‘Is it worth it?’
‘I… what do you mean?’
The squire shifted the load on the tired old packhorse. The horse gave the squire a long-suffering look. The squire turned back to Sir Pokeabit. ‘This going on a quest… is it worth it?’
‘Worth it? There are dragons to kill, damsons to rescue, treasure to find.’
‘Did you say damsons?’
‘No, of course not.’ Sir Pokeabit looked down at his thigh. There must be some way of scratching it without having to take the armour off again. ‘I said damsels.’
‘Damsels, what are they?’
‘Well-‘ Now his other thigh was itching. How come they never itched when he had his armour off? ‘A damsel is a sort of… well. You’ll see when we get there.’
‘Oh? Where are we going?’
‘On a quest, of course.’
‘Where’s that then?’
‘Erm… that way… probably.’
‘That way? Are you sure… Only-‘
‘The map. I was studying it last night.’ The squire pulled the map from the pack on the old horse’s back. The packhorse looked at the squire as if expecting him to remove something a bit heavier as well.
The horse snorted and started munching grass when it looked as though there would be no more relief from the weight on its back. The knight’s horse Stormtreader and the squire’s horse – which like the squire had no name – joined the packhorse for the impromptu picnic.
Meanwhile the squire spread out the map on the ground next to Sir Pokeabit. The squire helped the knight clank down to his knees.
‘Look. It says here,’ the squire pointed. ‘Here be dragons.’
‘So?’ Sir Pokeabit pretended nonchalance as he quickly searched the rest of the map for a less dangerous direction to take. ‘Does it say anything about damsons anywhere?’
‘Do you mean damsels?’
‘That’s what I said.’
‘No. There’s just the known lands. The Endless Sea, and this bit with the dragons.’ The squire tapped the map.
Pokeabit was silent, trying to think of a way out. Questing was never this difficult in the tales.
‘Do you think…’ the squire was uncertain, ‘do you think I could have a name?’
‘You? A name?’
‘But you are a peasant… well, near enough.’
‘I can read though.’
‘Hmmm. Let me think about it. Meanwhile, maybe we ought to ease ourselves into this questing business a bit more slowly than I first envisaged.’
‘A wise choice, sire.’
‘Can you see somewhere nearby where we could… erm quest to, perhaps?’
The squire pretended to study the map. He pointed to the road heading off to the west, tapping the route on the map with his other hand. ‘We could go that way.’
Sir Pokeabit sighed with relief. It was the opposite way to the dragons. ‘Why that way?’
‘We could go on a quest to an inn. There is one that way.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘My uncle runs it. He has a name too.’ Sump was not much of a name admittedly, but Uncle Sump did brew good ale.
‘A quest to an inn?’ Pokeabit pretended to consider it. ‘I am feeling a bit peckish.’
‘Me too. And thirsty.’ It was very good ale.
‘Lead on young… er… well, just lead on and I’ll think of a name for you later.’
‘Yes, Sire.’ The squire helped his master mount his horse, rolled up the map, took up the reins of the packhorse and got astride his own mount.
‘Perhaps,’ Sir Pokeabit mused as they headed down the road, ‘someone at this Inn will know what a damson is.’
‘That’s what I said.’