The feet of his horse click on the stone roads leading out of the city. The little pebbles keep the road from going muddy and getting dirt all over the king’s clothes. His sword glimmered in the light reflecting from a window on the side of the road. His metal gloves clang as he moved slightly up and down following his horse’s rhythm. Some people looked onto the streets wondering who was making its way out of town. Not many people walked the pebble street, it was only meant for kings, queens, saints, and knights. The important people of this kingdom. He called himself the knight with a big heart. A big heart because he wasn’t the bravest of them all. He hadn’t killed an enemy, yet. He hadn’t won a fight, yet. Or slain a dragon, yet. But this last thing could just become reality. He was asked to hunt for the dragon east from the kingdom. He wasn’t the only one, but he was determined to be the one to slay the dragon. It would give him his title, his honor. He could finally be proud of himself if he did this.
The horses’ hooves didn’t make a ticking sound anymore, the knight with a big heart left the city walls and passed over the river. The pebbled road stopped and he was now on a sandy road. He steered his horse into the east and rode off, galloping made him feel free and he forgot the weight of both his armor and his quest. It was time for him to kill a dragon. The road was long but easy. The kingdom was prosperous here, fast green lands were sheep and cows could freely roam and graze. Wheat and vegetables grew richly. The people had figured out ways to keep the soil strong and rich in minerals so their crops would grow each year again. Wooden houses were replaced with stone ones and the road that led east was flat and often patrolled by knights making sure there were no thieves or murderers. The people of this kingdom were well and the knight felt home here. He felt safe.
There was no more time
The big city disappeared behind the horizon as the knight with the big heart continued on the sand road. In the distance, he could see the first village. A farmers village. By then he had only come across some small houses, farms that held sheep for their wool and cows for their milk. The village ahead was a village of farmers with rich soil. They grew vegetables the whole year around. He knew this little village very well. As a squire, he would often accompany his knight riding east and this was a town they always stopped to drink. To rest and eat some bread and stew. But this time the knight wasn’t a squire anymore. Nor did he have time for stew and bread. A cloud of smoke arose from the horizon, just in between the mountains of Dronzel. Dronzel was the first king of this area. He builds a tower out of the stone that these mountains gave him. He wanted to reach for the sky but the tower was too weak and crumbled. Killing himself as he stood and admired his plan. The mountains that he used for his plans were named after him. But now the mountains were no longer a place for kings and queens. Nor for the ordinary folk. The smoke rising from the mountains was the work of a dragon. The dragon he and other knights across the nation set out to kill. He only heard stories of dragons. Folk tales, but never really smelled the rotten egg smell of one’s breath, or seen his skin thicker than the armor he wore. He shivered off the thought of seeing such a majestic beast and having to slay it. But he had trained for years. He knew what to do.
He arrived in the village and crossed it on its main road. “Hee, sir, sir!” An elder lady called him from one off the side roads. She stood in the door opening and waved at him. In one hand, she held a wooden cane that had a rose carved on the top, serving as the end of the canes handle. It must have been the work of a master because the rose was recognizable from a far distance. The knight with a big heart continued. Acting as if he didn’t hear the ladies call. He looked ahead. The lady called again “Sir, Sir! I need your help!”. The knight couldn’t refuse now. The vow of knights pledged him to help those who called for help. He pulled the reins to the right and the horse turned around. He padded it on its neck and thanked it. He hopped off and tied its reins to the fence around the old ladies’ house. “What can I do for you my lady?” He asked, making a bow before her. This was normality for knights to do. They should always be polite to ladies and show their respect to them.
“I need your help watering my crops.” She said. The knight with a big heart was annoyed. Was this his calling? To help old ladies water their crops. But he had no other choice than to help her. It was his duty. “Yes my lady, I can.” And he followed her inside. The house was tiny and crooked. The ceiling was barely holding together. Rotten wooden beams supported the whole thing. The knight wanted to leave the house as soon as possible, so made sure the lady would lead him straight to her farmland. She opened the door and followed a small stone path to a wooden shed that seemed to be holding together better than the house. It was made out of brick and the roof was made out of straw. “Wait here.” The woman said to the knight. She followed the path up to the shed, leaving the knight standing there in the middle of a small farm. On his right were crops that we’re almost ready to be harvested. But the soil looked dry. There was not much time left or they would die. “BANG” a loud noise came from the shed as if something had broken down. He looked at the door and there was the old lady. She was fine. “Sorry! Did I scare you?” She said giggling in her hand. “I slammed the door behind me and it made some of the tools drop on the ground.” She smiled friendly at him. “What a crazy old lady, she is wasting my time.” The knight with a good heart thought to himself. He looked east, towards the mountains and saw a larger cloud of smoke rising.
