In the Fall of 1999, I wrote my first novel “The Kingdom Ever-After”. The elation from completing this beast- as far as my joys as a writer- could never be matched.
I finished it in a resort in Tijuana, Mexico. I hitched a ride with some Point Loma University students getting ready for a mission trip. While they were discussing VBS and mission strategies, I was in the back room on my “Apple 1020” slaying dragons and winding up a novel.
This beast of a thing- about 600 pages worth- has never seen the light of day. Only me and my wife has ever seen this story. It’s a bit rough and no longer fits a lot of how I write, so I have given up trying to get it published.
But a writer never throws anything away.
Here’s a fragment. The set-up is an origin story of Sir Bennet, a fiercely loyal knight who was assigned an impossible task of defeating an unbeatable foe. He lives in a land of magic and has a silver right arm. This is how he lost his arm, which would be replaced by a magic one (a story for another time).
One moment, Sir Bennet was smiling, standing, and enjoying life without injury. The next moment, within a hiccup of time, a foul shriek split through the roar of the waterfall and bid all senses to bathe in it’s presence.
A gnarled, black-yellowed Gryphon tore through the dappled green canopy of the woods. It’s eyes, soaked in it’s own blood, scanned the basin and set it’s focus on Sir Bennet. It’s black muscles, rippling with yellow veins and fluttering tissue, swung taught as it flapped it’s wings in it’s descent. Within a swoop and a roar, it landed on a rock clawing it’s way out of the water.
Sir Bennet charged to the beach and sand closest to the demon bird. It stood erect, about fourteen feet tall. It’s head was tilted, like that of a drunken man. It’s teeth a drooled orange foam.
“So, what parts do you come from, demon?”, Sir Bennet called out, drawing his sword.
“From the ruins of Maldor. Yourself?”, the Gryphon answered.
“From the Vald, the center of the 12 Kingdoms.”
“Why do you journey so far north?”
“We come in peace to bring allegiance in the northeastern territories. The Yellow Kingdom would wish all of us as slaves and our lands free for their plunder.”
“I know nothing about kingdoms or territories. My philosophies seem crooked to most men, for I live beyond the thinking of mere, mortal men. Yet we agree in one thing: the murder for the sake of one’s own survival. I live by this and this alone. I am cursed with speech and bound by oath to engage in dialogue with all of my victims before I attack. It is my honor.”
This was true. Gryphon were bound, just as they were bound to both breadth and sleep, to engage in a philosophical discourse before they attacked an oppenant. To them, it was a way to accumulate honor and gain power. If the creature denied a philosophical discourse, the Gryphon just attacked, regretfully, and defeated it’s opponent without honor.
“Well, you’ll find there is no honor greater than those who defend the Green Queen’s glory.”
“Good. So, what will we discuss before we wrestle in death’s embrace?”
“Are you given much to ethics?”
“Afraid not. It’s not my particular field of study.”
“Epistemology”, declared the Gryphon, “The study of knowing.”
“Oh, then let’s discourse. Shall we take the classic debate?”
“How do we know we’re dreaming and that what we think is real just a series of self-created stimulus or is there such a thing a objective reality?”
“Right. I’ll take the grounds that are a little more existential. I’m all in favor of assuming that life is a dream and that our views of reality are self-generated.”
“I disagree. Within every human or inhuman soul, I believe, is a desire for narscicisum.”
“A love of oneself? I suppose you believe that is wrong.”
“Oh, it is. A self-love obscures one’s devotion to the authorities and powers above yourself. The Queen needs a subservient knight and a warrior who’ll carry out her wishes without question. Her views, dreams, and plans I may not know about nor agree with, but that’s not the point. The point is that I obey and my obedience empowers those above me and, through that empowerment, they become wiser and richer and better. Self-love, caring only for oneself and basing all decisions upon this love, is, frightfully, within all of us.”
“I agree. We all want ourselves to survive for our own self-preservation because our own loss will be felt, by us, the most.”
“Exactly. So if life was a dream, generated by myself, it would not include altruism as the chief goal of every man.”
“It smacks in the face of my love for me. If I was creating my own reality, I would be the hero and the God, able to accomplish anything and all of the rules, laws, and ethics would be based around me being able to have and do and say anything. However, life is not like that. Instead, I’m on a beach talking to a Gryphon who I must fight and lay down my life in order to protect my men. The correct and moral thing to do, in this cosmos that is what I call reality, is the most altruistic. If I was creating my own world, I wouldn’t have the rules to work like that.”
