Somewhere, in a far away land, there stood a castle by a lake, with a village at its feet. This had once been a prosperous place to live, with the villagers serving the needs of the castle and in return protected by the knights that lived there, but a terrible curse had fallen upon the castle and the village.
Each night, the villagers hid from this curse; they hid beneath their beds and in their cupboards, in their cellars and basements, and they huddled together in their church, but each night the curse took a few more of them and grew stronger.
It was to this village that a handsome knight and his young squire came a-seeking their fortune. They had planned to present themselves to the lord of the castle, and pledge their swords to his service, but they found the castle gates barred and locked, and had no response to their shouts.
Before they had waited too long, a dozen villagers ran up to them and threw themselves on the ground before their horses.
“O, sir Knight,” they cried, “Have you come to save us from our curse?”
The knight, confused at being met by such wailing, jumped from his horse and spoke to the eldest man there.
“What curse do you speak of?”
The man knelt before the knight and wept. “Each night it comes, sir Knight, and each night we hide from its terror, but each night it takes a few more of us and grows stronger. We fear we have little time left before the curse takes us all!”
“Indeed,” said a woman behind him. “We are now all that’s left of the whole village! But hurry, sir Knight, the sun is sinking low and we must all hide, for it’s at night time that the curse descends!”
The villagers ran back to the village, the knight and his squire following them, and they hid within the church, huddled behind the altar.
“Pray tell,” the knight said to the eldest man, “What is the manner of this curse?”
“You shall soon know,” the man said, quaking with fear, “For the sun has set and it is surely on its way.”
The knight, unmoved by the fear of the villagers, stood at a window and looked out. From the castle he saw an eerie green glow light the night.
“Pray tell,” he said to the eldest man, “What is the eerie green glow I see from the castle, that lights that night in so strange a way?”
The eldest man put his hands to his head and wept. “It is the curse, sir Knight, the curse descending!”
The knight was not moved to fear by a strange light, and went once more to the window to look out. From within the green glow he could see figures moving, the shapes of men armed with swords.
“Pray tell,” he said to the eldest man, “Who are the men that move within that eerie green glow that lights the night?”
The eldest man quaked and shook with fear, so much that he could hardly speak but only whispered in a very small voice.
“They are the dead, sir Knight, cursed to walk abroad in the night, and they come to feast upon our bones!”
The knight looked out of the window once more, and he saw that it was true.
“Truly this is a terrible curse that has fallen upon you,” he said. “Why do you not flee the village?”
The eldest man tore at his hair in fear. “We are unable, sir Knight,” he said. “For by day the way is barred by strange magics, and by night we would be caught by the dead before we could escape!”
The knight looked out of the window once more and grew thoughtful.
“Squire,” he said, “You must shine my armour now.”
The squire obeyed, and shone his master’s armour until it sparkled. He took it to the knight, who shook his head.
“No, that is not good enough,” he said. “Shine it again.”
And the squire sat down once more with cloth and polish, and worked upon the armour until it was as bright as a mirror. He took it to the knight, who shook his head.
“No,” he said. “That will still not do. Shine it again.”
The squire sat down again with cloth and polish, and worked upon the armour until each piece shined like moonlight made solid. He took it to the knight, who took it with pleasure.
“This will do,” he said, and he put on the armour, drew his sword and walked out of the door to the church.
There was a great wailing outside, and the squire went to the window to look out.
The villagers huddled still behind the altar, and they called out to him with shaking voices.
“Pray tell, young Squire, what do you see?”
“I see my master, the Knight, shining brighter than the moon, shining brighter than that eerie green glow,” the squire said.
“Pray tell, young Squire, what do you see now?”
“I see my master, the Knight, riding hard through the village, and the dead following hard upon his heels,” the squire said.
He turned from the window and spoke to the villagers. “We must leave now, by the side door, for while the dead are following my master the Knight they will not follow us.”
“O no,” said the eldest man. “We cannot take that risk. They will surely see us as well, and catch us too!”
“My master the knight shines like the moonlight,” the squire said. “He has captured all their attention, and they will surely not see us as we scurry through the night. We must leave now, by the side door, and while the dead are following my master we shall surely be safe!”
But the villagers would not heed his words, and so the squire made for the side door himself.
“The curse upon you is well deserved,” he said as he left, “For my master the knight sacrificed himself for you and you will not even save yourselves!”
He scurried out of the side door into the knight, and ran through the village. He saw the eerie green glow, and the dead within it, but they paid him no mind for their attention was fastened upon the knight who shone like the moonlight, and the squire ran past without a scratch. He ran and he ran until he reached a high hilltop far above the village, and he watched until the bright spark of moonlight went out, and the eerie green glow descended upon the church, then he ran once more to tell the King that both castle and village were lost.
And that is why, in a far away land, there is a castle by a lake, and a village at its feet, where no man dares to set foot.
© Kari Fay