Books & Beyond

Children of the Knight by Michael J. Bowler @BradleyWallaceM

Posted on: October 23, 2013

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THE knight, with Lance clinging tightly to his back, stopped at the edge of the Los Angeles River, and the two of them gazed down into the dry, concrete riverbed. The river was really more of an aqueduct and, depending on rainfall totals, seldom had much water coursing through it. The horse neighed approvingly.

“You weren’t shittin’ me about a long journey!” Lance exclaimed, sitting up to get a better view.

“Hold on tightly,” the knight intoned as he flicked the reins, and the muscular white mare began her descent to the riverbed below. Lance felt nervous and afraid atop such a large animal, but somehow the presence of this strong, confident man eased his fear.

“Does, uh, does your horse have a name?” he asked, trying to quell the nervousness in his voice. This descent was steep, and he wanted nothing more than to plant his feet firmly on cement. He was a street kid, after all.

“She hath been given the name Llamrei, after my first mount of long ago,” the knight replied, his tone wistful, filled with longing.

Something about his melancholy tone silenced Lance. The mare reached bottom without even the slightest misstep and began trotting along the riverbed, halting at an enormous entrance to the storm drain system, which wound underground throughout the Los Angeles basin. This cavernous maw looked large enough to drive a van through without hitting the top.

A huge metal grill guarded the entrance to the drain, but Lance noted that the aged lock had recently been broken. The knight reached out and grabbed one side of the grill, backing his horse to slowly ease it open. The metal screamed with disuse, and the sound sent chills down Lance’s back. The dark, gaping orifice threatened to envelope him, and his stomach pulled up into his throat.

“We, uh, we’re goin’ in there?” He fought to keep his quivering voice steady.

The knight turned as best he could to the boy behind him. “Have no fear, young Lance.”

Lance instantly bristled, his pride winning out. “I ain’t afraid! It just don’ look like no home ta me.”

The knight merely nodded. “It doth be mine at present.” He gently spurred Llamrei forward into the dark, forbidding tunnel, pulling shut the grill as they entered, and sealing them within.

Lance watched warily as the knight extended a gloved hand outward, grasping an old, weathered torch from a small alcove. With his other gloved hand, he dug into a leather pouch hanging from the saddle and extracted a pinch of some kind of powder, sprinkling it atop the torch. Flames sprang instantly to life, causing Lance to gasp with surprise as its flickering glow cast weird shadows and reflections off the man’s armor. He gazed in wonder. That looked like something out of a movie! Who was this guy anyway?

The knight noted the boy’s wary look and smiled to put him at ease, forgetting for the moment that his helm obscured his features. “A mere trick, my boy, taught to me long ago by M—by an old friend.”

He turned forward again and spurred his horse into the darkness of the tunnel. The man’s quick change of subject was not lost on Lance. What had he been planning to say? All his street instincts told him to leap down from the horse and hightail it out of there and never look back. None of this made any sense, not here, not in his city, not in his sorry life. And yet he didn’t jump. He didn’t run. There was something about the guy…. Growing up as he had, Lance had a good gut when it came to people. No, this guy wasn’t out to hurt him or kill him or….

No, don’t even go there!

No, he decided as they trotted along the dark, dank underbelly of the city, this guy would not hurt him. But if he didn’t want to hurt him, then what the hell did he want?

The two remained silent as Llamrei trotted fearlessly along the damp and drafty storm drain. There were no sounds save the clop, clop, clopping of her hooves against the lichen-covered concrete. It surprised Lance that the horse seemed so comfortable underground. He always thought most animals, himself included, preferred above ground to below. She must be used to it, he surmised, which meant the guy was telling the truth. He really did live here.

Suddenly, Llamrei stopped. Lance had been so lost in his musings that he hadn’t realized they’d left the tunnel to enter an enormous chamber.

“We doth be here,” the knight announced, drawing Lance back into reality. As the man deftly dismounted, Lance’s eyes bulged wide with wonder at his surroundings.

The immensity of the underground chamber awed him. It appeared to be some sort of central hub from which a multitude of tunnels branched off, disappearing into darkness. Lit solely by the light of numerous torches imbedded within the concrete walls, Lance gazed in amazement at what appeared to be the central hall of an old castle, the kind he’d only ever seen in books. What the hell? There wasn’t such things in LA!

