An old crone cried out. “Daisies for sale!” she shrieked.
The squire sneered. “Why would my lord desire to buy a daisy?”
The haggard old woman was standing beside a meadow. The old woman was apparently selling the flowers which God himself had put in the middle of the meadow. It was a pick it yourself kind of operation.
“Daisies for sale!” she repeated loudly.
“Do you own this land?” the knight asked.
“No,” the old woman smiled.
The squire was indignant, “Then what gives you the right to sell these daisies?’
“I sang to them every morning,” she replied “It was my melodies which made them beautiful.” The old woman began to sing in a warbling yodeling screech. All the nearby birds fled in fear, their wings fluttering rapidly. The old woman continued to sing; oblivious to tone or pitch. The horse nearly reared. Kurestan tugged on the reins, nuzzling the equine’s nose to calm him. The old woman finished singing, looking at the knight and the squire as if she were expecting applause.
Kurestan obliged the old woman, softly clapping his hands together. His horse pawed at the ground; anxious to get moving.
“That was bloody awful,” the squire exclaimed, “Even wailing banshees cover their ears when they hear that screech.”
“Be polite now,” the knight commanded his squire. Kurestan nodded towards the old woman. “It takes a beautiful song to raise beautiful flowers.”
The old woman grabbed two corners of her tattered skirt and curtsied.
Kurestan stated, “There is still the matter of why would I want to buy a daisy?”
The squire snickered.
The old crone explained, “A knight who wears a daisy upon his breast pledges his undying eternal love to his lady true.”
Kurestan dreamt of his beloved Princess Mary. “You have sold me,” The knight declared, “I will buy a daisy.”
The crazy old witch continued her pitch, “When a knight wears a double daisy, it means the lady has pledged her heart and her virtue to the knight in return. Would you like to buy two daisies?”
Kurestan laughed, “How much?”
“A farthing and a shilling for just one flower;” she replied. “And two shillings exactly for two daisies.”
“Squire,” the knight commanded. “Hand the lady two shillings.”
“She’s no lady,” the squire grumbled.
Kurestan ordered. “Hand her two shillings and treat her with respect.”
The hag cackled. The squire dropped all the heavy weaponry; lance, shield, and armor. He rolled his shoulders, stretching his back muscles. The squire dug deep into his purse and handed over two shillings to the old hag. She took the shillings with a smile and held out her hand for the squire. “If you want, you may kiss my ring.”
Wha…” the squire began to object but Kurestan shot a hard glare in the squire’s direction.
“With respect,” Kurestan repeated. The squire grumbled under his breath and pinched his nose to cover up the smell. He puckered up and leaned in. The crone held out her fingers in delicate anticipation. “That’s not a ring!” the squire exclaimed as his head reared backwards. “You have a worm tied around your finger.”
“Lovely color brown don’t you think?” she held her hand up to the light admiringly.
Kurestan cleared his throat. “I believe I purchased two daisies,” the knight said. “And so far I have none. We must conclude our transaction so I can move on down the road. I have a jousting tournament to attend.” As if he understood his master’s words, the horse tugged gently at the reins, anxious to move on.
“Yes,” the squire agreed. “We will take our two daisies and head down the road.”
“Pick whichever two flowers you prefer.” The old woman gestured to the whole meadow, a meadow filled with thousands of daisies.
“I have to pick them myself?’ the squire was exasperated.
“I raised them from little sprouts; singing to them every single morning - rain or shine,” she exclaimed. “I could never pluck them. That would be murder. You will have to kill them yourself.”
“All right then,” and the squire bent to the ground to pick two daisies. As his fingers closed on the first stem, the old woman’s bare foot shot out fast as lightning and pinned his wrist to the ground. “You can have any flower in the meadow except that one.” she stated firmly.
“What is so special about this one.” the squire said through gritted teeth, her foot still atop his hand.
“It is the first daisy of spring.” she said.
“And I suppose,” Kurestan pondered out loud. “A special flower costs a very special price?”
“One hundred silver marks” she exclaimed.
“That’s ludicrous,” the squire shouted, yanking his arm. As his hand tugged out from beneath the old woman’s heel, she toppled over backwards.
