(The Adventure Begins – no, honest, it really does!)
The road of bricks in a similar colour to yellow – but in no way a yellow brick road, or in any way intended deliberately to resemble any such road, as this would infringe on countless copyright laws – stretched out before the Knight for as far as he could see. It kept to a fairly straight line, but did seem to slope downwards slightly as it went – except when it climbed a little, or when it turned a corner to the left or the right. But apart from that it was straight as an arrow. Fields of flowers and various crops ran parallel to the road, and clusters of trees would appear every now and then, huddled together like children whispering in a group. The sun, although slowly making its way down towards the horizon, was still warm enough to make the Knight feel that the experience was on the whole a pleasant one.
‘Nice scene setting’, said the Knight.
‘Thanks,’ said the Writer, ‘I do listen to what you say, and am trying to be accommodating.’
‘Well, so far so good – although…..’
‘What?’ said the Writer, ‘come on, out with it?’
‘It’s just that, it doesn’t feel much like an adventure at the moment – more like a nice walk in the park.’
‘Give me a chance!’ cried the Writer, ‘I’m just starting out. I’ve got a few things planed, so just make sure you are on your guard.’
‘A few things planed? Planed? What like bits of wood and stuff? – are you making a spice rack in between chapters?’
‘What are you talking about? Oh I see – not planed, PLANNED. Don’t tell me the spellchecker isn’t working either?!’
‘Ha ha ha – you don’t have much luck do you?’
‘Oh shut up and decide which way to go.’
‘Eh?’ said the Knight. The Writer was pointing to something behind the Knight. The Knight turned around and found himself at a crossroads. The road he was on carried on into the distance, but now he also had a choice of going either left or right. There was a signpost in the middle of the crossroads with four wooden signs, one each pointing in the direction of one of the four roads. The four signs read as follows:
‘Straight Ahead: Pain, Suffering, Anguish, and CERTAIN DEATH’
‘Left: Monsters, Unspeakable Horror, Evil, and CERTAIN DEATH’
‘Right: Plague, Agony, unending torture, and CERTAIN DEATH’
‘Back the Way You Came: Oooh, I wouldn’t go back that way if I were you – CERTAIN DEATH’
The Knight looked at the signpost. He looked left, and then he looked right. Then he looked behind him. He could see nothing on any of the roads that gave any indication of the terrors the signs foretold. He decided to walk round the signpost to see if there was anything else written on the other side of the four signs. However, as he started to walk round the signpost, he suddenly noticed that the each of the four signs magically changed so that no matter which way he looked they still said the same thing as when he first saw them. The ‘Left’ sign always pointed to his left, the ‘Right’ sign pointed to the right, and so on. This made the Knights options ever worse, because now, having walked round the signpost to the road that originally said ‘Straight Ahead: Pain, Suffering, Anguish, and CERTAIN DEATH’, the sign which pointed over his head in the direction he would take, now read ‘Back the Way You Came: Oooh, I wouldn’t go back that way if I were you – CERTAIN DEATH’
‘This is hopeless,’ said the Knight, ‘whichever way I choose leads to certain death.’
‘It is a bit of a pickle, isn’t it?’ said the Writer.
‘YOU COULD SAY THAT!’ yelled the Knight, ‘SOME MIGHT SAY IT’S A COMPLETE DISASTER, OTHERS MIGHT CALL IT A NO-WIN SITUATION – BUT YOU, YOU CALL IT A PICKLE!!!!’
‘Is that caps – lock key stuck again?’
‘NO!! - I’M FURIOUS!!!’
‘Oh – that’s alright then. Why are you so angry? You wanted a bit of adventure, you said.’
The Knight, who felt on the verge of exploding out of his suit of armour by the power of pure disbelief and fury, struggled to lower his voice to a more normal level.
‘A bit of adventure I said – a BIT. This is more than a bit, wouldn’t you say? This is more like all the adventure in the world stuffed into one place! Well, I’ll tell you something, I’m not going down any one of those roads, I’m not going anywhere – I’m going to stay here and not move until you write me a better way out of this.’
‘Oh, I wouldn’t do that if I were you – the Guardian of the crossroads will not let you stay here. You will have to choose a path.’
As the Knight spoke, there was a rustling noise from a bush nearby. The Knight instinctively drew his sword and took up a defensive posture. ‘Show yourself, Guardian of the crossroads! I do not fear you!’ he cried.