He observed bedrolls lining the walls and disappearing down each branching tunnel, furniture like old tables and chairs, but all wooden and rough-hewn and not like any modern stuff he’d ever seen. There was even a big-ass throne of some kind with huge arms and a really high back set against one wall, like right out of a frickin’ old movie! What the…? And then his eyes fell upon the weapons, and his face lit up with wonder. Spread out before him were racks upon wooden racks of weapons—swords of all shapes and sizes, shields, short-handled dirks, knives, longbows and short bows, and arrows and quivers.

Carefully, eyes pinned to the armory before him, he dropped slowly off the horse, allowing his skateboard and backpack to fall to the ground unnoticed. Heart beating wildly with excitement, he stepped forward into this wonderland, gaping in astonishment at the sight before him. He slipped the hood down, allowing his long brown hair its freedom. He just shook his head in awe.

“Wow!” was all he could think to say, hurrying to the nearest of the weapons racks and gingerly touching some of the swords. He gripped the leather-bound hilt of a large broadsword and struggled vainly to heft it over his head. The blade alone was almost five feet in length.

The knight turned to observe Lance grappling with the weight of the sword and smiled as he recalled his own first attempt ages ago. He couldst almost believe that time so long ago had been merely a dream, or that perhaps this time beeth the dream. Yet he knew the truth—he’d known it the moment he’d awakened in this foreign land—both time periods were real, and once again he had a crusade to mount, one greater and more significant than his first. And this small, longhaired boy battling the weight of a sword nearly as large as himself… well, this boy was the key.

“Each doth be forged of solid iron, lad, and honed to a fine edge. One day soon, thou shalt be hefting the largest of them with ease.”

Lance fought the broadsword back into its place on the rack, watching curiously as the knight removed his gauntlets and laid them on an ancient-looking table. He then slipped the helm and face guard up over his head, revealing his face for the first time. His appearance surprised Lance, for he was a young man, probably not even thirty, with long brown hair cascading past his shoulders and a small, well-trimmed beard and moustache. Lance gazed at him openmouthed, his hand still on the hilt of the sword.

“You be younger than I thought. How old are you, anyways?”

The knight smiled, a pleasant, reassuring sort of smile. “Much older than I look, I’m afraid.”

Lance spread his arms wide at the myriad weapons with an enormous grin breaching his normally stoic young face. “This place is bitchin’, man! What’s all this stuff for?

“A crusade, young Lance. Wouldst thou learn the use of these weapons?”

Lance’s face lit up as he grabbed for a smaller sword and cut the air with it.

“Hell yeah, but—” His smile dropped, his face clouding with suspicion. “Why me?”

“Methinks, young Lance, that thou doth require nourishment. There be much we must speak of this night if thou art to understand.”

Lance grabbed one of the knives and held it in front of him for protection, sword in one hand, knife in the other. “Why me?” he repeated, hoping the hardness of his tone effectively masked the relentless pounding of his heart.

The young man sighed heavily. “’Twere not by chance thou and I met this night, my boy, but by design.”

“Huh? You gotta start speakin’ real English or Spanish or something cuz I don’t know what yer saying!”

“It was decreed that thou and I should meet this night, for I didst see thee in a vision, young Lance, a vision for the future.”

Lance lowered the weapons, but kept them at the ready. “Who the hell are you anyways?”

The young man unsheathed his own large, gleaming sword, gazed regally down at the boy, gripped the ornately jeweled hilt, and raised the sword aloft.

“I am Arthur, once and future King of Great Britain, and this be Excalibur. Yours is a time and place of immense need, and thus, as ’twas foretold centuries past, have I returned to right the wrongs that plague thy homeland. Amidst the squalor and barbarism of this city, I shalt rebuild my Round Table and change the course of history. And thou, young Lance, shalt be my First Knight. Art thou game?”

Lance’s lower jaw dropped open, and his wide green eyes bulged with amazement. For the first time in his life he understood the meaning of the word “dumbstruck.”

“Huh?” was all he could muster.

Arthur merely grinned in response.

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Children of the Knight

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Edgy Young Adult

Rating – PG13

More details about the author and the book

Connect with  Michael J. Bowler on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://michaeljbowler.com/

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