“How can you be so sure that this very daisy,” Kurestan asked, “Is really the first daisy of spring? They all look the same to me.”
“I stood here every winter morning,” She replied, “In my bare feet, in ankle deep snow, I stood here every cold and chilly sunrise, so I would be here when the first seedling sprouted above the earth. It was that one right there.” She pointed. “I am certain.”
“We will not be buying that one today.” Kurestan said.
“You’ll be sorry,” the old hag teased.
The squire hastily picked the two daisies closest to him. The squire and the knight struggled to pin the double daisies together on the knight’s shirt. The knight dropped the reins as the two bachelors struggled with pinning the flower. “Not like that,” Kurestan barked. “It will fall off and be lost along the road.” The squire pinned it a little firmer. “Ouch,” Kurestan cried out, stabbed in the chest. He could feel a thin rivulet of warm blood run down his flesh. “Let me do it.” Kurestan secured the second daisy.
The squire was frustrated. “We have given the foul harpy two shillings. We have our two daisies. Can we start down the road towards our destination now?”
“Indeed,” the knight agreed. “We have a jousting tournament to attend.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to buy the first daisy of spring?” the crone asked. “There are all sorts of legends and magical powers associated with it.”
“No we don’t want to give you a hundred silver marks for some silly flower.” the squire retorted.
“I am afraid the lad is quite right.” Kurestan said. “We must be on our way.”
“What about the rest of the money you owe me?” The hag held out her hand, palm upwards.
“Rest of the what?” the squire raised his voice so he was shouting loudly. “Why do we owe you any money?”
The old woman pointed at the horse. If horses aren’t doing anything, they generally just stand there and eat. This horse was no exception. The knight’s steed was dining upon daisies in the meadow; about four shillings a bite, and right then he had a mouthful. Kurestan laughed. “Pay the lady.” He ordered. The squire reluctantly opened his purse again while the knight called his horse, swung himself upon the beasts back, and started down the road. The squire finished his transaction and hurriedly picked up his heavy gear, shuffling swiftly down the road to catch up. The squire sniffed his wrist, a bruise was forming where the witch had stepped on it.
“I’ll never get rid of the stench.” he grumbled. “Imagine that,” he continued to mutter to himself. “A stink so strong that with one touch it clings to you forever.”
Kurestan did not bother listening to the squire grumbling. Instead he smelled the flowers pinned to his breast, and dared to dream of his beautiful princess.
Long after they were out of sight of the old woman and her meadow full of daisies, Kurestan could hear the whispers of her voice on the wind. “You’ll be sorry,” the old crone cackled.
There were harlots scattered all along the jousting field; hoping to win the heart of a champion and fill their purses with prize money. No matter how the strutting strumpets posed and preened, Kurestan was not distracted enough to give them a single glance. The stadium was filled with flags and banners. The banners proudly displayed the family crests of the competing knights. Fluttering in the breeze, the brightly colored pennants were quite a sight to behold and many of these family crests had played a historical role in the important battles of Europe. The trumpeters sounded their glorious brass fanfares, music as bright as the sun. The royals paraded about their box, displaying fine clothes and plenty of jewels. Kurestan stared into the royal box, not because of the opulence on display, but rather because he was looking for the greatest treasure of them all.
Princess Mary was wearing makeup consisting of violets and goats milk to give her cheeks a rosy hue. Every day she bathed in strawberries and cream, keeping her skin soft and supple. She washed her hair with peach blossoms and afterwards added a dash of cinnamon so her hair would smell red. Around her neck she wore a necklace of lilies of the valley, white flowers which represented the tears of Eve being driven from the Garden of Eden.
The knights donned their battle gear. Their squires hoisted them into the saddle. Then all the knights adorned the field, their squires standing behind them, holding up their flags, colors waving in the breeze. Princess Mary smiled, as radiant as the sun itself. Kurestan smiled back at her, telling himself that they were locking lover’s gazes; that the princesses smiles were meant just for him. The problem was that everybody staring at the royal box thought the same thing. Everybody in attendance, the knights, the audience, and even the strumpets were smitten with the beautiful Princess Mary. She waved to the crowd and everybody waved back as if she was waving just to them.
