By Ann Marie R. Harvie
The grizzled old knight waited expectantly for the young man to arrive. For the last 50 years he had stood guard and defended the entrance to the Forest of Death. Only those accompanied by the Reaper could enter the forest, for they were the damned. People who wanted to enter the forest on their own, either to end their lives prematurely or to try to get someone back who had already passed through, would upset the balance of the world. It was his job to stop them. Sometimes they would be frightened of him and just run away, but others wanted to fight their way through and he would have to use his large, jeweled sword to beat them back until they gave up.
He came to service as Sentinel on his 18th birthday, chosen almost at birth when his parents brought him to the mouth of the Forest of the Dead and the old knight who defended the forest before him. The old knight selected him from dozens of other babies to take his place when he came of age. Now the guard waiting for the young man he chose 18 years ago to come and replace him. The boy would have been trained since he was a toddler in the fine art of battle as he had been. Nothing but the most intense training by the finest teachers would do for this important post.
The old knight had become weary of late – the sword had gotten much heavier to wield and his step had considerably slowed. His hair had long since turned white and was now thinning. His armor did not shine as brightly as it had when he first arrived to his post. It was time to change the guard. He welcomed being relieved of his duties, although he would miss the animals that lived at the mouth of the Forest of Death, the sound of the nearby stream and the smell of the clean, mossy ground beneath his feet.
In the distance he could hear the clanking of armor approaching. He took a deep breath and let it out. Finally, his job was finished – he could pass the sword to another and the mouth of the Forest of Death would be protected by strong, young arms. Moments later, out of the darkness, walked his replacement.
The old knight smiled at the dark, curly-haired youth. It was the first time he smiled in 50 years. The youth stopped a few feet away from the smiling knight and bowed without smiling back. The old knight expected his replacement to be serious – he was about to undertake serious work. The youth, dressed in new, shiny armor identical in style to the elder knight, stood waiting. The old knight lifted the sword one last time and touched it to his forehead to salute the youth. He then handed the mighty, jeweled sword to his replacement. The new sentinel copied the old knight’s salute to him, touching the sword to his forehead and then lowered it to his side.
The two men changed places, with the young knight taking his new post. The old knight took a few steps away from the entrance to the Forest of Death, stopped and waited. Moments later, the Reaper appeared out of the darkness – a tall figure dressed in a black, hooded cloak completely covering its face. It stopped in front of the old knight, the man who faithfully guarded the entrance to the forest for five decades and held out its gloved hand. The old knight took it. Instantly, he felt as if the weight of the world were off his shoulders. The Reaper led the old knight past the young guard and through the Forest of Death to eternal peace.
Copyright 2018 Out of this World Publishing. Photo courtesy of Pintrest.