark had wondered how that could be so, but now, as he was creating the cinema footage, he could feel it. Re-running it, he could even sense the flippant attitude of the lords who were being entertained by the potential fate of Sir Gossabel and Sir Norbert, the deadly vibrations of iron sword clanging against iron sword — he almost didn’t know, himself, who would be left alive at the end.
How could I not know? I am creating the story! Mark was the expert who had been commissioned to test this medium on a feature-length production.
Yet, why was he telling himself he might have to end up making Sir Norbert the hero of the story in place of Sir Gossabel? In his whole career of film-making, he’d never experienced that kind of thought.
For goodness sake — if the story takes a wrong turn, I could always go back and re-edit it! Yet it just didn’t feel as though he could. Every action reverberated with a seriousness that made it seem permanent.
This medium was powerful.
* * *
For the last 65 or so years, the film-viewing public had been satisfied with 100 percent reality 3-D. Home theatres were equipped with 3-D screens taking up one whole wall of a room. Every home had one. But because of this new advance, everyone would now have to go out and spend money on a new system. This would be good for the home theatre industry. Mark Snobbel felt privileged to be on the cutting edge of the new technology.
Dr. Marvin had retained him for this job. He was the head of the team that was researching a new medium, based on recent research into the Iota Particle, a sub-atomic particle that had shown some amazing properties. It probably didn’t do anything like warp time and space, or send ships to other galaxies — or maybe it did. Dr. Marvin’s team wasn’t concerned with that. They were interested in the effect it had on imaging. They called them four-dimensional images. His team included nuclear physicists to develop the channel of energy, computer developers to adapt the existing computer animation programs to deal with the new medium, and Mark Snobbel, to test it.
Mark was the right man for the job. His family had been in cinematography since the days when making a film required a team of actors, cameramen, technicians, film editors, not to mention the screenwriters and authors of the stories the films were based on. It cost millions to make a film in those days. Now, it was a one-person-job. Mark had distinguished himself as the best “one-person” in the field. He was a film-maker.
* * *
Iron clanged against iron. The horsemen lunged, fended, turned their horses around, and lunged again.
Gossabel knew he was the better swordsman, but he knew he couldn’t afford to lose his concentration. Norbert was good, probably better on a horse, but Gossabel knew he could win.
The only question was, Would he finish him off?
Mark felt good about it now. The story was under control. The character had enough confidence to win and Mark had managed to find a kind streak in him. Gossabel would go against the lust of the bloodthirsty lords, and let Sir Norbert live.
The general sentiment was that this would be a fight to the death. King Redbert was in favour of finishing him off. Sir Norbert was a pupil of that heretic, Grebbel. That man’s words, though smooth and enticing, were poison. He had poisoned Sir Norbert, and Sir Norbert was infecting Princess Gertrude, among others. Father Mort, the bishop, was livid. This could lead to instability. It was partly for that reason that some of those in the stands were calling for blood.
In private, the king had insinuated that if Sir Gossabel were to defeat Sir Norbert in this duel, and kill him, he’d have no objection to giving him the princess’s hand in marriage, as well as the throne of Midwold.
It wasn’t an unqualified promise, though. What the king really wanted was the return of the sceptre. If someone would only retrieve the royal sceptre that had been taken by the dark lord of Weswold, that man would have his unqualified support for the throne.
“But,” the king would always sigh, “I suppose that’s not to be.”
* * *
Mark had got the idea of the sceptre from a recent local discovery. They had found the remains of a tower in the brush-covered hillside near the sea. They had excavated it and then restored it to look like the original tower that stood there once-upon-a-time. The discovery of the sceptre confirmed an ancient legend of the Dark Tower of Weswold. According to the legend, this would be the Sceptre of Midwold. It now lay in a glass case in the tower-cum-museum.
Mark was intrigued by the discovery. He had stood for close to an hour at the glass case, gazing at the sceptre. The image was vivid in his mind when he sat down at the computer to start this story.
The opening scene was the sceptre, lying on a table beside an open window overlooking the sea. The imagery had presented itself with hardly any effort at all on Mark’s part.
Mark was amazed that this digital animation program came with such an extensive library of textures and backdrops that readily brought up a match for his imagined setting.
* * *
Sir Gossabel swung his sword, but Sir Norbert fended it off with his shield. However the force of the blow knocked him off his horse.
