From the author: I wrote this narrative on a whim, and published it on my blog. I was surprised to receive a wave of enthusiasm about it. Who knew people would love a simple poem about a mechanical knight?
“I have made a machine in the style of a knight,”
the old wizard exclaimed to the king’s gathered men.
“It is strong! It is fast! It can win every fight!
And it’s yours if you ask, not with gold, but with Gwen!”
And the king cried in rage, “Thou art dead, wicked dunce!”
as he motioned his men to attack the old thrall.
But his daughter, fair Gwen, interceded at once,
crying, “Stop! For this wizard is loved by us all!”
“She is wise as she’s beautiful. Come, my dear girl,”
said the wizard extending a wrinkled old hand,
“do become my own wife!” He let fingers unfurl.
And then all turned to Gwen. Hush fell over the land.
But fair Gwen simply smiled. “Now your price is quite high.
So perhaps we can see if this knight’s worth the prize.”
And the wizard leaned forward on grizzled old thigh.
“Ah, my darling,” he whispered, “just lend me your eyes.”
With a wheeze and a clank something opened the door.
The old hinges, they groaned disbelief at the sight.
Wearing armor pressed roughly, and sputtering more,
stood a clockwork machine, all ready to fight.
As a gasp crossed the room, the monstrosity stepped.
With a clang on the stone, a foot rose and then fell.
And it heaved its great mass o’er the sill which there kept
all the thresh in the room where it served the king well.
“As you see,” said the wizard with flourish of arm,
“with its mass all alone it can take down a horse.
There’s no weapon around that can cause any harm
to befall my dear Clockman! You know that, of course!”
“Now it seems to me, father,” said Gwen with a grin,
“that the wizard has laid down a challenge for me.
So if any man present would like to begin
a fair joust for my honor, we’d all like to see!”
And then eight of the trusted ones, men of the king,
at once sprang with a cry o’er the table to floor.
But the Clockman stood ready with winding of spring
and all eight in one axe-stroke then died as a corps.
“Your machine is quite thorough,” said giggling Gwen.
But her father’s face reddened and stammered for breath.
As the king saw the carnage that had been good men,
he again said aloud, “Put this wizard to death!”
Then a battle cry rose from the dozens of men
who then charged the machine with their swords and their knives.
While the king with his arms then encircled fair Gwen,
the tall Clockman quite simply made widows of wives.
As the last soldier fell, with his head lolling off,
the fair Gwen clapped her hands. “Oh, dear father! Do sell!”
But the king rather drew his own sword with a cough,
saying, “Wizard your monster ‘gainst me won’t fare well!”
“Oh, dear father, don’t do it!” cried sweet-voicéd Gwen.
“No, my king,” said the wizard, “he’ll kill even you!”
But the king crossed the floor over bodies of men.
“So then draw, you tin monster, and run me right through!”
So the clockman stood poised with its axe and its sword,
the odd hissing and whirring beginning to fade.
And the king said a prayer to entreat his dear Lord
and he charged with a clang as his blade met with blade.
Then the axe circled round, but the Clockman grew slow,
and the king made a dodge, and then reared back and kicked.
Then the Clockman fell backwards, absorbing the blow.
The machine hit the floor, but its gears, they still ticked.
As the king raised his sword to deliver an end,
the machine rolled away and then rose to its feet.
“My dear Majesty,” Wizard entreated his friend,
“you must stop this right now, or you’ll end in defeat!”
But the king had his pique, and instead he just roared
and he charged at the Clockman, his sword pointed out.
But the gears had wound up. There was energy stored
in the Clockman’s machine, and it moved without doubt.
Then the king stopped his charge, his look turning to pain
as the Clockman’s sharp sword, with more thrusting applied,
went right into his chest and then back out again.
Then the king muttered, “Ow!” and then fell down and died.
The fair Gwen stood in silence, surveying the scene.
And the Clockman went quiet. It slumped to the floor.
“Is it dead,” asked fair Gwen, “your odd clockwork machine?”
as she lifted her skirts and then tip-toed through gore.
“I have done as you told me,” the wizard then said.
“Dearest Gwen you’re now king! You’re as free as you wish!”
Gwen then looked at her father, who lay there quite dead.
“My dear wizard!” She kissed him, her shoes going squish.
“You’re my humblest servant! You’ve given me life!”
With a laugh she embraced him. “You’ve served me quite well!”
But unseen by the wizard, she drew out her knife.
Through his heart she then thrust it. “So now go to hell.”
This story originally appeared in Kyle Aisteach's Blog.
Includes: "Another Generation's Problems," "Clockman," "Eternal Love," "Eternity Undone," "A Fairy Tale," "Final Voices," "The Folklorist's Notebook," "Man of Water," "Nobody Watches," "Nobody’s Ancestor," "Pressure and the Argument Tree," "Promised," "The Survivors' Menagerie," "Too Close for Comfort," "Unforgivable," "Ward and Protector," and "The Wrong Dog." "Highly recommended." -- Howard V. Hendrix “[A] writer to watch.” -- Robin Wayne Bailey
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