No mules this week. Sorry.
He gently tucks the covers under Sam’s chin, wrapping him up in a warm duvet cocoon. He stands up and turns to leave. “Goodnight, Sammy.”
“May I have a story Grandad please?”
He smiles. “Okay, okay. We might have time before your mother gets home,” he says, slumping down on to the end of the bed. “I’ve got just the thing.”
The covers ripple with excitement. “Yes!”
“Shh, shh. Okay, okay. Now, listen closely, Sammy lad. Listen closely.”
Sam slips deeper into his cocoon. “I will.”
“There once was a knight-”
Sam’s eyes widen.
“Settle down, settle down, not that one. This was a much lesser-known knight, but lesser-known does not mean less important. It does not mean that. This knight commanded thousands of men, men who followed him without question-”
“I’ll take questions at the end, lad. Questions at the end. Are you listening?”
A little heads pivots up and down.
“Good. Now, this knight was a very good knight. He was brave and strong and some might say handsome. He won many great battles and defeated numerous evils. The Grand Queen noticed this and one day came calling on him…”
He feels Sam’s toes wiggle in anticipation.
“…she told him there was an army of monsters rising, monsters intent on destroying the entire kingdom. He agreed to help, without hesitation.”
“Because he was such a good brave knight?”
He smiles. “Well yes, but he wanted to help save his kingdom and all of the people in it, too. But that wasn’t the whole story. The Queen thanked him for his bravery and dedication, but told him there was more. The Grand Queen was also a prophet you see.”
“A prophet. It meant she could see into the future, she could see things that were yet to happen. She told the brave knight that with his help the kingdom would be saved, but that he would die. His last act as a Knight of the Twelfth Kingdom would be to save it.”
Sam pulls the covers up tighter around his neck. “And did he fight the monsters, Grandad?”
“Yes, lad. Yes he did. It was a massive battle, with many soldiers from each side falling. Soon, all but one of the monsters had been slain. The only monster still standing was the Monster King. He was the biggest and meanest,” he wiggles Sam’s big toe, “and stinkiest of them all.”
“But this was no time for laughter. Remember, our good knight was to die this day. After an epic battle which lasted for two whole days, the Monster King was defeated. But our knight suffered such fatal injuries in the fight that he was soon to follow, just as the Grand Queen had foreseen. As the entire kingdom rejoiced, the knight began to slip away.”
Sam lets out the a child’s version of a sigh. “He didn’t deserve to die, Grandad.”
“And you weren’t the only one to think so, Sammy. You see, just as the knight began to close his eyes one final time, the Grand Queen appeared before him. She told him that, because of his unprecedented bravely and sacrifice, she had made a deal with the God Oah to spare his life. As well as saving his life, the knight would be allowed to live out the rest of his days in peace and quiet. But, he had to agree that when the next big battle arrived, he would be ready to stand again at his Queen’s side.”
“What did he do?”
“He accepted this most humbling of gifts, of course. The God Oah filled his body with life and the Grand Queen allowed the knight to find a quiet place in the kingdom to raise a family and enjoy the rest he very much deserved. He found a piece of land, and a farm-”
“Like ours, Grandad?”
He smiles. “Exactly like ours, lad. Exactly. Except, this wasn’t enough. You see, being a knight was all he had ever known. He soon found himself missing the life he used to have. But he knew he could not rise to fight again until called on by the Grand Queen. To do so before this day would make him appear ungrateful for the gift of life Oah had given him.”
“So he never fighted again?”
“Until this very day, my lad, he never did. His sword has never been raised since the day the Monster King was slain. But it stands ready, ready for the day the Grand Queen calls on the knight to once again fight to protect the Twelfth Kingdom.”
“He’s still alive?”
“Oh yes he’s still alive, lad. He’s still alive and hoping the Grand Queen hasn’t forgotten about him. He’s waited patiently all these years, and hopes he’s got one last great battle left in him.”
“What’s he been doing, Grandad?”
“That, my little knight,” he says, leaning forward, planting a kiss on Sammy’s soft forehead, “is a story for another night.”