(This story is available in multiple formats – funnier, better storyline etc.)
The following morning, the sunlight crept into the Knights room, snatched off his bedcovers and gave him an almighty slap on his backside as he lay face down on the bed.
‘Ouch!!!’ yelled the Knight as he jumped up in shock and pain. ‘What was that for?!’
‘That’s your alarm call – it’s time to get up’ The Writer said, smiling.
‘There must be gentler ways of waking me up? – and what are you doing in my room?’ said the Knight, rubbing the spot where he had been slapped.
‘Oh there were – and some of them would have made a fantastic opening scene to the chapter, but I liked that one – brief and funny. And I had to be here to see how it turned out; not too bad – even if I do say so myself’
‘Well, I’m glad you liked it’, grumbled the Knight.
‘Shush now’ said the Writer, ‘get dressed and meet me outside – we’re off to find adventure today!’
The Knight got dressed – which was no mean feat as traditionally he would have had at least one squire to help him put on his suit of armour. About two hours later, and looking very sweaty and red in the face, the Knight appeared outside the front of the tavern.
‘Ah good, you’re here’ said the Writer, ‘I was beginning to worry’.
‘Sorry – it’s not easy putting on an outfit which weighs more than you do’ said the Knight, still breathing heavy.
‘Don’t worry about it – let’s go and find adventure’.
The Knight set off past the town Square. ‘Morning four eyes!’ he called as he marched past, but the town square ignored him and carried on doing long division, or reading about pencil cases – or whatever nerdy type people do. The Knight kept on marching, and soon enough saw a sign for the Town Hall.
The sign he saw was actually the Town Hall itself, which lurched into view as he turned the corner. It was a huge white building with marble steps leading up to a great iron door, which itself was sat in between two enormous pillars. Above the door in six foot high letters, read the words ‘TOWN HALL’. From the roof of the Town Hall, a huge flagpole struck out, and hanging from this was a massive banner which also read ‘TOWN HALL’
‘This must be the town hall’ said the Knight.
‘Oh yes’ said the Writer, putting down a copy of “Pencil Case Collectors International”.
The Knight walked forward and put one foot on the first marble step. As soon as he put his weight on it however, he lost his footing and fell over. As he was unsure as to what caused this, he got back up and tried again to climb the marble steps. Second time around he had the same degree of stability – none. It appeared to him (as he did a somersault backwards and landed face first on the ground) that the steps were not entirely stable.
Third time around, he was more cautious; he walked very slowly up to the marble steps and stopped with his feet inches from the first step. Very carefully he lifted his right foot and moved it forward so it was over the first step. To his amazement, the Knight noticed that the moment his foot was over the marble step, the step changed. It stopped being a step made of marble, and became a step made of Marbles. Rows upon Rows of tiny glass orbs appeared before the Knight, and they all moved side to side with the gentle morning breeze.
‘You’re having a laugh!’ cried the Knight in disbelief, as he backed away. The moment his foot was clear of the step it became a regular marble step again. The Knight stopped and thought for a while. He counted the steps – 5,6,7,8.
8 steps stood before him, 8 steps that would turn into a treacherous, glass, slippery slide of discomfort and bruises – the kind of which make people do that suck-in-your-teeth-whilst-wincing thing when they see it – the moment he stepped on them. However, the Knight was not to be put off. He was determined to make it up those steps no matter what.
The Knight took 10 or 12 paces backwards – It could have been 13 paces, but he wasn’t counting. Besides, no one was watching apart from the Writer - and he didn’t care, because if he did he would have made it a definite number. The Knight rocked back and forth on his heels, like an athlete preparing for a run up for the long jump or something. Then the Knight raised both arms above his head and did that overhead clap thing like athletes do to get their supporters going. Incredibly the Knight realised that the birds in the trees overhead were doing exactly that – clapping their wings together over their tiny heads in a show of encouragement. The Knight looked up into the trees and there they were; branch after branch filled with rows of birds – finches, bluebirds, ravens, swallows, starlings – you name it, it was there. Even the flightless birds – penguins, ostriches, lazy eagles – were all in a line at the foot of the tree joining in.
This show of avian solidarity spurred the Knight into action: he leapt forward and sprinted towards the waiting cold, marble steps. As he reached the base of the steps he threw himself upwards and forwards with all his might. To the on looking feathered spectators, what happened next seemed to take place in slow motion; for a moment it seemed the Knight would make it. He had cleared the first three steps with ease, but now, as he continued through the air, the weight of his armour came into the equation and started to spoil the fun – much like parents returning home early to find a house party going on. He flew over the fourth step, and the fifth – but was definitely slowing. The Knight’s momentum ceased to carry him forwards, but instead started to pull him downwards in a descent that could only seem to possibly end in disaster. Would he make it? Would he fail? The sixth step passed underneath, but the seventh seemed to reach up towards him. The Knight was now in the hands of fate – and he was well aware of what a clumsy bugger he could be.
The watching birds – masters of flight, most of them – were helpless as they watched the horror unfold before their eyes. Several birds were shouting to the Knight to flap his arms as fast as he could – but of course this only came out as tuneful bird song. A Minah bird was spewing out a tirade of foul language in its frustration – so much so, that a nervous woodpecker standing next to it knocked itself out trying to drill its head into the tree trunk in its attempts to avoid listening. Such was the terror that rippled throughout the birds that they virtually all emptied their bowels at the same time – directly onto the flightless birds sitting beneath them. Although they were flightless, the birds below had found a use for their wings, as all manner of abusive signs and gestures were directed at their kin above.