Sir Norbert knew how to land. When Sir Gossabel turned around, there he was, standing on the ground and facing him.
From his horse, this would be an easy kill.
“Hey! Get down and fight like a man!” shouted one of the lords.
“Hear! Hear!” shouted another.
Sir Gossabel decided to be a sport. He dismounted, gave his horse a slap on its flank to send it off, and marched towards his opponent.
Iron clanged against iron, the metal seeming to reverberate with the emotion of potential death in each swing.
Sir Gossabel was the more expert swordsman, and each stroke showed it.
Though Sir Norbert had once been equal to Sir Gossabel, the teaching of the heretic Grebbel had blunted his edge. He was no longer a fighting man. He had tried to propose a different way to settle their dispute, but everyone, especially those opposed to Grebbel’s doctrine, equated that suggestion with cowardice.
Now, his movements showed it. Here was a man only trying to prolong his own life. Each step backward, each swing of the sword, was a defensive move. Blood was already flowing from several cuts. He was weakening.
Sir Gossabel saw his chance….
Suddenly, it was Sir Norbert’s perceptions that were leaping into Mark’s imagination: the view of the oncoming, unstoppable point of Sir Gossabel’s great sword, knowing exactly where it was headed; the ripping of chain mail, the tearing of flesh, the cold taste of iron in his lower throat, the ebbing away of life to the accompaniment of boisterous cheers signifying the oncoming celebration in which Norbert would have no part…
…the hopes — the dreams that were never to be — so, this is what it’s like to….
* * *
Mark had to take a break.
His well-trained eye and finger movements, and other body functions that controlled shapes, movement, and texture of the graphics, quite often worked subliminally, even on the system he was familiar with. On this machine, the story seemed to be telling itself with hardly any discernible effort from Mark.
That happened, sometimes. He would just have to go back over it again, carefully, and re-edit it.
Sir Gossabel wasn’t being the benevolent sportsman that Mark had hoped for.
“I’ll go over it again later,” sighed Mark.
Finally, he went on to the next scene.
* * *
Princess Gertrude was in tears. But, like a lady, she was accepting of her fate. She didn’t really hate Sir Gossabel — they had been friends since childhood — she had just been enamoured with Sir Norbert. She preferred to keep them both as good friends. She wasn’t ready to think about marriage.
These boys took things way too seriously.
The Princess’s thoughts seemed to jump from the story into Mark’s imagination. That was a good angle for the story, so he recorded it. But he wanted to concentrate on Sir Gossabel and the king.
“Good job,” said the king, as Sir Gossabel knelt before him. “Arise.”
Sir Gossabel obeyed. “So, may I claim the prize?”
“The prize, yes. I suppose you must have your prize.” His words seemed to trail off into a reverie of thought, indicating that he probably had more to say, as soon as he could think of it.
Sir Gossabel waited.
“I suppose,” the king said, finally, “you’d like my daughter’s hand in marriage, and the throne of Midwold when I’ve gone….”
His tone of voice didn’t call for an answer, so Gossabel waited.
“It’s just that my daughter doesn’t seem to be ready for marriage right now. All this is so fast, with Sir Norbert’s life ending so abruptly and all….” His words trailed off again. It sounded as though Norbert’s death was a tragedy.
“But sir,” Sir Gossabel spoke up. “Did you not want me to finish him off?”
The princess began sobbing loudly.
“Gertrude, you may retire to your chamber, if you wish,” said the king.
The princess took her leave.
After a long pause, the king spoke: “As I said, my daughter doesn’t appear ready for marriage. All this would be too much for her, seeing the one she loves killed, then marrying her killer. It’s all too much.”
“But — she’s a woman! However royal, she’s your daughter!”
“Yes — perhaps I’ve succumbed to the words of that heretic. Norbert was always repeating them in our presence. Be that as it may, give her a year. As for the throne –” he paused “– I do wish someone would retrieve my sceptre from that scoundrel, the Duke of Weswold!”
Gossabel could tell the king was in a fix. What if he promised the throne to him, but someone else, in the meantime, recaptured the sceptre?
“I shall get it,” blurted Sir Gossabel, finally. “I’ll depart at daybreak. I’ll challenge him to a man-to-man duel.”
The king’s expression didn’t change. Again, Sir Gossabel waited.