As he spoke those words, the bush shook a little and the cutest little squirrel you ever saw hopped out onto the road a few feet in front of the Knight. The squirrel looked at the Knight, wrinkled its nose, and proceeded to start washing its little face.
The Knight – who had always been told to respect the creatures of the land, and had subsequently developed a bit of a soft spot for all things furry - felt his defences melt away at the sight of the squirrel before him.
‘Aww, hello little fellow’ said the Knight, ‘Are you stuck at these crossroads too?’ I’m here waiting for some big bad Guardian to come and take me on, but you’re just the cutest little fellow I’ve ever seen in my….’
The Knight was cut short by the loudest roar that he or anyone else had ever heard. Not that there was anyone else in the close vicinity, far vicinity, or really far vicinity (so far away you wouldn’t even get close to it if you travelled all day in a really, really fast plane to get there) to hear it, because the Knight was the only person in the story.
‘What about me?’ said the Friar.
‘Don’t start!’ said the Writer, ‘anyway – you didn’t hear it either, did you?’
‘Hear what?’ said the Friar.
‘Exactly. Now get lost.’
‘Alright, alright - I’m going.’
Anyway - So loud was the roar that its shock wave threw the Knight twenty feet backwards onto the road. As he lay there stunned, the Knight heard a huge deep voice boom out.
‘I am the Guardian of the Crossroads – all may pass, but none may stay. Choose your path or die.’
The Knight picked himself up, and looked over towards the Crossroads. There, sat upon the top of the signpost, was the squirrel – and it was looking at him. The Knight heard the voice speak again – and to his amazement realised it was coming out of the squirrel!!
‘Choose your path! Choose your path or die!’ The squirrel pointed one furry little arm at the Knight, and repeated his command: ‘Choose your path, or die! – I am the Guardian of the Crossroads, none may stay!’
Perhaps it was the shock, or maybe the ridiculousness of seeing the cute squirrel as the Guardian of the crossroads, or the fact that the Knight just didn’t fancy going to certain death today – but whatever it was, anger bubbled up from deep within the Knight. He was many things, but he was not a coward, and was not prepared to be told what to do by some jumped up little rodent with an ego too big for its own good.
As a side note, the feeling of his defences melting had stopped by now, and were replaced with a definite feeling of ‘I’m going to rip his little head off!’
The Knight got to his feet, and pointing his sword at the Squirrel cried, ‘I do not fear you Guardian – and I will stay here! Prepare to die!’ With that, the Knight gave a blood curdling yell and charged towards the squirrel, his sword raised above his head.
The squirrel, sat atop the signpost, did not move. The Knight rushed onwards, a crazed look on his face, like a …like a… like a crazy person in a really crazy mood.
‘Hang on, hang on a minute’, said the Knight skidding to a halt, ‘what do you mean ‘a crazed look on his face?’ What sort of ‘crazed look’ do I have on my face? Because if it’s the kind of look where I’ve got my tongue poking out the side of my mouth, and I’m cross-eyed and dribbling, well that’s not the look I’m going for.’
‘No,’ said the squirrel in agreement, ‘and if you take into account the current scene, and the intensity of the moment, having the right look on his face could be vital.’
The Writer was a little shocked. He removed the electrodes from his earlobes, turned off the generator at the socket and returned his attention to the scene.
‘I’m sorry – I guess I was struggling to find the right words’ said the Writer, ‘well, what would you suggest?’
The Knight scratched his chin a while – and then stopped, as he still had his sword in his hand. He dropped his sword, and dabbed at his chin with some cloth to stop the bleeding. The squirrel stroked his tail thoughtfully.
‘What about an enraged look?’ said the squirrel.
‘That’s a difficult one to do’, said the Writer, ‘I mean, people can be enraged, but when someone is enraged, how do you describe how they look? You can’t really use words like ‘Angry’ or, or….see? I can’t even think of any other words that you can’t use!’
‘I see your point’ the squirrel said, ‘but don’t worry, let’s keep on thinking.’
The Writer nodded in agreement, but added ‘we have to be quick though – I should have been writing chapter four by now, and only stopped off here to do some tweaking, and now that’s getting out of hand.’
‘What about a thesaurus?’ said the Knight, with a piece of cloth hanging from his chin, attached to a clotting scar.
‘Don’t be daft’, said the Writer, ‘I can’t put down ‘the Knight charged onwards, with a Thesaurus look on his face’ – people will think its rubbish! And they’d be right!’