“Granted, life is full of undesirable outcomes and possibilities representing an equally undesirable moral cosmos. However, there is a flaw in your argument. You have made the unqualified assumption that altruism is a qualified virtue-it is not. Rather, it is a value only by the value you’ve ascribed to it.”
“You laying down your life is honorable only because you have ascribed value to this action. Whereas if I was dialoguing with a Son of Fenrest, he would see the option of his self-sacrifice as absurd.”
“But that doesn’t work. A Son of Fenrest is not part of a hierarchy, an order that demands obedience from it’s members and the lives of it’s warriors. It’s a band of cut-throats. That’s like a man born blind demanding that there is no such thing as color because he’s never experienced it.”
“Yet, for his case, he has never seen color and, therefore, it doesn’t exist for him.”
“Perception and interpretation is not the final authority on whether or not something exists or not.”
“Why not? That’s the whole crux of my argument. Based upon my argument, I make the assumption that my perception of dreams and reality are one and the same. Therefore, I perceive reality as a dream and a dream as a reality. I ascribe a set of values to one and another set of values to the other. As a result, my view of reality is based upon my set of values.”
There was a silence. Sir Bent’s men started to swim towards the perched Gryphon exchanging ideas with their general. “I see we are at an impass.”
“A noble goal for a good dialogue.”
“For some dialogues, yes.” Sir Bennet drew his sword. “I quite enjoyed our chat. It’s rare to find such intellectual stimulation out on the field.”
“I quite agree. You are well informed, soldier. A bit orthodox, but informed.”
“Thank-you. That means a lot, coming from a learned for like yourself.”
They both straightened themselves out and got into their battle stance. Sir Bennent’s men began to swim closer.
The Gryphon shrieked with a blare that vibrated the trees, rocks, and bones of everything in the basin. Sir Bennet gave a pronounced yawp and leaped onto the Gryphon.
He landed on it’s belly, pulling himself up to it’s neck by grasping at it’s thick, weed like feathers. He threw himself back and then lunged his sword into the base of its neck.
The Gryphon recoiled in pain. It screamed with a gargling of it’s blood. Sir Bennet yanked out the sword and began to hack at it like he would hack at a tree trunk. The Gryphon snapped back into battle, lunging it’s beak at Sir Bennet. As quick as a snake’s strike, the Gryphon had plucked off Sir Bent’s right arm.
His men, at first, thought that the Gryphon had grabbed a river log or a tree branch. But the blood soon spit out of his wounds. Sir Bent’s side became a second waterfall, not of river water but of human blood. He quickly secured himself with his left hand and pulled himself up to the creature’s neck. He has lost his sword in his right arm, so he was without a weapon. However, instinct took over and he began to gnaw with his own teeth at the Gryphon’s neck.
The Gryphon howled. Sir Bennet tore deeper with his teeth. More blood and gore rumbled out of the wounds. The Gryphon began to slow down in its fury. Sir Bennet began to chew as if he was in a pastry eating contest. Within a few more moments, the Gryphon fell backwards in defeat and death. Sir Bennet fell in the water with the beast.
His men were silent. Markham stood with his mouth wide enough to catch horse flies. Silence.
Sir Bennet emerged from the water, thundering from the depths like a Kracken. His face was pale, his eyes burned, his body bloody, and arm missing. He inhaled life. Opened his eyes. Silence froze the men.
His voice charged, “Gentlemen, rest time is over! Send a surgeon to sew up my arm! We pack up in a half an hour!”
Pressure was applied, he was bathed in cold water, and the bleeding stopped after enough herbs and medication was treated. His arm was not found, Sir Bennet deemed, “That foul demon swallowed it just to get the best of me!” After about a half an hour, the hole where his arm once had been was sewn up and Sir Bennet was put on his horse. Dried blood was still caked on his face and his shirt was in ribbons.
But they continued their journey.
Markham tried to urge Sir Bennet to turn back, “Look, your in no position to ride. You’re hurt and you’ve lost blood. The Queen will understand, I think, if we had to go back….”
“Look”, Sir Bennet barked, wincing from his pain, “I’m in every position to ride. I am the Queen’s hands, eyes, and sword. It is my place, despite my present discomforts, to carry out Her will.”
“You just had your arm gnawed off!”
“What if I lost my ear? Or an eye? Would I be shirking my responsibilities then? A toe? What if I lost a toe on the trip? I’d be a coward, a self-interested goat to give up on the Queen’s errand. Well, as luck would have it, I lost my whole right arm. And the errand still remains. Look, orders are only as good as when they are followed. I must follow the Queen’s wishes.”
“To the death?”
“Oh, that’s where her orders begin.” His eyes rattled in his fire.
They continued on their journey.