“I can’t let you do it,” said the king, finally. “You’re one of my best men, and I’d hate to lose you.”
“My life wouldn’t be worth living if I don’t go,” replied Gossabel.
There followed some more exchanges, while the king further tried to dissuade Sir Gossabel, but the knight was firm in his decision.
Finally, the king took Sir Gossabel by the shoulder and spoke to him in a low voice. “As you know, to reach Weswold, you must pass through the Oldwood Forest. You’ve heard of the dangers that lie there. Duke Weswold’s confidence lies in the fact that his tower is inaccessible by land or sea. Only he knows the safe route through the wood. Now, my idea is, if you go down to Blindman’s Street, in the lower part of the city, you’ll find, in the fifth house down from the apothecary’s shop, the home of Madam Abigail.”
“Shhh — yes. She is a witch, but sometimes one needs the services of such a one. Believe me, the bishop’s crucifixes and relics are powerless against the enchantments of that forest.”
“I thought you had all the witches burned!”
“Only the ones the bishop knew about. She’s done valuable services for the kingdom. Now, you must be discreet….”
* * *
So far, so good — though Sir Gossabel had turned out to be something of a bloodthirsty chauvinist. Perhaps I could come back later and tone that section down a bit.
Now, for the visit to the witch, Mark decided. “Blind Man’s Street” would be a narrow alley by today’s standards — hardly a footpath. Narrow and bending, stone hovels joining each other on both sides like terrace houses do today. The Apothecary’s shop was hardly a hole in the wall. Five houses down, the separation between each house hardly discernible except that each had only one door, or an opening. Clothes hung across the pathway, so the hero had to duck; there were women holding crying babies, a man washing a hide — finally, the fifth door, the dirtiest of all.
Again, Mark was amazed at the repertoire of backdrops and textures. With no trouble at all, he had the right style and grade for the stonework, even down to the smoke stains, the broken bits, the varying shapes of each door — Mark hadn’t thought the developers would prioritise the library feature of this program.
* * *
“Ah-hah! A visitor! Tell me, Who goes there?” said the hunchbacked woman.
Gossabel lifted the hood of his cloak.
“Well, well, well! None other than our champion!”
“Shhh! Please! I don’t want my visit known.”
“Aye, aye, of course! We want to keep all our friends, don’t we!” She lowered her voice. “So, tell me, what brings a gallant gentleman to the humble abode of an old wench?”
“I have a mission. I’m to fetch the Sceptre of Midwold from the dark tower of Weswold. For that, I must pass through the Oldwood Forest. I hear there are enchantments.”
“Indeed, indeed. But the sceptre has special power, does it not? Anyone carrying it will surely be safe from any danger the wood contains.”
“What about getting there?”
“Ah-hah!” the old woman thought a moment. “I may have just the thing.”
She turned and entered an inner chamber. The opening was just big enough for the woman with her hunched back to pass through, but too low for the likes of Sir Gossabel, unless he bent down uncomfortably, and too dark for him to feel inclined to follow.
There were muffled voices inside…
… they were heard by Mark with his apparatus.
“And who be it this time?” asked the very thin, wrinkled old man.
“The knight. The same as clobbered Norbert.”
“Ha hah! What’s he after? The devil’s tail?”
“He seeks to pass through our forest, he does.”
“Aye, aye, our forest. We’ve a reputation to keep, don’t we! What did I hear say of the ‘sceptre’?”
“He aims ta fetch it.”
“I suppose you gone and giv’n him the same story as you give the Duke of Weswold?”
“Aye, I did. But it’s the trip there he’s think’n ’bout.”
“Yes. Find him something strong. Here, how ’bout this here cat’s tooth. Tell ‘m the devil had a tooth ache and asked you to pull it — ha ha ha — and he’s to come back with that Grebbel’s head on a stake. Tel ‘m that.”
“Aye, that I will. That I will.”
All Gossabel heard were the muffled chuckles and other noises — no doubt straight from the pits of hell. The old woman emerged.
“This’ll get ya through it,” she said, as she handed him a large cat’s fang. “But there’s a condition. You must do Grebbel like you did Norbert. Bring me his head as proof.”
Gossabel bowed to her, pulled his hood over his head and backed out of the hovel.
