Knights of the Lost Chord
A fable by David Beaty
Once upon a time when there were great and powerful kings there were four knights named Sir John, Sir Justin, Sir Raymond, and Sir Graeme. They served their King well, being his personal favorites among all his Knights for they were also talented musicians who had no peer in all his realm. During Tournaments the King would have them seated beside him and they would play for all the crowds to great acclaim. Except for one group of subjects who proclaimed themselves the "The Keepers of the Hall Of Musicians". These men fancied themselves to be astute music critics and public benefactors whose job was to tell all the people of the land what music they should deem worthy and what music they should not. These men set before themselves the dubious task of consistently denying these noble knights entry to their Hall. They did not Say this with Love, in fact they brayed their displeasure rather more like donkeys regaled in regal clothing, than men of true wisdom. No one was ever quite sure why they held such a grudge against these four Knights, especially since thousands of people in the kings realm, and those in distant lands, considered these knights to be the most excellent singers and finest musicians in all the world. Except of course these aforementioned Keepers of the Hall of Musicians, who sat at table and stuffed themselves and decried the merits of Sir Justin, Sir John, Sir Raymond, and Sir Graeme.
One day all four of them were summoned to appear before their King at his palace, The House of Four Doors.
"As always it is Lovely to See You again my friends. A king can ask no greater loyalty than that which you have shown me these many years. Your Minstrel Songs have stirred my soul, and helped me through my Nights Winter Years, as well as my Visions of Paradise and prevented me from becoming a Melancholy Man. But I must tell you I am grievously disturbed by the attitude shown you by The Keepers of the Hall of Musicians. I could deal with them harshly, but to what end? For as my father taught me, 'You may kill a fool, but you will not change his mind.' But I digress. To the matter at hand. I am sure that you have all heard of the legend of the Lost Chord."
The four knights looked at each other.
Sir Justin spoke. "We have, Sire. In fact we have searched for it ourselves as has our fellow Knight, Sir Michael, when he went searching for New Horizons across the sea."
The king smiled. "I am king and as such it is my duty to make proclamations from time to time. Since you have served me well, even to the point of performing as my ambassadors in other lands I have a proclamation to make to you this very day." He unrolled a long scroll.
"Whereas Gawain and the others had their Grail, and St. George had his Dragons, and so on and so forth blah, blah, yes here it is! Quest.. Be it hereby known upon this day that these four knights are to be sent upon their king's errand to seek out and to find the Lost Chord."
The King rolled up the scroll. "So, do you wish to embark on this journey then my noble Knights?"
They spoke among themselves a moment. Sir John said, "We must go. I Dreamed Last Night, a dream that we would soon be on the road again."
Sir Justin stepped forward.
"We do Sire."
The King smiled.
"Then it is done. This very day you shall embark upon a great adventure and travel the Long Highway, to seek out, and to find that which is called the Lost Chord."
With piles of smiles did the King and his four Knights of the Lost Chord drink Vintage Wine and watch the English Sunset. As the Twilight Time deepened the King departed leaving them alone in the great chamber.
All four men felt a shiver go through them. No one spoke. Then Sir John looked at his friends.
"We have heard tales of this Lost Chord, but thought it impossible to obtain."
Sir Raymond spoke. "It is even said by some to be only a myth."
Sir Graeme coughed. "Sir Michael went to seek it so it must exists."
Sir Justin said: "Have we not almost felt it's power so many times? It certainly has to exist."
That night no one slept. As Another Morning dawned it was foggy and cold. They went out to meet the king, but found in his place the Lord Chamberlain.
"Welcome Knights of the Lost Chord." He clapped and immediately four pages led out four horses laden with supplies and armor. The pages dressed each one of them into their armor and they sat on their mounts, swords at their side and waited.
The Lord Chamberlain reached into his tunic and brought out a leather pouch. He opened it and emptied a dark, shadowed stone into his hand.
"This recently came into His Majesty's possession. This stone is said to come from the Lost Chord. When it is red as fire then ye will know ye are close to finding that which you seek."
"How will we know it when we find it?" Sir Raymond asked.
"Why, it will find you. It is Watching and Waiting for they who would find it. You must go Deep and Higher and Higher into the mountains. It is said to be a golden lyre with strings that are blessed. On it can be played a musical note so pure that it can rival the voice of an angel in heaven and to the man who plays it is granted the ability to play this perfect note almost without end. So good luck, and good hunting to you."
The fog suddenly lifted and the sun came out. The knights made their Departure and rode off in search of the Lost Chord. The sun glinted off their armor as they rode through the huge gates of the castle and out of the village until they came to the open countryside.
It was a Long Summer Day and they had ridden for many hours.
"It's like an oven in this bloomin armor," Sir Graeme said.
"It could be worse. It could be raining and your helmet full of water," Sir Raymond answered.
"Then I say, let the rain beat down. I'm hot."
"Take out the stone, then Justin, and let us have a guide to ride by," Sir John said.
Sir Justin took the stone out of his pouch and held it in his hand. They all watched it intently, but the stone just lay there in his hand a solid, milky colored lump.
"Maybe you should hit it or something?"
"Graeme, don't be silly."
"Well I don't know about you but I'm just..."
"Hot. We all know." Justin smiled at him. "But we must go on." .
They rode on until they reached the foot of the fabled Calabash mountains. They went up, into the mountains, deeper and higher.
"Look! Something's happening," John cried out.
Indeed, something was happening. The stone was no longer murky, it was a glowing red like an ember burning in a campfire.
"It's warm in my hand," Sir Justin said softly..
"That's it My Little Lovely!" cried Sir Ray.
