As ‘Tis the Custom

Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 23

Long, long ago in a land far, far away, a knight rode bravely through a dark, dark wood. His armour was strong, and his sword was true, and so when he met a terrible ogre upon the road, he did not hesitate to step down from his horse and prepare to do battle with the evil creature.

“Hark, yon beast!” he said, levelling his sword at the creature. “I prithee, face my blade in honoured battle. Though thou be but a base monster, you must know this would be better than to turn away, and be run down in ignoble flight.”

“Sorry,” said the ogre, “I didn’t catch any of that.”

“Dost thine low intellect wrestle with my noble tongue? Then plain let me be. I challenge you to single combat, as ‘tis the custom ‘twixt knight and villain.” He made a flourish with his sword for good measure.

“Honestly,” said the ogre, “it’s like talking to Ozzy Osbourne!”

The knight stumbled back in horror, clutching his horse’s reins to stay upright. “Dost thou sully our tale with…” he lifted his visor momentarily to spit, then snapped it down again “…pop culture references?”

The ogre put his hands on his hips. “I dost indeed.”

The knight straightened up. “Then thou art twice the blaggard I didst think. Have at thee!” and he lunged forward.

But “Aha!” cried the ogre, whipping a large, horseshoe-shaped magnet from behind his back, even though he obviously hadn’t been holding one a second ago. The knight’s sword flew out of his hand and stuck to it with a comical boinging sound.

“Verily this is beyond the bounds of natural philosophy! Why dost thou mock our conflict with this implausible levity?”

“I don’t know.” The ogre pressed a finger to the point of the sword, testing its sharpness. “I just thought it was funny. Also, it keeps the swordfight suitable for a very young audience: you don’t want anybody actually getting stabbed.”

The knight glared. “Truly thou art a bast…”

“Uh-uh-uh!” The ogre wagged a finger. “Let’s keep it PG, alright? I don’t want the censors on my ass.”

“But…didst you not just…”

“I was talking about my wisecracking donkey friend. He’s not here now, but if things start to look unsuitable for children, the censors hop on him and start following me around. It’s a real pain in the ass—by which I mean carrying the censors makes the donkey’s back ache.”

“Mine rage boils over!” shouted the knight, grabbing a crossbow from his horse’s pack. “Not only dost thou reference pop culture, thine flagrant disregard for the natural order and free discourse upon the nature of our medium stretches suspension of disbelief to breaking point!” With some difficulty, he drew the crossbow. “I’ll fire mine bolt into thine brain!”

“Woah, woah, woah!” The ogre put his hands up in a “stop a minute” gesture. “You think I’m stretching suspension of disbelief? First of all, nobody in the history of the world has ever talked like you do. Ever. I mean, you keep switching between ‘thou’ and ‘you.’ Pick one! Beyond that, why on Earth are you riding around in full plate armour? It’s hardly casual wear, you know. And finally, sorry to be such a pedant, but you can’t fire a crossbow at all. That term won’t even be invented for a couple of hundred years.”

“Well…” the knight lowered the crossbow. “Those things art trivial and inconsequential.”

“Right. Because small clumsy anachronisms are fine, but obvious deliberate ones are right out.” The ogre walked past the knight and away down the road.

The knight glanced around the dark, dark wood, then clambered back onto his horse. “I liked this place better when the ogres just said ‘grr.’”


If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from Flash Fiction Month 2012 and 2013 collected in OCR is Not the Only Font and Red Herring respectively.

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