* * *
Mark didn’t know how the new medium, by itself, could have improved the fluidness of the storytelling. The wonder was in the intuitiveness of the computer system behind it. It was so much better than his own system. Each scene he laid out flowed into the arrangement he pictured in his mind. The texture of each tree trunk, each fence, each blade of grass, quickly took on the qualities he imagined. Even the characters seemed to think for themselves.
Mark only hoped that no psychologist would look at his unfinished draft and judge his inhibitions. He didn’t think he had the violent temperament he had given to his main character.
Now he was creating the scene in which Sir Gossabel, dressed in full armour, with his sword and battle axe hanging at either side, shield on his back, was riding through the countryside surrounding the city of Midwold. He had begun his journey to face the Duke of Weswold to take the sceptre.
He was also armed with the knowledge that all the Duke really had as his defence was the enchanted forest, which only he could traverse, using the sceptre. Now, Gossabel had a relic with which to enter the wood.
Next, Mark was trying to think what he could add to make the journey eventful. Right now, the horse was walking — walking — walking.
Too long. He’d come back to this later and cut some of it out.
Suddenly, he was aware of someone riding alongside. Mark was just as surprised as Sir Gossabel. It was someone on a donkey.
Certainly from Mark’s subconscious….
* * *
“Good day for a ride into the forest, isn’t it!” said the stranger.
“Oh! Well, yes. It depends on which forest you mean.”
“The one you’re headed to, of course!”
“I should think it would take more than a pleasant ride to get through that one, by the looks of it,” responded Gossabel.
“Once you get past the looks, I’m sure every forest is the same. There are the trees, the animals. You’ve got to watch your step, of course. There’s always the unexpected.”
“They say there are enchantments in this one.”
“They say many things,” said the man. “I’ve found that there’s a great difference between what’s said, and what is.”
“How does one find out what ‘is’?”
“Being that you are headed in the direction you are, no doubt you will soon know what ‘is’, however costly the knowledge. But there are better ways known to those who will listen.”
“Listen?” queried Gossabel. “You just said, ‘what they say’ isn’t ‘what is’. What do you get by listening?”
“It depends on whether you listen to what they say, or to Truth.”
“They say that if the bishop smiles on you, you’ll go to heaven. They say if the king taps you on the head with a butter knife, you’re a knight. They say the Duke of Weswold is protected by no more than a forest. They say this forest is enchanted. They say Sir Gossabel is a champion. They say Sir Norbert was a weakling. And they say the price of a heretic’s head is a cat’s tooth. If you listen to Truth, you may find that the forest is just as enchanted as the cat’s tooth, and that, in itself, would greatly devalue the price of the heretic’s head.”
“You…!” Gossabel turned to the man on the donkey.
“Grebbel, at your service.”
“I don’t have time for your drivel. When I return with the Sceptre of Midwold, I will bring your head in on a stake.”
“You will, indeed, retrieve the sceptre,” said Grebbel, in a more authoritative tone of voice. “On the way, you will come face to face with yourself. On your return, you will find that you are your own worst enemy. Once you have found that out, feel free to stop in at my humble home, which you see yonder. We can discuss my head over a drink.”
At that, Grebbel turned off the path and went towards the cottage.
* * *
Now, it was time to render the dark woods. Automatically, pine trees presented themselves. A dense forest of pine. From a distance, it was obvious why the forest was said to be enchanted. There was no light to be seen between the tree trunks, except where there was undergrowth, and even that was so dense as to prevent passage.
From closer up, there were more reasons. On the nearest tree hung a human skull. A tree further down sported an up-side-down crucifix. Over there, a pentagram. Then, another skull.
Mark could feel the shivers running down Sir Gossabel’s spine.
But there were so many unique occult symbols, Mark would have expected he would have had to design them individually. Yet they were all included in the library of props.
* * *
Sir Gossabel held the cat’s tooth in his fist and gritted his teeth. With a burst of resolve, he goaded his horse on, into the woods.
There was no path. Sir Gossabel had to use his instincts. He hoped he could go on in a straight line, despite not being able to tell which way the sunlight was shining, despite so many distractions, despite even his horse rearing a time or two with fright.
There were more relics hanging from trees here and there.
There was a body hanging from one tree. He went for a closer look. It was a scarecrow. It had a knife through its heart.
Then, there were the sounds. Each one made him jump. They made the horse halt and rear. He managed to control himself and his horse and went on.