They followed the glow of the stone watching it grow brighter and brighter as they got closer to the fabled Lost Chord. It led them to a twisting narrow trail at the base of a weather beaten mountain. Atop the mountain was a castle. Some of it's towers had crumbled, but it was still a sight to make a man's heart beat faster, or to cause him to wake up from a dream bathed in sweat.
"You must be joking. It want's us to go up there?" said Sir Graeme
"So it would appear, my friend," Sir Justin said, then slipped it carefully back in it's pouch and put it in his pocket.
Graeme shook his head. "That castle certainly looks very dark," he said.
"It looks old as well. This seems to be an empire that has turned back to sand," said Sir John.
"I wonder if there's a dragon inside?" Sir Raymond asked.
"Or maybe an ogre or two, eh, Graeme?" Sir John poked him in the ribs.
"Have your little jokes, then, my friends, and at my expense if you will. But Lost Chord or not, this place bloody scares me."
"We came this far at our kings behest. Are you with us Graeme?" asked Sir Raymond.
He stroked his beard. "Of course! Let's have a go at this nightmare. Lead on Justin."
They rode on up the narrow, twisting trail.
"I'd Bless the Wings that would bring us up this trail! That would be The Best Way to Travel." said Sir Ray.
Finally, after many hours, they came to the edge of a dried out moat in front of massive wooden gates. The gates had rusted on their huge hinges and they sagged open in the middle.
There was no sound of summer birds with wings of fire, no insect, no breath of wind. Only silence. They led their horses forward until they came into a deserted courtyard.
"No one to greet us, then?" Sir John said his voice echoing off the stones.
"I'd say this place is Haunted," Sir Raymond said.
"Aye, so it would seem, brother Raymond." Sir John answered.
The horses hooves clattered over the stones. They reached an open ramp leading into the heart of the castle. It was pitch black inside.
"A torch, a torch, my kingdom for a torch. A Candle of Life," Sir Ray said.
"The stage lost one great slice of ham when you took up music."
"Why thank you, Sir John. Your praise has lifted me up. Shall I go on?"
"How are we supposed to go in there. It's not like we can just get off these horses in these metal suits now is it?" said Sir Graeme.
Sir Justin sighed. "We have come here sworn to do our king's bidding. How can we stop now?"
As Sir Justin spoke he felt the stone growing hot in his pocket. Taking it out he held it up and all at once the stone shone so brightly that all the knights had to pull down their visors to shade their eyes.
"There's powerful Magic at work here," Sir John said.
"Aye. I say we ride our horses into that castle, whatever may come." Sir Raymond said.
They all looked at each other.
"For our King!" they shouted and drove their horses up the dark ramp.
The castle was in a terrible state, there were many Shadows on the Walls, some of the beams had fallen down in the great hall and rats scurried past across the floor spooking the horses. There was a peculiar, acrid smell that seemed to pervade every inch of the place.
The stone was blazing , and from the end of the great hall they heard it. A heavenly sound. Music so true, so pure, that that even the horses cocked their heads and listened.
They struggled off of their horses, their armor clanking and rattling. They searched high and lo all over the castle for the source of the sound, but it seemed to move away from them every time they thought they'd found it. Finally in exasperation they turned around. "I know it's out there somewhere!" exclaimed Sir Justin. Just as they were about to reach their Breaking Point they passed the doorway of the great hall and they heard the music again. So soft they had to strain their ears to hear it, but unmistakable.
"It's here in this very room!" Sir John yelled.
The four knights became very still and listened. Sir Justin moved towards the end of a great table.
"It's coming from under the floor!" Justin yelled. The knights knelt awkwardly in their armor and began pulling up the loose stones they found there. There, laying in a dark hole on a bed of dust was the lyre. It glowed gold by the light of the stone.
"We've found it." Sir Justin said.
As they stared at it the strings began to play without anyone touching it. The music echoed off the battered, shadowed walls in the great hall. Sir John gently plucked it from it's ancient hiding place and held it in his hand. Smiling, he handed it to Sir Justin, who handed it to Sir Raymond who then handed it to Sir Graeme.
Then as Sir Graeme held it the music grew softer and softer and the lyre began to grow smaller and smaller until it disappeared in his hand. ..
"It's gone!" Sir Graeme cried.
They stood for a long time, each man lost in his own thoughts.
Sir Justin opened the pouch and was not surprised to find that the stone was also gone.
"We must report back to our king these wondrous happenings that we will be able to tell Our Childrens Childrens Children of these things that have made us Question."
The four knights rode out of the castle into the sun. As they rode the Sun Set and Evening Time came. Such was their wonder at seeing the Lost Chord, the night seemed like it was wrapped in white satin.
The next day they returned to the king and told him their story. Although the story in their eyes was plain to see.
"Tis a marvel, indeed. Pity though you couldn't have brought it back with you. Still was it not a worthy quest my friends?"
"It was beyond Your Wildest Dreams," said Sir Ray. They all smiled.
That night the King held a great banquet in their honor and gave them The Keys of the Kingdom. They played for hours. The crowd was happy and everyone was Sitting Comfortably. Many remarked that this might be the best performance they had ever seen them give.
Except of course the Keepers of the Hall of Musicians who still never seemed to have a kind word for them. They still sat at table and stuffed themselves sneering about tales of a lost chord and pompous musicians as they gnawed on chicken legs and drank flagons of cheap ale given to them by the approved musicians of their Hall.
So it seems that our noble knights never possessed the Lost chord. Or did they perhaps find one of their own? For even as other musicians came and went, and time hurried on, Sir John, Sir Justin, Sir Raymond, and Sir Graeme played better and better, even as the years wore on. The loyal subjects and the true connoisseurs of the finest music still flocked to hear them again and again. Some even traversing great distances, and enduring great hardships to fulfill quests of their own.
But that is another tale.