The Old Knight's Last Stand

Matthew Rhudy

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The old knight awoke with a ringing in his ears and a burning in his throat. As he opened his eyes, they were flooded with bright blue lights through a haze of smoke. Still in a daze, he groped through the surrounding rubble of stone and ash squinting to adjust to the brilliant spectacle facing him. “Where am I?” he thought. “What hath happened?” His hands found his broadsword lodged between large chunks of castle wall. He gripped the hilt and used it to steady himself as he arose. His bruised body struggled under the weight of his thick plated armor. He looked around and saw the fate of his fellow knights. Good soldiers defeated in a mere moment from the devastating magic that opposed them. The explosive blue fire of the foul sorcerer was no match for stone walls and iron plates.

After assessing his surroundings, the old knight regained his senses and realigned himself with his mission. “I must protect the king!” His old bones creaked in resistance to his urgency, but he fought onward, struggling through the catastrophic terrain that fell before him. Sounds of screaming were washed out by the azure flames, producing an unnaturally soothing tone which filled his ears. Fighting against the overwhelming hum of the fire, he resigned himself to his mission and looked ahead toward the keep. It appeared that the walls remained intact. “Not for long,” he thought. He forced himself across the courtyard.

Approaching the inner wall, he noticed that the iron gate stood as tall and strong as ever, blocking his path. Even with all the horrors falling around him, he still found himself somewhat amused by this gate. “A lot of good this will do,” he thought, passing through a large hole in the shattered wall next to it. On the other side of the wall, he found that he was no longer alone. To his dismay, he was not greeted with the comfort of a fellow knight, but rather with the stench of decay of a soldier in the army of the dead. The flesh had almost fully rotten off the skeleton warrior clad in tattered clothing. His eyes burned with blue fire from the sorcerer’s magic.

The old knight’s fingers gripped his sword tightly as he raised his arm in a swift strike against the villain. While initially caught unawares, the skeleton warrior was able to raise his weapon in time to deflect the blow from the broadsword. The old knight was in awe of the swift movements of his undead opponent. He immediately raised his blade in response to a counterattack from the skeleton’s crude axe. The two struggled as their weapons interlocked. The knight was able to force himself free with a thrust of his shoulder. He followed up quickly, swinging his sword around landing a powerful strike just under his enemy’s skull. The bones clattered to the ground, extinguishing the magical flames which animated the beast.

Arriving at the keep, he sighed with relief that the gate held fast. He turned back toward the wreckage and thrust his sword into the earth before him. “I can only hope that the king remains safe inside,” he thought. “This is where I make my last stand.” In his temporary solitude, he tightened his gauntlets and breastplate while he surveyed the devastation. He watched with dread as thousands of the undead washed over the debris of what was once a glorious kingdom. Then his eyes met his true adversary. The sorcerer approached the keep, calmly but deliberately, glowing with a mysterious magical blue aura. The old knight battled against his apprehension and prepared himself for the oncoming challenge.

The old knight suddenly experienced a strange sensation. At first it felt like the typical adrenaline of battle, but then it turned into something more. Thoughts began to echo through his head. Not clearly in words, but rather through a strange but familiar sensation. He no longer felt the burden of his fear. He no longer felt the weight of his armor or the aching in his body. He no longer felt alone. The power of his fallen comrades rushed through him. He gained the strength
of the powerful Sir Hendrick and the courage of the brave Sir Gawain. The sorcerer continued his approach, now conjuring up another fireball. He swirled his twisted long-nailed fingers around the fireball, causing it to grow larger and larger. The old knight felt the heat of the magical flames as the sorcerer hurled the ball towards him.

Calling upon the wisdom of Sir Percival, he neglected his broadsword and raised his hands in a compelling protest to the imposing magic. His hands glowed white, even brighter than the dazzling flames that threatened him. He channeled the brilliant light emanating from his body, turning its powerful energy back toward the sorcerer. The fireball slowed its onslaught, stopping just shy of the old knight. The enchanting flames kissed his face, momentarily distracting him from his vital task. Then, he felt the strength of his comrades, the energy of his people, and the hope of all humankind. His gallant determination spurred him onward. He focused all his heart, all his energy into one final push, forcing the fireball back toward the sorcerer with overwhelming speed.

The old knight was able to catch a brief glimpse of the sorcerer’s bewilderment before he was engulfed in the fiery doom of his own creation. The fire burned with sweltering heat around the sorcerer. The sorcerer let out a horrid scream which pierced the old knight’s ears. Blue flames shot up into the sky in a fiery spectacle and then everything went dark. All around, the old knight could hear the clattering of bones falling, as the sorcerer’s magic faded from the corpses which invaded the kingdom. The deafening sounds echoed through the kingdom like a hailstorm, then everything fell silent in an instant, save the ringing in the old knight’s ears.

He fell to his knees in relief. His eyes had trouble adjusting to the sudden darkness which followed. His body grew cold now that the flames had been extinguished for good. The light slowly faded from his body, and he felt increasingly fatigued. He raised his head with difficulty, watching the sun begin to rise along the horizon. The slight warmth that accompanied the sun was a comfort to him following the harshness of the unnatural flames. His weariness overcame him, and he gently fell to the ground. He felt great pride as he closed his eyes peacefully and the last of the light left his body.

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