The Black Lance of Talbot

Two knights, one foul – one fair, met in the dust of a forgotten town. This was not the first time.

The war was over. The war is never over.

The Black Knight leaned on his lance. The White Knight tightened her shield-strap.

They had a late lunch. The local inn was nearly empty that day. They talked with the easy familiarity of gravediggers. The innkeep’s bread was stale but the ale was fresh.

A few of the townsfolk made note of them. Enough to tell the tale later, enough to remember the wrong way. None of them remember the toast the Black made. None of them remember the song the White sang. None of them remember that they laughed together.

In the heat of the drowsy afternoon, they rose from their table.

They walked together to the end of the town, walked together behind the ivy-crowned walls of the church, of the graveyard. They paced out the ground together, helped each other with their armor. Then they mounted their chargers. No more words were said.

The Black was a lightning bolt, the White was the mountainside. Again and again they met, ending each pass with more pain, more blood.

It came to chance, as both knew it would. One horse stumbled, one did not. The black lance tore through the white armor. Both knights fell, one rose and leaned on his lance.

The White died soon thereafter. No more words were said.

The Black walked away with his lance.

The townspeople say this: that the Black Knight was a true servant of evil.

That he stabbed his lance into the stones behind the church as a curse, a warning, a blight. That it can cause warts, destroy crops, summon demons when the moons are right. That only a heart as black as night can lift it from where it rests.

But none of them were there. None of them truly know.

The Black Lance waits still, like the stump of a vile tree.

None have been able to lift it. None have ever discovered the fate of the Black Knight, or even so much as his name.

None of them know the secret.

The war is never over.

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