The Scribe’s Apprentice

by Paul Bryant

The knight boldly clambered down the sheer surface of the cliff, slowly working his way to the lair of the huge, hairy beast. Gripping the edged stone that almost cut his hands despite his roughened skin, he worked his way across the rock, sweat dripping from his brow. Once, the rock crumbled beneath his fingers, and he dangled precariously by one hand, a shallow rooted tree his only lifeline. With a surge of strength befitting his knightliness, he managed a handhold prior to the little tree’s last efforts in life. With a grim, set attitude, he¬†surefootedly¬†climbed the remaining distance to relative safety before the lair of the hideous beast.

Inside the lair of the beast, a princess, the most fair in the land, was held in capture. The beast had stolen this precious maiden away from the king’s castle in the ghastly night. Silent as the night itself, the hairy form had slipped past the sentries on watch, leaving a wake of poisoned bodies as its only clue. However, the beast was doomed to die. The greatest knight in the land had come to reclaim the princess in the name of the king and in the name of love.

The knight held his arms aloft, bellowing his challenge into the lair. There was no echo, nor was there a whisper that returned to the knight. The knight shouted his second challenge into the lair with a thunderous roar. Still, no reply or echo issued from the cavern of the fell beast. Girdering the mighty courageous of the noble born, the knight strode forward with an air of certainty. The lair, dark, grungy, and sticky of nature held no fear for one of righteous heritage. No other mortal would dare the courage that was emitting from this heaven wrought figure.

Upon reaching the opening of the cavern, it seemed to be growing larger, the knight flew off into the twilight blue of the summer sky. A rush of wind, followed by a tremendous clap of thunder, shook the lair of the beast as the hand of the gods, wielding a weapon of utmost destruction, scattered debris around from the impact to the cliff.

“These flies are the worst I have seen them in all the days of my existence!” the aged Maurice said with an air of disgust. He still clenched his rolled paper in a steady fist. “This is an omen for fell times ahead, mark my words! What is this? Boy, when will you ever keep your mind on your work! How many times do I have to tell you to make each letter carefully, and here I find you making pictures of insects along the page. Now hurry, fix that copy and finish the rest of the copies of that letter and take your time to do it right!”

Maurice went off to berate another of his apprentices in a flurry. Young Marcus sighed, silently glad that he had received no more than a few words from the elderly scribe. Maurice’s temper could sometimes be hot enough to boil a cauldron of fat on an icy morning. Marcus could hear the the vaulting temper from the continuous issuance of disgust in the old man’s voice. A part of him felt a little saddened by poor Brian’s fate, but was partially relieved that he himself was safe and secure from any immediate wrath. With a little smile and a quiet sigh at not being able to find the fly again, Marcus fixed his botch and began in earnest to finish the copies he had been instructed to do. After all, Mary Ann had been out picking berries by the old mill all afternoon, and if he hurried, he would catch up to her on the her return to the castle.

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