(45 years before the Great Plague)
“You promised, Papa!” pouted little Timothy, his indignation an acceptable level of righteous.
Timothy’s father yawned the kind of half-yawn that ends up resembling a sigh more than a yawn. He felt the long hours of that day weighing down on him, slowly but surely draining him of energy with their sneaky little claws.
“But I am so weary today, my son. Do you not see how I slouch with fatigue so?”
“You can sleep after you tell me the rest of the story!” said Timothy, now almost bouncing with all the pent-up indignation.
This time, Timothy’s father properly sighed.
“Then promise me this, my little Timothy. When I am done, you shall go to sleep at once, and not stay up a minute longer! Will you do this for me?”
Timothy agreed with the kind of impatience that suggested the six-year old hadn’t really given the promise much thought.
Timothy’s father settled himself a little more on the soft straw mattress that rested on Timothy’s bed. He stifled another yawn and stretched his arms, trying to squeeze out some of the tiredness embedded in his muscles. Finally, he asked, “Where did I leave this story last?”
Timothy began to excitedly rattle off some words about a hero named Arthur and a princess named Regina and a great desert to the East and a band of savage Bedou and a lot of other details that were muddled by their rapid-fire delivery. It took some coaxing and prodding by Timothy’s father before the little boy managed to coherently say that Amadeus had just entered the camp in which the Bedou bandits were holding Regina prisoner.
“As Arthur walked along the sand, the tents around him, he muttered a silent prayer to our God, and held tight onto his sword. For although he had swiftly dispatched the bandits patrolling on the edge of the camp, they were but a taste of what lay further within. When he entered the middle of the camp, he saw more savage Bedou than there were fingers on his two hands, all inching towards him, their own crude weapons in hand, their dark faces scowling devilishly. Behind them, tied fast to a thick, sturdy pole inside one of the bigger tents, was the fair maiden Regina, her long and beautiful brown hair flustered in front of her elegant face.”
“’Regina!’ called out Arthur, but she did not reply!”
“…for her fair mouth had been tied shut by the brutish Bedou, so tight that she could barely breath, let alone utter a single word. Arthur despaired at first when she did not reply, but when his eyes caught sight of her bindings, that despair was replaced with anger. Righteous anger!”
“’You ruthless savages!” shouted Arthur sternly, so that all their attention was drawn to his words, “You have shown fair Regina no mercy, and have maltreated her to no end. But I am no primitive barbarian like you. I will show you a kindness and leave you with your lives if you release Regina from her bindings, and let her return to her home!’”
“His words rang with a conviction so strong that some of the Bedou faltered. Arthur thought he could see them hesitate and lower their weapons.”
“They let her go?” jumped in Timothy.
“You will find out if you do not interrupt me, my son!” reprimanded his father. Timothy’s mouth almost audibly slammed itself shut.
“Now, where was I? Ah, yes…”
“But the leader of this dark-hearted band, the tallest one among them, wrapped in dark robes and gripping a spear with a curved point, barked at his men. He spoke malicious words to them, words to spur their most evil of desires, and his men faltered no more. The leader then turned towards Arthur, took a few strides towards him, and sneered.”
“’We no release girl,” the leader said, his speech in Common Tongue as twisted as his soul, “and you die here!’”
“’My God will protect me from your blows, even in these wild and unruly lands you call home!” claimed Arthur, now taking the shield on his back and slipping it onto his left arm. “Do your worst, and see how your false pagan deities falter before the might of God!” As he said this, he drew his gleaming sword Vanglade from its scabbard, and the blade caught the light from the flickering fires inside the fortress and cast it with vehemence at the scowling savages. Some of them had to shield their dark eyes from the brilliance of the sword, such was its power!”
“But the leader stood unflinching, and slammed his spear hard on the ground. “You tricks no scare me!” he snarled, and began to charge at Arthur. But the leader was foolhardy, the raw ferocity of his attack no match for the steely defence that Arthur had at the ready. Arthur swiftly deflected the thrust of the spear with his shield, and tripped the foolhardy Bedoin as his momentum carried him towards Arthur. The leader tumbled to the sandy ground at Arthur’s feet, and in one swift move, Vanglade’s sleek tip was at the leader’s scruffy neck.”
Timothy gasped again.
“’I ask you one last time, Bedou ruffian, to yield!” proclaimed Arthur once again, his fierce words stalling the other Bedou once more, “I will still show you mercy, should you release my dear Regina from her bindings!”
“But the Bedoin at his feet only scowled, those dark eyes burning with an unholy fire, and he snarled as he thrust his spear at Arthur once more!”
Timothy was running out of breath with all his gasping.
“But Arthur, vigilant as ever, saw the blow coming, and neatly stepped aside it. With a lofty swing, he brought down the blade of Vanglade with all his righteous might onto the Bedou’s chest. In one strike, it pierced that wicked heart and delivered upon it a justice well deserved. The Bedou snarled once, twice more before his soul finally left that gruesome shell that was his body, undoubtedly on its way to the depths of Hell!”
Timothy was still trying to recover some air, so his reaction was more stifled than it should have been.
“When the others saw their leader go down so easily, they stared amongst themselves, suddenly filled with doubt as to whether they were in the right, as they should have done long ago. Arthur, sensing their hesitation, spoke to them once more as he sheathed Vanglade, now sporting a sash of red.”
“’Your leader was unworthy of his rule, and he has paid for his wicked ways!” proclaimed Arthur heartily, “but you! You may yet choose the right path, for even those with their feet as deep in evil as you are not yet exempt from redemption! Simply step aside, and let me rescue fair Regina from her torment, and you will be forgiven for your sins!’”
“And they let her go? Just like that?” asked Timothy incredulously.
Timothy’s father was suddenly struck by a wave of fatigue. It was as though all the layers of weariness that had been piling up inside him had all gotten together, conspired for a couple of minutes, then hidden just inside his mind with the lights turned off before all bursting into the rest of his body like an extremely unpleasant and unwanted surprise birthday party gathering.
“Yes, just like that,” he said with an absurd amount of restraint, “and the two of them got onto his trusty steed, they rode back to the shores of that dreary desert, where a ship took them back to Romantiga, where they settled down on a farm and lived happily ever after. The end.”
“Papa!” began Timothy, but his father laid a gentle yet disgruntled hand on Timothy’s arm.
“I am far too tired to give the rest of this story the vigour it deserves, my dear boy,” said his father, “Perhaps, another night, I shall tell you if there was more to their journey home. But remember your promise, my son – I have finished the tale, so you must now go to sleep!”
Timothy was understandably feeling a little cheated, but he too was having his own losing struggle with the allure of sleepiness. He huffed, said ‘Good night, Papa!” and snuggled into his blanket a little more.
Timothy’s father gently brushed the thin hair on Timothy’s head with his hardened hands before kissing it good night.