Deeper and deeper he went.
Ahead, there was a clearing. Longing for a spot of sunlight, and the chance to check his direction, he entered it. It was a large meadow surrounded by the forest. At the centre was a giant stone table, the type used by pagans for sacrifices.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, there appeared a horseman.
(To Mark, the horseman appeared from the foreground, as it entered the set towards where Sir Gossabel was, but away from Mark.)
Instinctively, Sir Gossabel drew his sword and advanced towards the stranger. The other horseman drew his sword to fend him off. Sword clanged against sword with ferocity.
Totally unexpected. Mark decided he’d concentrate on action and fill in the details later. He’d be able to control the direction of the story better.
The two fought, though Gossabel found the other as surprised as he, and, if anything seemed intimidated by him. Gossabel, man of action that he was, drove into him so as to overwhelm him.
The other swung desperately to fend off Gossabel’s attack. His sword nicked Gossabel’s coat of mail in the right side, getting a little bit of flesh.
Suddenly, as though surprised by his own move, the other clutched his own side. He had an identical nick in his chain mail, with a bit of blood at the edge. In fact, the other was wearing an identical suit of armour and garment as Gossabel. He was riding an identical horse.
This was too confusing. Gossabel fought the harder. The other only fended off his attack as best he could.
A strange-looking dog suddenly ran from the woods, barking frantically at them. After barking a while, it suddenly looked around and ran off yelping.
Then, a boy, who ran through the legs of the horse….
Mark realised that he would definitely need to re-edit the clothes. The default style seemed to be Twenty-Second Century Western.
Gossabel ignored the boy and dog and concentrated on his foe.
More people began appearing, an oddly dressed woman, acting as though she were the mother of the boy, a man, another woman, two more men….
Gossabel’s foe tumbled from his horse.
* * *
This was getting out of hand. Mark had thought that by concentrating only on the action, he’d have greater control. It was turning out to be just the opposite. Now, he had a forest full of people all dressed in modern clothes.
“What the bloody — !”
The last one looked like himself — sprawled out on the grass, holding the hand of an older man, as though the latter had been pulling him.
Sir Gossabel was about to lunge the sword into the fallen man’s chest. The man lifted his visor and said something, but Mark didn’t catch it. Sir Gossabel hesitated, and then turned away from the fallen man.
Mark decided to call it a day. He reached for the “end” button.
The man on the ground said, “And I’m my own worst enemy.”
A glance showed Mark it was Sir Gossabel!
Too late — his finger had already pressed the button. There was a blinding flash of light as the filming stopped abruptly.
* * *
Mark tried several time to re-edit the film, especially the bit at the end, with the strange people wearing modern Western garb. It just wouldn’t re-edit.
He called Dr. Marvin to ask his advice. Instead, he received an invitation to show what he had so far at a private showing at Dr. Marvin’s home.
“But it’s far from finished!”
“Don’t worry. It’ll just be the team, plus a researcher from a German laboratory where they’re also studying the Iota Particle.”
Mark accepted the invitation. He only hoped that the group wouldn’t laugh at the fruits of his subconscious imagination.
* * *
Mark had never been to Dr. Marvin’s home. He was impressed.
It had a lovely view of the sea. Straight down the road — irony of all ironies — was the restored Weswold Tower. It was a newer part of town, to be sure, as the section that contained the tower had, until its discovery, been a brush-covered hillside.
The door was sitting open, and Mrs. Marvin noticed Mark at the door before he got a chance to ring.
“You must be Mr. Snobbel! Come on in. It’s such a lovely day, isn’t it! Such a shame to let good weather go to waste, so we’re leaving the doors and windows open. Dr. Marvin was expecting you.”
Mark had never met Mrs. Marvin. Or had he? She looked vaguely familiar.
She led him down the corridor to the first room. It had been set up as a home theatre.
Some of the team members were there already, but Dr. Marvin was the only one Mark knew. Dr. Marvin introduced them.
“As soon as Dr. Hammerstein arrives, we can begin. Mark, why don’t you load your work into this projector.”
Mark loaded it and got it ready to begin.
Dr. Hammerstein arrived. Dr. Marvin made introductions, and they had some small talk before the beginning of the production.
“I was quite surprised to learn you were applying the Iota particle to cinematography!” he commented.
