Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
Little bubbles escaped the young knight’s mouth, as he uttered his last curses at the opponent who looked down at him from the ridge that had been his final battleground. The ridiculous looking ferret that adorned his foe’s shield still swam in front of his eyes, the legacy of the mighty smash that had sent him flying. His promise of glory had failed him just as much as the rusty armor that would be his watery grave.
He was a wandering knight, driven by the desire of fame that captivated so many young men. He had never been trained, never been knighted and hadn’t even owned a horse before. By working for a blacksmith he had been allowed to use the scrap metal, which he had collected and forged into a makeshift set of armor and weaponry. It offered basic protection at best, but in practice it served the purpose of making him feel like a bigger, stronger man. So he had set out into the world, offering his services to anyone in need. The problem was that few people seemed to require the service of a want-to-be knight, and to top it off many barons had him banished from their land. So throughout the months his hunger grew, his desire for a proper bed grew, but most of all his desperation grew. He had sworn not to return home before he had acquired his fame, and he wouldn’t…even if it meant never seeing his family again. The young man carried with him all the characteristics typical to an honorable knight, and he knew it. All he lacked was the proper bloodline. So, he decided one day, he would force himself into one.
The nobleman he challenged laughed at him at first, refusing. Then, recognizing the fury in the boy’s eyes, he ordered his servants to arm him. They went out to the ridge, and the duel commenced. The challenger came at the nobleman with heavy force, but the latter retaliated easily, fighting with both superior skill and superior gear. His weapons and his armor had been forged with his particular build in mind, and so he was able to maneuver in a light and balanced manner. The young knight, on the other hand, had used scrap metal and novice skills at the forge, and his armor was very heavy and had started creaking at the joints. His weaponry was not much better off, which was illustrated when a well-aimed swing cut his sword in half. Another cracked his shield. The third move was the smash that sent him flying. The fall seemed to last forever, but then the impact on the little creek’s surface knocked most of the air out of his lungs. He went under in water he would be able to stand in, sending frustrated curses to his opponent who stood laughing at the ridge’s edge.
Then the laughing man tripped. He came tumbling down and landed in the water, right next to the young knight, just as pinned down by his heavy armor, just as helpless. It showed in his eyes. A genuine fear surfaced. It was at that point that the young man found strength he had not found before. He needed to help this man, and with a display of outrageous strength managed to rip loose the scraps of armor on his body. Relieved from all the weight, he jumped up, gasped for breath, then plunged right back in to save the man whose laughing days were over. He dragged him to shore, saw that he had passed out and slapped him back into consciousness.
The man was grateful beyond measure, embracing the young knight once his servants had relieved him of his armor. No more would he laugh at this hero. He would honor him, take him in, get him knighted.
And get him a shield with the ridiculous looking ferret.