A Sinner Never Stays Dead
The Schwarze Ritter was a figure who would have been mythical to the
people of northern Germany in the Dark Ages through reputation and
hearsay alone, had he not also been so plainly and palpably tangible.
The Schwarze Ritter wore a suit of jet black plate mail armour, umbral
in its pitch as a starless night sky. He wielded a kite shield, heavy
lance, and bastard sword which formed an impenetrable wall of defence
and offence. Any who dared step to him soon found their various
dismembered body parts impacting the ground at a terrific rate.
The Schwarze Ritter carried out single-handed raids on everything and everyone, from peasant festivals to religious conclaves to fortified military positions. There were times he would ride through the thick of a battle even as it was underway, impartially slaughtering both sides. Some said he was blessed by the Devil, others that he in fact was the Devil himself. He seemed to feel nothing but the need to fertilize the fields of strewn-about corpses with innocent blood.
And the Schwarze Ritter had only ever been heard to utter one phrase, which seemed to be his battlecry: “I am not the first!”
Then the Weißer Ritter appeared, seemingly literally out of nowhere. One day the town of Bärneck was recoiling in horror as the Schwarze Ritter picked them off at a sadistically slow pace, the next day they had this unanticipated visitor among their ranks. His armour was alabaster white, and he wielded a kite shield, heavy lance, and bastard sword in perfect parallel of the Schwarze Ritter’s arsenal. He made a promise to the people of Bärneck, that he would shield them from the blows of the Schwarze Ritter with his very body if he needed to.
Rumours and chatter swirled around the strange, blessed knight. Some said he was an angel sent to protect the shepherd’s flock, others a traveling knight from a far-off corner of the world like France, Ireland or England.
The two met when the Weißer Ritter and the Schwarze Ritter rode up to each other in the town plaza, bearing a blatant resemblance to a positive and a negative. Some people scrambled for cover, others stayed to watch the carnage that would surely follow. The Schwarze Ritter, the Black Knight, looked the Weißer Ritter up and down once over before nodding approvingly and speaking.
“Are you pure of heart?”
It was the first time many had heard the Black Knight called the Schwarze Ritter speak, and the first any had heard him utter something other than his battlecry.
“Yes. I am” the Weißer Ritter declared unflinchingly.
“Very well. Then,” the Schwarze Ritter responded, “cut me down. Do it and be done with it.”
The Schwarze Ritter unsaddled himself from his steed and dropped his weapons, spreading his arms out in an invitation of attack. Incredulous, the White Knight called the Weißer Ritter was sure some trickery must be taking place. But as he rode up to the Schwarze Ritter the other man made no move to reach for his weapons, lying useless on the ground as they were. At last the Weißer Ritter tensed his bicep and raised his sword arm. The crowd of curious onlookers waited on tenterhooks for the blade to fall.
“Do you have any last words to the people you have plagued for so long?” the Weißer Ritter asked.
“No, but I do have words which you will understand the meaning of in time” the Schwarze Ritter responded. “I was once like you. I am not the first, and you will not be the last. The Black Knight will be born anew.”
The Weißer Ritter brought his arm down in a cleaving blow, decapitating the Black Knight in a single handy sweep. The townspeople of Bärneck let out a raucous cheer as the Schwarze Ritter’s head fell to the earth, followed by his limp, lifeless body a split second later. At last, good had proven itself the better half over evil. The town’s faith had been rewarded, and their new patron knight was now dearer than family to them.
Over the next few weeks the Weißer Ritter was showered with praise and affection.
He insisted he was no hero, but he grudgingly accepted the gifts and kind words he was given, just to be polite of course. Nevertheless, in time he began to take to heart all of the accolades he was being metaphorically drowned in, and a subtle change commenced taking place. He became arrogant at first before his behaviour escalated to being outright abusive and bullying.
The Weißer Ritter began to hunger for recognition, and at last, it occurred to him in a moment of dread epiphany while he was trying to sleep in the room at the inn he had been offered free lodging in. For all his hard work defending the weak, this occasion he had killed another had been the first time the Weißer Ritter had received praise, true praise. And yet the Schwarze Ritter, the one who he had killed, had known fame for his deeds all his life. It didn’t matter who died, what people really remembered and cared about was the killer. The Weißer Ritter had inadvertently stumbled across one of humankind’s best-kept secrets: it is easier to achieve fame for tearing down everything than for building one ideal up. He seized a torch from the side of his dwelling-space, the foundations of a wicked idea giving his mouth a leering smile.
As the town of Bärneck burned to ashes the Weißer Ritter dipped his armour in pitch tar at one of the nearby stables, giving it a dull black coating which seemed to devour any light which was cast upon it. Truly, the Schwarze Ritter never dies for long.
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