While all this was going on, the Knight made contact with the lip of the eighth and top step. Of course, what he made contact with was rows of marbles, each waiting to cause him grief. What followed for the next few seconds can only be described as similar to the scene from Bambi when the little Deer tries to stand on the ice, combined with every clip of any road traffic accident you’ve ever seen, with a bit or rubbish ballet thrown in for good measure.
At one point, the Knight’s limbs seemed to each be going in a different direction. His arms did several windmill motions, and he spun round so many times that he didn’t know which way was up of what day it was. Incredibly, due to the g-forces involved, or a combination of momentum, gravity, and pure luck, the Knight, with his final effort, somehow managed to find himself falling forwards onto the top of the top step. Of course, he was not to know this as he had been spinning round so fast that he managed to turn himself round in his suit of armour so the back of his head was now facing out through his visor.
The Knight hit the top of the step with an almighty CLANG!!! And lay there motionless. The birds in the tree looked on anxiously for any movement, but there was none. The Writer rushed over to where the Knight lay and checked for signs of life.
Years later, the Writer would admit that grabbing the Knight by his visor and banging it repeatedly on the marble step whilst shouting, ‘Halloo!!! Wakey Wakey!!!’ was probably not the best way to check for signs of life.
Suddenly there was a groan from the Knight. ‘Are you alright?’ said the Writer. The voice inside replied ‘mummy, can I have porridge for breakfast please?’ The Writer realised that the Knight was delirious – or was an eight year old with a passion for porridge. He gently removed the Knight’s helmet, and sat him up to let him get some air. Gradually the Knight came to his senses – pain mainly, and sat there wincing and groaning as he gingerly felt his arms and legs and torso for damage. To his surprise – and the Writer’s relief – the Knight was not seriously injured, although he didn’t remember anything after the start to his run up.
‘You okay?’ said the Writer, helping the Knight to his feet. ‘Yeah, I think so’ said the Knight, ‘What happened to me? And what is that penguin doing over there covered in….what is that? Is that?...oh dear. What has happened?’
‘Don’t worry about all that – I’ll tell you later’ said the Writer, ‘we’re at the town hall, remember?’
‘Oh yeah’ said the Knight. ‘Guess I’d better knock’.
The Knight staggered over to the great iron door and knocked three times. A moment passed, and it seemed that no-one was in. The Knight was about to turn away, when a small square hatch opened at the bottom of the door. The Knight got on all fours, and looked into the hatch. There, peering back at him from the other side was a cat. ‘Meow!’ cried the cat loudly.
‘Don’t tell me’ said the Knight, turning to the Writer ‘This must be the guardian of the iron door. I know how to handle this’. The Knight cleared his throat, and spoke to the cat.
‘Oh guardian of this iron portal, I beg you to let me enter. I have travelled far, and have had many adventures on my way – but I feel my greatest challenge still awaits me. I have a great deed to perform, and the details of my task wait for me within this town hall. I mean you no harm, but ask that you let me pass!’
The cat looked at the Knight for a moment, blinked, and then Meowed loudly again. The Knight looked up at the Writer and said ‘perhaps I need to pay my way in – do we have any gold left?’
‘Yeah, I think so’ said the Writer ‘here take this’, and he gave the Knight three gold pieces.
The Knight dropped to all fours again, and placed the three pieces of gold in front of the cat. The cat leaned forward and sniffed the gold pieces suspiciously. Suddenly it gave an almighty wail and shot through the hatch, past the Knight, down the steps and off into the town.
The Knight watched the cat disappear and then turned back to the hatch to see what had made it run off like that. To his surprise, he found himself looking at a dirty leather boot, with a perfect imprint of the cat’s rear end on it. Just as that surprise was registering, the Knight got another surprise – he heard another hatch open above him, and a strange voice speak.
‘Stupid cat! If I open the cat flap to let you out that means you go out – not sit there meowing all day!’ The voice then became aware that there was someone on the other side of the door, and so switched seamlessly into customer service mode.
‘Bugger Off!’ the voice said. The Knight jumped to his feet and found himself staring into a rather unpleasant face.
‘Good Morning’ said the Knight. ‘I’ve travelled a long way and would like to see the Mayor please’
The face remained unpleasant. ‘Oh Really? Well I’ve travelled down two flights of stairs to answer this door, and I’d like to see the back of your head – now bugger off!’
‘Hey! Don’t be rude’ said the Writer, ‘we’ve come a long way seeking adventure, and we know that there’s adventure to be had behind this door. Now be a good chap and let us in!’
Suddenly, the unpleasant face came forward against the hatch so that only its left eye could be seen. Bulging and bloodshot, it swivelled this way and that as it looked at the Knight and the Writer. After a moments swivelling, the face retreated back to its original place.
‘I’m not a ‘chap’ – I’m the doorman!!’ roared the unpleasant face, ‘and no-one comes in without permission – mayors orders!’ The doorman with the unpleasant face still had an equally unpleasant voice.
‘We don’t have an appointment’ said the Knight, ‘but we do have money – how much to let us in?’
The doorman had a wide range of vocal ability – it switched now to indignation. ‘Are you trying to bribe me?!!’ it said angrily.
‘Erm…..yeah?’ said the Knight tentatively.
‘Sounds good to me’ said the doorman – now sounding surprisingly pleasant, with a hint of greed. The face disappeared and there were the sounds of several locks being drawn back. Suddenly the great iron door swung inwards, pulled by unseen hands.
‘We’re in’ Said the Knight.