“Here you go.” The old small lady handed him a watering can. “You can fill it right there!” She pointed at a well in the middle of the field. The knight followed the path towards the well and looked into the well. He placed the watering can on the ground and pulled on the cord hanging from the side of the well. A wooden bucket with a small hole in it appeared. The water in the bucket was leaking out as he pulled it up. Leaving him with barely enough to fill the watering can halfway. So he dropped the bucket back in and filled the watering can again. It was now full. “This is gonna take me ages.” The knight softly spoke to himself. The old lady stood on the crooked porch of her house seeing the knight struggling with what she asked of him, she laughed and went back inside. The knight saw this and was furious he threw away the watering can and hurried up to the house. He slammed open the door and walked to his horse. “Are you done?” The lady asked, wondering why he was so furious. “Yes, I am!” The knight shouted on his way out of the front door. “You go finish the rest by yourself!” He hopped on his horse and untied the reins, and making his way towards the east. “Wait! Wait!” The woman stumbled after him. “I need your knight! You can’t just leave me, I know you took the knights vow, and leaving me in need of help would mean you lost your title as a knight.” The knight growled some inaudible words and returned. He stepped off his horse and didn’t say a word to the old woman. He walked through the house onto the field again, continuing where he left off. The rest of the day the knight continued to water the crops. Till every last bit of soil has dark brown and all the cracks of drought had disappeared. Some of the crops he had fed with water earlier that day were already lusher and seemed to have grown. It took him many runs to the well and back to the field and now the sun was setting. Every knight knew that riding out during the night wasn’t a good idea. Not even for a knight. There was no way of seeing who was there on the road, or if there were wolves or bears close-by ready to attack you from the bush. The old lady knew this, her husband had been a knight for many years as well.
RISE WITH THE SUN
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The knight of the brave rose
“I have made you a place to sleep tonight.” The old lady said to the knight with a good heart. “I’ve given your horse some water and food he seemed to like it.” She laughed. “Now can I make you some diner to thank you for your help?” She asked the knight. “Yes mam, I won’t ride out tonight, so I might as well have some delicious diner.” The lady turned around singing a soft melody and started cooking above a small fire in her chimney. The knight took off some of his armor and rested his sword on the side of his chair. The elder woman finished cooking her stew and scooped some of it in a two small wooden bowl that had the same rose as her walking cane carved into its side. She placed a bowl of stew in front of the knight and nodded. “Go ahead, eat. You must be starving after a long day working in that armor, watering the crops. It wasn’t the most practical way of working was it?” Now the knight understood why the lady had come outside often and laughed at him. She was laughing because he worked the entire day in his heavy armor. The knight didn’t want to talk about his work anymore and pointed at the rose on the lady her cane. “Who made that?” He asked the lady in quite a rude tone. “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude.” The knight quickly added. It was impolite to talk to a lady like that and he knew very well that it wasn’t very knightly.
“My husband made it, as well as these bowls. Aren’t they beautiful?” The lady said. “Yes my lady, these are beautiful. Your man was a craftsman I assume?” The knight asked the lady. “No…” the lady seemed to doubt whether she should continue her story. But she decided she would continue. “No, he was a knight just like you. A knight with a quest to win a battle. To prove himself worthy.” “So did he?” The knight asked her quickly. “He did…” and the lady looked at her bowl of stew. He earned the award of the brave rose for it. One of the highest rewards there is in their kingdom. But the woman didn’t seem to be happy about it. “But when he returned from the battle that got him this award he was scared. Scared by what he had seen. His mind and soul weren’t the same anymore. He was restless, couldn’t stop. But his body wouldn’t allow him to keep going anymore. He had lost one of his hands and broke one of his legs. He had to walk the rest of his life with a cane. He couldn’t be a knight anymore. “But wasn’t he proud of what he had done? Wasn’t he proud of his award?” The knight asked the woman full of excitement. He had never spoken to someone who knew a rose knight, one of the best knights the kingdom had known in centuries. “No, he wasn’t. He thought this victory would bring him that. He thought he would redeem himself, but for whom? When he got back all he could think about was this battle. He didn’t see me anymore and I worked day and night on our farm. Making sure that we had food on our table. He couldn’t anymore. His soul was cracked, for he had done what he always envisioned but in the end, it wasn’t worth it.” The knight couldn’t believe this. The man was a legend, a hero. He had won a battle as a knight and got the highest medal there was. This was his destiny too. To slay his dragon and earn a brave rose. “During that time my husband created this cane. Carving his medal into the wood, as lively as he could. So that everyone would see that, he, the crippled old man, was a knight of the brave rose. But deep inside he knew this was the only joy he got from it. The rest of his joy he left behind on that battlefield. Scattered around in the man he killed and the lives he ruined.”
The woman looked at her stew but didn’t eat any of it. “She wasn’t hungry.” She said. The knight had finished his bowl of stew and the woman filled it up again. He ate like a knight and finished after he had three bowls of it. The woman then cleaned up the mess he made, whilst the knight fell asleep on the bed she had made him. It was nothing more than some straw with a blanket on it, but he slept like a baby, with his sword by his side. For a knight without his weapon of choice couldn’t be called a knight. The next morning the knight was up before the sun. The lady was already up as well. She sat on the porch looking out over the field of crops that had grown massively overnight. She saw the sun rising. The knight with a good heart stood next to her and buckled up his sword around his waist. It’s time to leave mam. I have to continue my quest. “I know…” she said sadly. “Good luck my boy, be careful out there.”