The Knight rolled his eyes in his head. Then he rolled them down his chest, onto his knee where he flicked them up over his head and caught them in the back of his neck like a Brazilian footballer. He stretched out his arms and rolled them from the back of his neck to the tips of the fingers on each hand, and then back again to his neck. He gave a final flick of his head and caught each eye back it its socket.
‘I meant use the Thesaurus on the computer to look up other words you could use to describe a suitable look on my face’. The Knight sighed, and slapped himself on the side of the head to straighten up his left eye, which had started to slip so it looked down and to the left instead of straight ahead like the right eye.
‘Done that,’ said the Writer – ‘How about ‘Wild’? ‘A wild look in his eyes’ – not his face, just his eyes’. ‘Or, ‘demented’ – you could have a demented look about you?’
‘I like ‘Wild’, said the Knight, ‘Demented is a bit close to ‘crazed’’.
‘Ok’, said the Writer, ‘Wild it is. Right back to your starting positions, ok? Ready?’
‘Ready’, the Knight and Squirrel said in unison.
‘I do not fear you Guardian – and I will stay here! Prepare to die!’ With that, the Knight gave a blood curdling yell and charged towards the squirrel, his sword raised above his head.
The squirrel, sat atop the signpost, did not move. The Knight rushed onwards, a wild look in his eyes, like a man possessed. He covered the ground between the squirrel and himself with surprising speed, even though he was weighted down by his armour. But he was oblivious to the hindrance, driven on by pure fury.
The Knight was nearing the signpost and prepared to bring his sword down on top of the squirrel and the signpost cleaving both in two if need be. Even now, the squirrel remained still, sat on top of the signpost, as if mesmerised by the oncoming Knight. Only the squirrel’s eyes moved, as they tracked the Knights every movement.
As the Knight reached the signpost, he brought his sword down smack on top, with all the force he could muster. There was an almighty crack as the wooden signpost splintered under the hard steel of the Knights sword. A huge cloud of wood and dust and splinters was thrown up around the Knight.
The Knight took a step back, and waited for the dust to settle. He looked at the signpost, expecting to see the squirrel’s lifeless body split equally in half in amongst the pieces of shattered wood. But the squirrel was not there. The Knight looked around himself but could not see the squirrel. Suddenly, there was a high pitched cry and the scraping of tiny claws against metal. He looked down, and saw the squirrel madly attacking his armour – and what’s more, damaging it! The squirrel was actually cutting holes in the armour with its claws, and had a frenzied look about it.
The Knight reeled back, trying to swat the squirrel off his armour, whilst avoiding those razor sharp claws. He managed to grab hold of the squirrel by the scruff of its fur and threw it off. However, no sooner had it touched the ground, the squirrel leapt back on the Knight and continued its attack. Several times, the Knight dislodged the squirrel, but each time it got more and more difficult, as the Knight was getting more and more tired, and the squirrel got more and more frenzied. Finally, the Knight managed to grab it and throw it with full force to the ground. This time though, he instinctively stamped on it.
The squirrel lay there, motionless. The Knight stood bent over, breathing hard – he had not expected such a battle to come out of such a small opponent. Gradually the Knight began to regain his breath, and as he did so a feeling of remorse came over him. The sight of the little furry prone body on the dusty road, reminded the Knight that although the squirrel was the Guardian of the crossroads, - and was only doing its job – it was a Squirrel after all and should have been respected.
The Knight reached out a gauntlet covered hand to gently stroke the prone squirrel. He was about to mumble some sort of apology, when the squirrel opened one eye, jumped up and kicked the Knight directly between the legs.
The three centimetre thick steel armour was no protection against such force. The Knight was knocked head over heels backwards, and almost passed out.
The Knight felt a deep pain spread slowly up from his groin to his stomach, burning like a lava flow. Stars reeled before his eyes, and past them the Knight saw his tiny enemy advancing on him, claws at the ready.
There was no fight left in the Knight, and he was pretty sure that there wasn’t much left in his cod-piece either. Unable to walk, he shuffled backwards on his bum – one hand covering his injured…pride, and the other outstretched with sword in hand to ward off the Guardian.
As the Knight backed onto the nearest road, the squirrel stopped, and the voice boomed out once more:
‘I am the Guardian of the Crossroads. All may pass, none may stay.’
The Knight managed to get to his feet, and turned and stumbled down the road, away from the crossroads. He had not seen which road he had chosen – right now, he was in too much pain to care.
‘You should have expected that kick’ said the Writer.
‘What do you mean?’ said the Knight, still struggling for breath.
‘He’s a squirrel,’ said the Writer, ‘he was bound to go for your nuts.’