“It’s turned out to be quite an interesting medium,” replied Dr. Marvin.
Mark noticed the dog running about. It was the same type of dog that appeared in the forest scene, with the boy and others.
“Interesting, to be sure. We’ve been observing some rather peculiar properties.”
“Such as –?”
“I’d be interested in viewing your production before we get into that. Some of what we’ve observed — well — you might not believe it if I were to tell you.”
“Then, let’s begin. Mark?”
Mark got up and gave a short introduction. He made the comment that he had been inspired by the sceptre that had been found in the tower, only yards from the front door. He also apologised for the roughness of the first draft, and the challenge he had of trying to make changes.
Then, the showing began.
They seemed to enjoy it. Several made comments on the realism.
Halfway through, one of them said, “They’re not really speaking English, are they!”
“That’s right! They’re not!” said another. “Yet, I understand it!”
“What language is it, anyway?”
“Old English,” responded the Lit major. “Spoken in Medieval England. It’s the same dialect the original text of Beowulf was written in.”
“Why do we understand it then?”
Mark suggested, “It seems to interface with the subconscious. It certainly took some getting used to in creating the story.”
“You are dealing with something far beyond your depth,” said Dr. Hammerstein.
“So, Mark,” said another, “besides being a film-maker, you’re an authority on ancient languages?”
“No,” muttered Mark. “I don’t know any Medieval English.”
Dr. Hammerstein heard him and gave him a look.
They watched on in silence.
When they got to the part where Grebbel made his prophecy, Dr. Hammerstein commented, “He may be on to something.”
Mark suddenly remembered the wounded man, when he showed his face.
“Hi mum, hi dad.” A boy entered the room.
“This is our son,” announced Dr. Marvin.
“Wow! A film! Can I watch too?” asked the boy.
“Certainly, you may.”
Mark looked at the boy. He had seen him before, wearing these same clothes. Now — where?
Now, the hero was entering the forest.
Dr. Marvin’s phone rang. He answered it.
“Excuse me, friends, I have to take this call.” He left the room.
Then, the clearing with the stone table. The strange horseman appeared as though entering from the room where they were sitting. The fight ensued.
Suddenly, the family dog began barking. It had barked during the duel between Sir Gossabel and Sir Norbert, but Mrs. Marvin had been holding it. This time, the dog dashed towards the screen.
It didn’t stop at the screen. It went right into the picture.
“Bumpy Dog!” screamed the boy. He went running after the dog, and then he was in the picture, running between the legs of the horses.
Then, Mrs. Marvin’s mother instinct took over, and she was in there. One of the others put his hand in an effort to rescue them. He was sucked in. So was another team member.
Finally, there was only Dr. Hammerstein and Mark. A couple of them were at the periphery of the screen, as though trying to get back into the room.
“We must help them,” said Hammerstein. “Hold my hand, tight!”
Mark held the scientist’s hand while he tried to reach to the others.
Suddenly, he was pulled forward. He was lying, belly down on grass.
“I told you,” moaned the scientist, “you are way beyond your depth!”
* * *
Sir Gossabel finally had his opponent where he wanted him, lying on the ground. He raised his sword for the final kill.
The man on the ground opened his visor. “Gossabel! For God’s sake, stop!”
Gossabel stopped, for there, on the ground, was himself!
“You’ve conquered yourself already! Now, go for the sceptre! You’ll find yourself in a room — go out the door — you’ll see the tower — go and take the sceptre!”
Sir Gossabel turned around.
There was a blinding light. The horse lurched forward.
Suddenly, Sir Gossabel wasn’t in the forest any more. It was a strange sort of room, with objects beyond his comprehension.
Go out the door…
He saw the door and drove the horse towards it. There was a corridor, the likes of which he had never seen. There was another open door. He went out.
Straight ahead of him was the tower.
Go for the sceptre….
* * *
“I must say, you people have done an incredible job in restoring this tower,” said the archaeologist.
“Thank you,” replied the councilman. “This does, rather, put us on the map, doesn’t it!”
“It does, indeed.”
“Before we step inside, tell me about your project in Midwold.”
“That’s really what I’m here about,” said the archaeologist. “I believe that the remains we’ve found aren’t Roman, as originally supposed, but, in fact, are of the original Midwold Kingdom.”
