The Narrative of the White Knight Concerning his Interactions with one Alice Liddell, Part One.
Standing tall in the stirrups I warily look each way, armed with the knowledge that his terrible fiery diatribe is never far from my neck. My armor is old and painfully out of fashion, the greaves shaped in Byzantium style, pauldrons etched extravagantly with gilded metaphoric insignia. My armament is equally antiquated, a mace with spherical spike encrusted head, a shield of vert field with white crown resplendent and of course my trusty scimitar, honed for both cutting remark and quick riposte.
Some might say I cut a figure somewhat set for ridicule, myself I thinks it is an exact and perfect form for Kolbenturnier, that glorious art of combat at which I so excel as to have but one challenger, that pesky malcontent, the cursed sanguine soul, the Red Knight.
The forest is bleak and dark, hunting ground of Jabberwock and Bandersnatch alike, neither which were my misfortune to confront. Instead a raven-haired delinquent I espied held captive by my nemesis Sir Rosehip Hip Chevalier and bound to dwell in that relentlessly resilient Red Monarchs ruby decorated dungeons deep.
“Hold thee varlet.”
My voice was steady and true as should be one that represents the Whitest crown of all.
“Stand clear White Knight, stand clear or be prepared to challenge martially my claim on this, this….”
That appropriate words failed my onerous foe was of little surprise. The child, a human I supposed by exterior appearance was dressed most oddly, as if about to enter into some school or other for instruction in adding and lessens. its blue and white striped dress was very elegant indeed although the lace and calico apron was perhaps a trifle over embroidered.
“I am not anyone’s prisoner and I will not be spoken to thus by a man wearing tin cans.”
Such courage in the face of the Chevalier quite filled my recently undone heart. Rare indeed was bravery in the face of oppression in this realm of endless card tricks and tom foolery.
“Well-spoken young man!”
“Young man? Can you not deduce whilst standing so ungainly upon your horse I am a girl?”
I looked considerable harder for a moment and not being able to immediately decide agreed with the child’s own conclusion.
“I apologize young miss. It is indeed a distance from up here to there, especially as my eyes have been quite moist so recently from tears of woe.”
I had avoided the Red Knights gaze thus far, wishing to ensure he understood my indifference to his presence.
“Avast White Knight!”
“Avast? Avast? Are you piratic-ally inclined Sir Rosehip? Have you booty on your mind? Doth your barnacles shiver for pieces of eight?”
Having recently rested on a shelf next to Stephenson’s illustrated volume of ‘Treasure Island’ I was very well acquainted with buccaneer ballyhoo.
“Do you insult me varlet?”
The Red Knight aimed a gauntlet at my face but missed by some considerable distance. A typically misdirected Chevalier shot.
“I challenge thee to trial by combat for this precious treasure.”
The Red Knight having made the challenge it was naturally beholden on me to accept.
The girl seemed somehow overly inclined to remonstrate against our duel.
“You cannot fight to win someone who does not wish to be won.”
“Are you a female or not?”
My adversary, already a bright shade of scarlet, was coloring deeper with oncoming vexation.
“And why does that matter?”
“Because females are not allowed to argue.”
I felt it necessary to make a point.
“Unless they are the Queen!”
“Well yes, but that goes without saying. Girls are weaker, slower, less inclined to martial pursuits.”
I definitely felt I had my opponent well in hand.
“Unless you are the Queen.”
“Really? You insist on this continuous haranguing? Gird up they self and have to.”
The girl being that particularly helpful sort inclined to kindness recovered the Red Knights gauntlet from a wayward jub-jub bird’s beak and handed it up to his eager grip. I took a moment to consider the noble quest I was about to sally forth upon and whether any poignant last words would be appropriate, but my hand was forced.
“Let’s do get a move on, its nearly time for tea.”
We maneuvered ourselves to opposite ends of the small clearing where we had met. This repositioning took some time as both our mounts having been trained in the classical style had to move sideways a third as far as they moved forward. Arrival at a specific spot often took the application of both advanced mathematical theorem and calculus. Luckily, we both were students of Dodgson’s Curiosa Mathematica, both volume one and two, managing to finish at our beginning within the hour.
The rules of Wonderland Kolbenturnier are very strict and must be adhered too without fail. Simply gripping a wooden club between your forearms takes a lifetime of practice and striking the opponent around the ears whilst yelling ‘that’s the way to do it’ is equally fraught with technical difficulties. Imagine then the additional stress of calculating the required precise geometric movements to bring your adversary within range of a telling blow and you begin to appreciate the unique wondrous splendor such a joust entails.
The scoring and penalty system is simplicity itself. A knight who receives a blow must immediately catapult himself from the saddle and land with extreme velocity upon his naked unencumbered pate. A knight who misses an opponent’s head with an aimed blow must immediately catapult himself from the saddle and land with extreme velocity upon his naked unencumbered pate. Duels are self-regulated and cease immediately upon the concussion of either or both of the participants.
And so we waited, nobly mounted, facing each other with cudgels firmly gripped and jaws well set. A minute passed, then two and still we waited. I admit the strain upon my forearms was beginning to tell and from the look in his eyes my opponent felt a similar encumbrance.
“Will you not say go?”
The girl looked a little amused.
“I will not!”