The Lorelei Signal
The Age of Chivalry
Written by Ray Daley / Artwork by Lee Ann Barlow
Yesterday a nice man just stopped me in the street. "Excuse me, Miss. I believe you dropped your purse?"
He held it up. Certainly looked like mine. So I patted my bag. And it was missing a certain familiar bulge where little Miss Pursey should have been. "Oh, thank you. I guess it must have slipped out of my bag?"
He nodded and smiled. "Yes, Miss, that's exactly what happened. I was a few steps behind you, saw it fall, and picked it up. Now I'm giving you it back. Perhaps maybe zip that bag up firmly, in future? So it doesn't happen again?"
I laughed. "Funny you should say that. It's the second time today it's fallen out. I'll put it right at the bottom, this time. And zip the thing up too."
Then the nice man wandered off, he looked like he had a slight limp.
~ * ~
I was just mugged! That'd never happened to me before! I was crying as the guy ran off, then I saw a sweet old man, he'd collapsed on the floor just behind me. Of course, I ran right over to help him. The mugger only got a few pounds. I had my phone in my jacket. Lots of folks stopped me last month, telling me they'd just picked it up. There are so many nice people in the world! Apart from that mugger, obviously.
So I stayed there with the old man, to see if I could help him. "Are you all right, love?"
I could see him struggling to breathe. I was so glad we'd done that First Aid course at my last job. Once I'd got him in the recovery position he was muttering about something, trying to get up too. Only his body wasn't having any of it. I couldn't do much more for him, other than call for an ambulance and just keep him comfortable.
I held his hand, "Don't try to speak, love. The ambulance is on its way. You just hold my hand tight and they'll be here before you know it, okay?"
"But I... who.." And that was it. Like someone had just flicked a huge OFF switch in his back.
Of course, the ambulance rolled up seconds later. Far too late to do anything but take him away.
~ * ~
I didn't think anything of it at first. Until I was clearing my bag out later that week. It looked like a book. A really old book.
It turned out to be a diary. His diary.
I looked at a few pages near the back. "Kept her dry as the cars splashed through the puddles today. I must say, those new pop-up umbrellas are quite the handy weapon on a rainy day. She almost spotted me a few times. Had to step into the road more than once. Cover still maintained."
I flipped back a few more pages. "Waylaid a rogue who tried to steal her purse. Gave him subtle persuasion by way of my broadsword. Told him to return it and apologise. Third time this month. Will have to hire someone to inform her on personal security if this disturbing trend continues."
Back another page. "The young lady stealing her telephone was no lady, I fear. I've grown used to having to threaten women now. It no longer disturbs me as it once did. Just pulling my knife convinced her that honesty was the best policy."
There were reams and reams of it, descriptions of how he'd stopped muggers, burglars, would-be rapists too. Then I noticed a transition.
As I read further back, I recognised the person he was describing. He hadn't just been protecting me for the last thirty years. He'd been looking after Mum her whole life too. And Gran.
It just went back, further still. His manner of speech more formal, his style of writing got steadily harder to read too, especially when he started using what I vaguely recognised to be old English.
From his diary, I gathered that he'd been protecting the women of my family his entire life. Almost a thousand years.
He'd been a knight, sent on a quest by one of my distant female ancestors. And at some point during that quest he'd discovered the fountain of youth, supping from its waters. And he hadn't been able to complete that quest either. So my many times distant ancestor had charged him with a single responsibility. To keep her female heirs safe from harm, as long as he drew breath.
And that's what he'd been doing for over nine hundred years now.
I always thought I had led a charmed life. While my friends were being duped and conned and mugged, I'd remained safe and sound. And now I know why. I guess I'll have to get used to the big bad world. There's no knight in shining armour to protect me anymore.
The age of chivalry is truly over.
Ray Daley was born in Coventry & still lives there. He served 6 yrs in the RAF as a clerk & spent most of his time in a Hobbit hole in High Wycombe. He is a published poet & has been writing stories since he was 10.
His current dream is to eventually finish the Hitch Hikers fanfic novel he's been writing since 1986.
Tweet him @RayDaleyWriter