“Same period as this tower, then!”
“Yes. In fact, we’ve found a relic that disputes the opinion that the knight, Sir Gossabel, never retrieved the sceptre, as the legend goes.”
“An identical sceptre. Now, what was the date given to the sceptre found in this tower?”
“It’s close to 2,000 years old,” said the councilman.
“Ours has been dated at 4,000 years old. We’ve had it re-dated, just to be sure, because the style is from the period of the ancient Midwold settlement. That’s why I’m here to take a look at what you have one more time.”
“So, now we have two angles on the ancient legend. One, that Sir Gossabel couldn’t have taken the sceptre, because it’s right here in our tower; the other, that he did take it, because, there it is, in Midwold!”
“That’s the gist of it,” confirmed the archaeologist. “There’s one other very interesting find, which lends weight to the latter version.”
They were distracted by a sound behind them.
“Ah! I suppose this gentleman must be our Sir Gossabel, then,” said the councilman.
They turned around and looked as the horseman approached, dressed in very authentic-looking medieval garments and chain mail. He rode right past them, and towards the tower.
“Oh my god! I knew I shouldn’t have left that door open!” gasped the councilman.
The two ran towards the tower. There was a crash — the sound of breaking glass.
They were met at the door by the horseman, putting the sceptre under his cloak. He rode off.
* * *
Dr. Marvin had finished his call and came downstairs to rejoin the rest.
The home theatre room was empty, except for Lilie’s purse, and a few other belongings.
Probably gone to the other room for refreshments, he thought.
He started to go to join them, then thought he’d rather look at the last bit of the film that he missed.
He went to the console, clicked the gauge on the small screen to the part near the end, where he remembered it being when he left, and picked up where Sir Gossabel was about to enter the clearing.
There were noises at the front door. Not regular footsteps one would expect, but — a horse?
While Dr. Marvin gasped in amazement, the horseman entered the theatre room, and advanced towards the screen showing Sir Gossabel coming towards the middle of the clearing.
The new arrival rode right into the picture, apparently surprising Sir Gossabel, who immediately drew his sword and began fighting.
Dr. Marvin watched, open-mouthed, as the fight ensued, and the two on the screen were joined, first by his dog, followed by his son, then his wife, and the rest of his house guests, including the scientist from Germany.
He heard Dr. Hammerstein say to Mark Snobbel, “You are way beyond your depth!”
* * *
“He won’t go far,” said the councilman. “They caught him on satellite. Though they’ve lost him momentarily, he can’t get far. They’ve already got roadblocks up.”
“I hope so,” said the archaeologist. “I was hoping to examine the sceptre.”
“By the looks of it, you might also want to examine the outfit the man was wearing.”
“It did look quite authentic.”
“But tell me,” continued the councilman, “what was the other find that you think points to Sir Gossabel having retrieved the sceptre?”
“An inscription, telling the story of Sir Gossabel.”
“How does that go?”
The archaeologist started, “It seems, Sir Gossabel had a life-changing experience during his search for the sceptre. He came face to face with himself, and began to understand the Gospel quotation in a new light: ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’. He suffered serious wounds as a result of ‘facing himself’, but he managed to get himself to the home of the hermit, Saint Grebbel, who nursed him back to health. The story has a bit of a fairy-tale ending. When he returned to Midwold with the sceptre, he married the princess, and later became king of the realm. He was said to be a very pious king, showing benevolence to the poor of the land, and kept Saint Grebbel as his chief advisor.” *
About the Author: Robby Charters lives with his family, sometimes in Thailand where he was born and his wife is from, sometimes in Ireland where his dad is from. In Thailand, he taught English at a bilingual school. In Ireland, he works with software. In both places, he writes. Currently, he’s North Ireland. His novel, Pepe, has been published in electronic format by a standard publisher, and two more have been self-published.
Novels: Pepe: www.tinyurl.com/pepe-the-novel
The Story of Saint Catrick and Eetoo at Smashwords
Story copyright 2010 by Robby Charters
About the Artist: Walter Simon earned his BFA in painting and drawing from the University of Montevallo in 1996, and an MFA in 1999. In 2001 he began teaching college at the University of South Alabama. He now resides in Birmingham, AL, working primarily in the landscape and portrait genres.
Illustration copyright 2010 by Walter Simon
Website: Click here