A key that can open any lock you choose. That can only ever be used once but for that one time it is unstoppable. Just think of the chaos that would happen if only five such keys existed. The results could be cataclysmic or they could be extraordinary. In the end though the keys would have been used and the world would recover from the chaos to become something new.
What if such a key had existed once? Fiercely guarded until it could be passed on. Kept a secret by its guards who never saw let alone spoke to anyone outside their order. It was a sacred artefact that was known of only in myth and legend. Originally one of ten, the others had been used towards evil means and this one, the last, had been hidden away for safety. This is the story of what happened to that key or more precisely who it was given to.
Let us think back to the disgraced knight. He went on a quest to reclaim him honour and in the end he succeeded. He agreed to be his prince’s knight again on the condition that he could finish escorting a starving family to the nearest place where they could get food and recover.
This story picks up that same tale, later on. After the knight and the prince had returned to their city and the knight had served for many months under his prince. During this time the knight rose quickly through the ranks as he proved himself not only brave and loyal in the face of defeat but a capable commander as well. In fact at the time of this tale the once disgraced knight had risen to be the second knight of the kingdom. Second only to his prince.
And so we begin this tale with the prince holding court in his father’s absence. The prince sat on his father’s throne. By his side stood the knight dressed in full armour with a hand resting on the hilt of his sword. The knight cast a sideways glance at his prince and, though he appeared calm and confident, the knight knew he was daunted by the task of holding court. He’d done so before, of course, but then his father’s advisors had been present and had taken care of much of the business for him. The only comfort he had was that it promised to be a relatively short and simple session.
The knight shook himself from his musings to focus back on the two people in the centre of the room. No doubt the prince would ask his view at some point even if it was in private later. One man was claiming the other let his dogs get into his yard and as a result had lost two chickens. He wanted the man to both pay for the chickens and replace them. The other denied any such event had happened. The knight wanted to groan in boredom, clearly the dogs had killed the chickens but what the man was demanding was way too much.
The prince evidently came to the same conclusion. “You,” he said looking at the chicken owner, “will ensure that your chickens are more secure.” He turned to look at the second man who seemed rather smug, “And you will pay for those chickens.” He glared as both men tried to protest and they fell silent. With a low bow in his direction they left.
The prince sent a half glance at his knight while he waited for the guards to send the next one in. The knight was stubbornly looking straight ahead his hand resting loosely on the pommel of his sword. From the slight twitch of his mouth though, the prince knew he was aware of the scrutiny. The door opened again and the prince turned away to see who had entered. Before him stood a lone man leaning heavily on a staff. He approached slowly as if he was very old but that didn’t fit with his appearance. Out of the corner of his eye the prince saw his knight tense and stare at the man suspiciously.
“That’s close enough,” the prince said, more to relax his knight than anything else. The man stopped but a frown flashed across his features. As soon as it came it was gone but the prince still caught it and his eyes narrowed. “State your business,” he said slightly sharper than usual.
The man though was looking at his knight instead, watching him closely for something. “Don’t you trust me with your prince, knight?” The man asked him, ignoring the prince.
If possible the knight tensed even more at those words. He took a step forward so he was standing slightly in front of the prince. Any other person would have stepped back at the obvious threat in the movement but this man stayed still. “What are you doing so far from your charge, protector?” He asked in response.
“Who says I am knight?” The man replied and the knight froze in shock. Then, to the prince’s surprise, he walked forward and embraced the man. The man embraced him back, “good to see you,” he said.
“Likewise,” the knight replied pulling away. “Why are you here if I may ask?” The knight said curiously.
“I think that is an answer for your prince,” the man replied gently. The knight’s eyes snapped to his understanding dawning in them. With a nod to the man he set about ushering everyone else from the room.
Throughout the exchange the prince watched in silence, growing more confused with each event that unfolded. Just what was going on here? Finally the knight was done and he resumed his place at his prince’s side ignoring the curious gaze up him. Only then did the man turn to the prince. “Long have my people guarded a sacred object, my lord. It was once one of many but they were used for ill ends and now only one remains. I am here to gift it to you, lord.”
He walked towards he prince who half expected the knight to stop him but the knight didn’t move. Instead he seemed to almost give ground to the man, willing him to approach. When the man stood before he prince he drew out an ornate key and offered it to the prince. Realising there was more to this than he knew and knowing already the object was sacred the prince took it reverently with a bow of his head. “What is the key for?” The prince asked curiously after he looked up from studying it.
“Anything and everything, my lord. It only works once though,” the man replied. “It is yours now to use as you will.” With that the man turned and walked away.
He was almost at the door when the prince called after him, “wait.”
The man turned and smiled at the prince, “Ask your knight anything else you wish to know, my lord. He knows all I do, for he is one of us.” His gaze flickered to the knight who stood at the prince’s side, “Guard it well, knight.”
The knight offered a low bow in response, “With my life,” he answered. The man nodded approvingly and then he was gone. The knight straightened and turned to meet the questioning gaze of his prince. He gave a half-smile in invitation for the prince to ask his questions. He was after all the prince’s knight before all else, even sacred duty.
So that was the story of the prince, the knight and the key. What will the prince use the key for? Or will he not use it at all? Either way it will be forever protected by those who call it sacred and those who wish to prevent the evil it could cause. It will be guarded by the prince’s knight both for the prince and for the sacred order who are charged with protecting it.
Written for today’s (yesterday’s) daily prompt: Golden Key