(Image by Thomas Wilken from Pixabay)
In the darkness of an ancient wood
Came hoof beats pounding by
While the raging wind did seek to tear
The Moon-Queen from the sky
And silver gleamed beneath the trees
From helm and lance and mail
That black taloned branches could not stay
Although they grasp and flail.
Onwards! And on the riders came
Through the darkling wood
Not storm nor tree could bar their way
Until at last they stood
At forest heart, by water cold
But not to drink their fill
For though the storm still raged above
The mere was dark and still.
Then forward came one armoured knight
Dismounting from his steed
His voice rang out across the lake:
“All here now give me heed!
I am the Prince of Farrownesse
I seek my sister here
For she is taken this night past
And her trail leads to this mere!”
Silence then; and then a breath
Of wind across the lake
And with it comes a boat of iron
Bearing a black-oak stake
And to that stake was bound indeed
That Lady whom they sought
The fair Princess Emerell
First Lady of the Court.
And from the boat there then stepped forth
A figure dark and grim
In armour black beneath the moon
Tall and great of limb
“I took your sister, little Prince”
Came the cold and mocking word
“And I will keep her for my bride
- or will you brave my sword?”
And saying thus, drew that dark Knight
A sword as dark as he
And strode he forth towards the strand
To the waiting company
Brave men all, and loyal too
But none raised sword or spear
The Black Knight’s power held them fast
With paralysing fear.
Straight to the Prince, with mocking laugh
Came that awful foe
And raised his sword - the Prince could not
Defend against the blow
But from the mere a voice cried out
Silver-bright and clear
“Slay him not – I will be yours!
But spare Prince Emorheer!”
The blow was stayed, the Dark Knight turned
And cried with evil glee
“Spare him, you say? I shall not!
And nor shall you go free!”
So saying turned he back once more
To act upon his word
But what was this? The spell was broke!
And the Prince did draw his sword.
“My sister’s word and courage have
Destroyed my fear, Dark Knight!
Come now and meet me blade to blade
In fair and honest fight!”
And so they fought upon that shore
Beneath the storm wracked moon
Sword met sword and blow met blow
As they struggled in the gloom.
Armour was rent and blood did flow
From Prince and Knight alike
And sparks were struck from helm and blade
In the darkness of the night.
While all around the Prince’s men
Were frozen where they stood
And the Princess looked on in helpless fear
Bound to the stake of wood.
Then the Knight drew back apace
“Hold, Sir Prince!” cried he
“Of all the men I’ve fought – and killed!
- None were a match for thee!
But sore wounded are you now, and so
For courage I’ll grant your life
Should you but turn and leave this place
And the Princess as my wife!”
“It shall not be,” The Prince replied
“That I should turn from you
Or leave my sister in your care
- That I will never do!”
And if sword and strength should not suffice
Yet courage will not fail
And though it take my dying breath
Still you shall not prevail!”
So once more they fought: and then
The Prince let out a cry
His sword was shattered in his hand
The useless shards lay by
The Knights black sword rose up once more
But ere the death stroke fell
Cried out once more the Royal Maid
The Princess Emorell
“Courage!” was the shouted word
From the Lady fair
“Courage my brother – or all is lost!
Courage – do not despair!”
A moment then the blow was stayed
The Black Knight glanced aside
And as he did the Prince snatched up
A sword-shard from his side.
And as the foeman turned once more
To do his dreadful work
Emorheer stabbed his broken blade
Into the Knights dark throat
Twixt gorget and plate the shard did pierce
Where whole blade could not pass
And with dreadful cry the Knight fell back
And lay, and breathed his last.
The Princess’s bonds fell loose at once
On the moment that he died
Straight way she leapt from iron boat
And ran to her brother’s side.
“O Brother Prince! Your courage has
A mighty victory won!”
“Not so, sister: twas by your word
That the Black Knight is undone!”
From the darkness of an ancient wood
When the storm-winds rage had died
Came riding men in battle-gear
And the Princess by their side
With a tale to tell of the Black Knights death
And the courage that oer’comes fear
Of valiant Prince and brave Princess
And a battle by the Mere.