There once was a young boy, who dreamed of becoming a knight. He carried a toy sword with him wherever he went, until one day he heard of a haunted castle. The boy, who knew all the stories of chivalry and heroic acts performed by knights by heart, could not resist the urge to become the main character in his own story of heroism and left for the castle. The journey was a long one and though there were many times when he felt lost and wanted nothing more than to return home and sleep in his own warm and safe bed again, he persevered until one day he reached the castle. The boy thought it to be the scariest place he had ever seen, but forced himself forward, step by step, his sword gripped firmly. The door was heavy, but swung open with remarkable ease and as he peered inside, he saw the entrance hall lit by a sea of candles. Slowly the boy proceeded, until he found a throne room. Shadows danced on the walls, seemingly mocking his caution. Finally, a voice called out to him. From the shadows a woman appeared, more beautiful than he could fathom. The boy lowered his sword as her lips curled into a smile.
‘What have we here? A knight, come to visit me?’ The boy’s cheeks flushed as she drew near. Her eyes mesmerized him, he never felt his grip loosen, or heard the sound of his sword hitting the floor. The woman eyed him carefully and placed her hands on his shoulders. The boy trembled at her touch and closed his eyes, unable to keep his eyes open in the face of such beauty. Warm lips briefly pressed against his and when he opened his eyes, the woman brushed the hair out of his face, before sighing. ‘I’m sorry, my knight, but the time has not yet come. Return to me when you’ve grown.’ The boy wanted to stay, to be by her side for eternity, but was compelled to obey her command. He sheepishly picked up his sword, said his goodbyes and left for home.
There once was a young man, who dreamed of becoming a knight. His toy sword had been replaced with a real one, though he was no knight yet. War had broken out and he was asked to fight for his country. He learned the stories he was told as a child were not real, that there is little beauty in men fighting each other to the death on the behalf of their lords, but he also learned that the values he so treasured were as real as his sword. The youth had made up his mind and wanted to become a knight, not to have a story written about him, but to protect the people dear to him from being dragged into another war. For that, he needed to learn to be a good leader and so he tried to learn wherever he could. One night, he remembered the castle he had visited as a child and decided he should visit it. Surely the lady he had met would be able to teach him about looking after people.
And so, for a second time, the youth traveled to the castle. Though he was certain he had gotten lost several times along the way, he ended up drawn to the construct like a compass’ needle is drawn to the north. Sure enough, he stood before it again, and it seemed smaller, yet familiar. The doors were shut and he could tell they were made from oak. He braced himself against them, but to his surprise they swung open with such ease that he nearly toppled over. The sea of candles had remained unchanged, nor were the shadows on the wall any different from before. Mocking him, dancing for him. As he entered the main hall, he saw her sitting on her throne. She looked exactly as she had remembered, a burgundy dress of the finest fabric hugging her frame as her long brown hair cascaded over one shoulder. Though there was still an entire hall’s length between them, her presence felt intimate, intoxicating. Slowly, he convinced his legs to move again. Step by step, until he stood before her. He dropped to one knee and begged her pardon for the intrusion. Though he hadn’t heard her approach, she stood before him and lifted his chin, urging him to stand.
‘My knight returns, what a joyous day!’ All thoughts of learning about nobility’s responsibilities slipped from his mind as she caressed his cheek. ‘Surely my knight is weary from his travels, please, follow me.’ Those were the last words spoken by either her or the youth, as she led him to a door behind her throne. The youth lost track of how much time he had spent there, but though he was certain days, perhaps even weeks had passed, he never hungered, except for her. The time he spent with her was enough to make the rest of the world disappear. Then one day, as they lay naked, embracing each other and recovering lost energy, she spoke again. ‘You’ve grown up nicely, my knight, yet I fear it is not yet time. Return to me when you’ve matured even further.’ As if she had spoken a magical incantation, the memories of his ambitions came flooding back to him and he once again felt compelled to obey. Though he tried to stall, hoping she would change her mind, he soon found himself outside the castle again, heading for home.
There once was a man, who had dreamed of becoming a knight. Though he had fought many battles so others would not have to, he was denied his knighthood because of his low birth. The man was bitter at first, but came to accept it. He realized that knighthood was not a prerequisite to being able to care for those around him. He still carried his sword, but no longer swung it for his lord. Instead he traveled the land and helped those people where he could, performing manual labor, repairs or protecting those who could not protect themselves. One day his travels took him by an old castle that he vaguely seemed to remember. His curiosity got the better of him and so he approached the large oak doors. Tentatively his fingers reached out and pressed against the wooden surface, which gladly gave way as if welcoming an old friend. The man stepped inside, closing the door behind him and saw a sea of candles stretch out to the main hall. The countless flames burned brightly, casting shadows on the walls. As he walked by them, the sweeping movement of his cloak caused the shadows to flicker, but he paid them no mind. The man stepped out into the main hall and found her sitting there. Resplendent in her beauty, she sat on her throne as she had the last time they met. Her eyes lit up as her gaze met his and slowly she rose from her seat. The man hurried over to her, his memories of her returning with every step.
‘My knight… How wonderfully you’ve aged.’ Her arms embraced him, as she welcomed him with a kiss. The man wanted to say something, anything, but felt that her eyes could penetrate his very soul, that there was nothing he could say that she did not already know.
She kissed him softly on the lips. His hands rested on her hips as the two exchanged smiles.
She kissed him again, first on the lips, then his cheek, going down slowly until she was kissing his neck, over and over. She whispered into his ear ‘Welcome home, my love,’ before sinking her teeth into his neck, so that he would never have to leave her again.