Friday, September 9, 2011

The Tale of Two Knights

(Note: While I'd love to say that I was the braintrust that totally came up with this story, I am not. I read it several years ago and have searched for a couple of days to find out who wrote the original so that I may give credit to the proper author. What follows is what I recall of the story from memory, so I apologize if it is rough. If anyone knows of the original story, please let me know and I will be happy to give credit where credit is due).

Once there was a young knight who wanted to go and prove himself in the world. As he was a new knight, his armour was dazzling white, brilliant in the sun and made him look even somewhat other-worldly when the sun shone upon him.

He set off on his mission, to rid the world of the perpetrator of all sorrow, pain and harm, namely the Black Knight. As he travelled along, he heard of what the Black Knight had done, and he strengthened his vow that he would put an end to this horrible man.

Along the way, he met several other brave knights, all on the same quest. Some were new like him and had armour that was dazzling white. Other knights had been on their journey longer and their armour showed the marks of sleeping in the wild, battle and hard use.

One evening, as he made his camp for the night, a traveller came upon him and asked if he might share his fire. The young knight, being courteous, invited the weary traveller to join him and soon they were talking as they ate their evening meal. The traveller had some fine mead with him, which he shared with the young knight and before long, they were both feeling the heady effects of the drink. In a moment of impulse, the traveller told the young knight about something he had done, where he profited greatly from being dishonest and showed him the large sack of gold he had earned by nefarious means. The knight hid his surprise at this, although he felt in the depths of his soul that this was wrong. Soon, they both turned in for the night and while the snores of the traveller were soon heard, the knight was kept awake by the thought of the stolen gold. He resolved to take the gold and return it to it's rightful owner and so, before daybreak, took the bag of gold and quietly slipped away from camp before the traveller woke from his deep sleep.

Away he went, looking for the rightful owner of the gold. He was certain he'd know the man by the description the traveller gave and was pleased that he was doing something to correct all the wickedness the Black Knight continued to do.

Time passed still the knight journeyed. On occasion he had to use a little of the gold to buy food or supplies as he didn't ask for payment when he was doing a good deed. He told himself that he'd repay whatever gold he used. Still, no matter how much good he did, he always seemed to be one step behind the black knight.

One night, after a long day of chasing the black knight, he came upon a roadside inn and decided that he would camp there for the night. As he dismounted, the daughter of the innkeeper came out to greet him. She was a vision of loveliness to his eyes and he talked with her as he cared for his horse. She was very taken with his tales of bravery and soon realized that she was in love with this knight. Late that night, she invited him to her room, where they enjoyed each other's company fully.

Early the next morning, a report reached the inn that the black knight had struck again. The knight (no longer as young as he once was), quickly left to chase the evil knight. His travels took him far from the inn and he never saw the innkeeper's lovely daughter again, and even though he meant to write to her, he never seemed to have a moment to do so.

Years passed and still the knight kept to his quest. He was no longer young and had spent his entire life always one step behind the black knight. He always seemed to arrive too late and yet the stories of travellers being robbed, young maidens being compromised, and other more horrible things kept reaching him. By this time he had very little left of the gold, but still had good intentions to give what was left to the rightful owner and pay back what he used.

Finally, he heard that the Black Knight was hiding in a certain wood. He went, ready to meet his lifelong foe and bring justice to all those that the Black Knight had wronged. Quietly he crept through the wood and suddenly he was attacked! He swung to face his enemy and saw that it was a youth, a young Knight who was assailing him. "Why is he attacking me?" he thought , "I have done nothing wrong!"

He fought valiantly for his life, but the years of travel, poor rest, drinking and age made him slower and in the end, the young knight struck him with a fatal blow. As the old knight lay dying in the wood, his blood slowly draining from his body, the young knight approached him.

"Why did you attack me?" the old knight asked, "I have done nothing wrong and have spent my entire life chasing the Black Knight. It is he whom you should have killed."

The young knight looked down upon him, his eyes filling with tears as he realized his mistake. "I thought you were the Black Knight" he said "for your armour was so dark compared to my own that I thought you couldn't possibly be anyone other than he. You also had a bag of gold that I had heard had been stolen from an innocent traveller years ago."

The old knight looked down at his armour, stained with so many years of his experiences and compared it to that of the young knight, freshly started on his quest. It was true that beside the young knight, his armour was indeed so dark as to appear to be black. The old knight thought back to his life and what he had all done, all of with the best of intentions yet to an outsider, it would appear it was done for wrongful means.

With his last breath, the old knight said to the young knight "Go home and live a good life. The only Black Knight you need to slay is the one that dwells within yourself."

This story came to my mind after hearing and reading about what is going on in SL with the JLU.