This is the ultimate version of the third installment of The Knights (Part Three). I had posted some of it earlier, but never got back to it. I’m considering abandoning the series, but more likely, I’ll be bringing it to fruition sooner than I originally thought. We’ll see.
“They dwell in the desert for years, taking only the sustenance that God offers them. This is how they develop their connection with the Unnamed One.” the monk had told him, “They can divine your future, heal the ill, and work wonders. The prophets are blessed and cursed; once they leave civilization, they can never return. The unfaithful prophets, the ones who only believed they had a connection with God, are broken on the rocks and rot in the sun. If ever a prophet tries to find his way home, the Lord will stop him. The prophets have been put here to guide us, and once they find their path, they cannot change it. Once one seeks a prophet, they will never rest until they find one.” warned the monk with a sternly pointed finger.
Hugo was only ten years old when he took his vows as a holy knight. He served as a warrior for six years, fighting in every war the Church pursued. When he found himself attached to a battalion stationed in the desert frontier, he finally questioned his path in life. He asked advice from the devout monks.
“Seek a prophet to find your way if you cannot find your own way.” said the monk, dressed in a rough spun cloak and a golden circlet.
“But shouldn’t God speak to me? Others have had visions of the Lord, many have heard his call, but yet I am lost in the darkness.” said the young knight.
“God speaks more loudly to some. He speaks to you, but you cannot hear. Or perhaps you choose not to hear.” the monk’s tone was condescending, but as tender as he could manage.
“But I listen. I calm my mind, and silence is all I hear.”
“Perhaps you do not truly need Him to speak to you.” offered the monk. Hugo, dissatisfied, turned his back on the monk and walked out onto the village’s main street. The night air was thick with humidity, and the breeze offered no respite from the heat. He looked back on the monastery’s peaceful gardens and turned away from it as he had from the monk. He slipped into an open air bar and found a table. He lost himself amongst the crowd, watching the perpetual festival of the bar.
“You need food! You need drink!” exclaimed a dark skinned woman. She was draped in silks, with a painted face and scented hair.
“I’m not hungry or thirsty.”
“Then it is something else you need, eh?” she said, her large eyes glistening with mischief. Hugo could feel her calloused foot rubbing against his leg. He felt shame well up within himself; his body betrayed him as it always did. He could feel himself drawn to the woman despite himself. Everything about her appealed to Hugo’s desires; her thin fingers and graceful arms, her small waist and soft belly.
“No, I don’t need anything.” he said, seeing her wide smile bend into a deep frown, and then a scowl.
“If you don’t need anything, why are you here?” she asked as she whirled around, a fiery fury of orange and red silks. Hugo asked himself the same question. He left the bar, and stalked towards the outskirts, where civilization gave way to the wilds. With a single step, he started a new path in life. He would seek a prophet and find his way.
Wandering the unforgiving desert, Hugo’s devotion was tested. His body thirsted and hungered, and his mind wandered back to the woman in silk. The nights of walking and days dedicated to mere survival in the inhospitable place wore on the young knight’s devotion. He found himself considering the journey back, wondering if he could abandon his quest. It was when his will wore most thin that he found the prophet.
“I am the prophet Uriah.” he said with quiet words that could have blown away with but a soft zephyr. “What do you desire?”
“I need to know how to have a vision of God. I need to return to His feet and give Him my service.” said Hugo. Uriah leaned on his walking staff and contemplated. The prophet was gaunt; his rags hung off of his frame, barely concealing his form. His skin was coal black, though his slender hands were milky white. His eyes bore through Hugo with intensity. Hugo stepped backward, nearly quivering with fright. He could feel the prophet’s divine essence pushing him away.
“God doesn’t need your service, boy.” said the prophet weakly. “You are young and strong, but not wise. You come seeking me to find a vision? I will give you a vision, one that God tells me to give.” the prophet’s voice became stronger and more intense. Hugo felt his eyes drawn to Uriah’s hand. The outstretched palm waited, as if for a payment.
“I have little to give.” said the knight truthfully, “I carry no coin, and all I have is to assure my survival.” The prophet smiled, showing a mouth full of long, rotting teeth.
“God will give what He sees fit. Put your hand in mine, and feel His power.” The young knight reached his hand out, grasping the prophet’s. Uriah held his hand firmly, with a grip stronger than his frame would seem to allow. Hugo felt power surging into him as he became dizzy. He felt his mind flow into the heavens while his stomach distended into the earth. His eyes were blinded by a light, pure and white. In the radiant light, he saw nothing; a sensation of comfort and familiarity filled him. He was warm, and not alone, though there was no one with him.
Then, there was darkness, and in the darkness, a dragon. Dark and green, with countless heads, and upon each head a crown wrought of pearls, diamonds, and gold. Each head spoke, each saying different things. Hugo reached for his sword, and felt his hand upon its hilt. The words of the dragon thundered like the ocean, battering him with doubts and woe. He slashed wildly, throwing all of his fear into each swing.
He lashed out wildly, but the dragon was too swift, and its hide too dense for his simple blade. The dragon would not attack him; instead, it simply spoke in countless voices; the dragon knew his sins and called out each one. Hugo dropped to his knees before the dragon, who spoke then in a single, booming voice.
“What is your destiny?”
“I am a servant of God. I am his chosen warrior.”
“God does not need warriors.”
“But I am His!” cried Hugo.
“If you were his, you could strike me down. But you cannot. If I wanted to destroy you, I could.”
“God would protect me!” shouted Hugo, feeling his strength growing.
“He is not here. You are as far from Him as you can ever be. He cannot hear you.”
“I call on you! Unnamed One, Master of the World, Maker of Man! Save me!”
The dragon began to laugh, and then spoke again.
“There is only one salvation for you, boy, and it is through me.”
Hugo awoke on the desert sands, the prophet standing beside him, offering him the end of his staff. Hugo stood up, dazed and feeling empty. He looked at the prophet’s black face and threw a punch at him. The prophet accepted the blow, simply turning his head as Hugo’s fist connected.
“I wanted a vision of God!” said Hugo angrily, “I wanted to hear His Word, not that of the Dragon King.”
“But yet you did hear God’s Word, though they are not the words you wanted to hear. You are a warrior of God, it is true, but your enemy is not your fellow man.” said the prophet, who began to walk away slowly. “He has greater plans.”
“What?” asked Hugo, “Tell me now!”
“You will need to find it out, boy. I only possess one answer for every man, and I have given you all I may.”
“Then you know more,” accused Hugo, “Tell me!”
Hugo awoke in the forest by a stream, laying beside the campfire he and Aaron had built. Uneasily, he sat up.
“The dream again?” asked Aaron.
“Yes, the dream.” replied Hugo, knowing that it was more a memory than a dream, and his curse to bear until he found the Dragon King.