Stories from an Alaskan Cabin: Chapter Eight

“How do I follow that up?’ asked John.

“Remember, it’s not a competition. We’re telling stories to pass the time. They should be in some way harmonious with each other,” said George.

John scratched the back of his head and grimaced, “Well, alright.” This is the story he told:

Rodric the Bold was on his knees; his sword lay on the ground a dozen feet away from him. The knight in front of him laid his bare blade at Rodric’s neck.

“Do you yield?” asked the knight through labored breath.

Rodric looked through his helmet at the knight. He raised his visor. “You have beaten me in fair combat. I can do naught but yield.” He put his arms down by his side; palms faced out toward the knight.

“Then, by rule of combat, I will take your armor and your steed,” the knight removed the sword from Rodric’s neck. “I will also require a boon.”

Rodric removed his helmet and tossed it at his sword. That was just as good a place as any for the knight to leave his armor, especially since it was no longer his armor. “And by rule of combat, if it is in my power to grant this boon I shall do so, or I shall die trying.”

The knight sheathed his sword.

Rodric removed his gauntlets. He unbuckled his breastplate and removed the armor plating on his arms and legs. He the removed the padding that made the metal armor wearable. He stood there in his breeches and tunic. Everything was piled on top of his sword. He collected his shield from where it had fallen earlier. He whistled for his horse. A nicker came from somewhere off to his right. He walked in that direction and found his steed. He grabbed the reins and brought the horse to the victor. “Here are your just rewards for a battle well fought and a victory well earned. Now, what is the boon you would have of me?”

The knight removed his helmet. “Sir Rodric the Bold, you will give up the life of a knight, find a good pasture land, and become a farmer.” He pulled at a leather bag attached to his waistbelt. When it came undone, he threw it at Rodric’s feet. “That will get you a cow or a couple of sheep. You are to never pick up the sword; instead, you will learn to use the plowshare. That is the boon that I require.”

Rodric was silent. He didn’t know what to think. He thought about a future life as a farmer. A small cottage on a rolling green pasture. He woke up early in the morning to go out to the cow and milk her. His wife made bacon from the freshly slaughtered pig and cooked up eggs gathered from the chickens in their coop. He could have a family: a son to take over the farm and one who would have to make his own fortune. He could tell them stories about his life as a knight and how he had earned the name and title of Sir Rodric the Bold. Inevitably, he would have to tell them how he lost the title and why he gave up the life of adventure.

He thought back to accomplishments before this battle. He had risen up high enough that the king had recognized him with the title. He owned armor and had a steed. When he went into a town, the women gathered round. The men bought him drinks. Farmers didn’t mind, so much about the virtue of their daughters when Rodric was involved, at least not after he showed them the sharp side of his sword. Meals tasted better after battle, and the fight between men was a thrill that could not be found in any other activity. How would he fare at a farm?

“I am not a farmer. Make use of my sword arm or my battle prowess. But do not ask me to sit on a piece of land and watch things grow. Cattle are no substitute to a good steed and a healthy battle. I am knight, who was given his designation by the king. I shall not give up my title.”

“You recognize the alternative?” The knight drew his sword. “It would be a shame to lose an able-bodied man who could improve this country through works not requiring marshal skills. There is far too much fighting and not enough creating and growing.”

Rodric rose to his full height. “I am a knight,” he growled, clenching his teeth. “I will not tend animals and be bound to life of poverty and boredom. Do what you will.”

The knight bowed his head. “So be it.” He put on his helmet and drew his sword. “Last chance,” he said from behind his visor.

Rodric puffed out his chest in defiance. “I know who I am and who I am not. My life is as a knight, so too, will be my death.”

The knight swung his sword removing Rodric’s head from his shoulders.

The men around the table were quiet.

“Identity is a powerful motivator,” said John.

“I guess so if we judge by that story,” said George. “You guys want to play some cards?”

They played a couple rounds of Spades. When they were done, they stoked the fire and went to bed.