Then the king stood up and made a long winded speech. Kurestan never heard a word of the king’s oratory, focusing all his attention on Princess Mary. She nervously adjusted her hair, bored while her father spoke, running her fingers through her long red curly locks, and adjusting the wreath of daisies atop her hear head.
Wreath of daisies!
Why had Kurestan not noticed that she was wearing a wreath of daisies? One daisy proudly displayed on the breast, meant that a knight had pledged his love eternal to a beautiful maiden. A double daisy worn upon the breast meant that the lady returned the knight’s affection and had pledged her love too. A wreath of daisies, meant that a young woman had many suitors and had not yet decided whom to marry.
Kurestan looked down at the double daisy upon his breast and felt his heart shatter. He plucked the second daisy from his shirt and tossed it down to the ground where his horse could trample it beneath his hooves. He had been such a fool! Kurestan reached down to pluck the other daisy when the long winded king finally finished his speech. People were so pleased the speech was over, they began to applaud like thunder. The trumpets were raised, heralding the beginning of the tournament. As his gaze turned upwards, Kurestan saw his beloved princess one more time. She was so beautiful he sighed. He decided the remaining daisy could stay where it was. Kurestan was determined to win the jousting tournament and then the young woman’s heart. Then he could wear the double daisy again.
Kurestan was victorious in match after match, sending a long series of riders tumbling from their horse’s backs. Some of the defeated limped from the arena, while other losing knights needed to be carried away.
After every victory, Kurestan would turn and face the royal box, ignoring the kings salutation but returning the princess’s smile. Then he would pause to sniff the daisy upon his breast, remembering his pledge of undying love, and seeking inspiration as he prepared for the next match. Kurestan hoped that when he was declared champion, Princess Mary would decide to discard her wreath of daisies and they would both wear double daisies upon their breasts. At last, Kurestan was only three victories from being crowned champion.
There was a fanfare of trumpeting and the two combatants stepped on to the field of play for their duel on horseback. The two knights were already astride their mounts. Kurestan cast a glance at his opponent. The brightly attired warrior was Sam the Saracen. He was famous for traveling Europe and collecting tournament prize money. Supposedly, Sam the Saracen had been a holy terror on the battlefield.
There was a moment of silence while the king addressed the crowd in general and the two jousters in particular. The long slender trumpets blasted another fanfare. The squire led Kurestan’s horse towards the starting position. Kurestan was breathing deeply and slowly, focusing his attention upon the joust.
Sam the Saracen lingered for just a moment. Instead of moving towards the starting spot, Sam kneed his horse gently in the sides and moved it forward just a little, approaching the royal box.
“My lady,’ the Saracen asked. “May I ask you for a favor?”
As the Muslim warrior stared intently at her, Princess Mary blushed and nodded her head. He bowed from the saddle. “May I kiss your hand for good luck?”
She blushed deeper, then smiled, and stretched her arm forward, the fingers trembling nervously. Just as soon as the Saracen puckered up and leaned towards her, the audience gasped. The knight looked over his shoulder and noticed the proceedings. He yanked the reins from the squire’s hands and wheeled his stallion about. Kurestan lowered his spear and charged. The princess squealed and Sam the Saracen pulled back his head just barely in time as the tip of Kurestan’s lance came between him and the princess.
“Your infidel lips,” Kurestan screamed “Shall never be allowed to touch her pure white hand.”
The Muslim warrior glared and backed his horse away from the royal box. “As you wish,” Sam stated coldly. “But I shall run this lance all the way through you to atone for this insult.”
While the audience waited in tense anticipation, the two horses faced each other from across the arena. The two knights sat atop their saddles, remaining motionless, their expressions unseen behind the facemasks of their helmets. The two horses snorted, pawing at the ground, eager to do battle, while the respective squire‘s held them in place. The squire adjusted the bridle of Kurestan’s horse, using the opportunity to lean in and whisper advice to his knight.
“You have made him an angry man.” the squire said.
Kurestan replied proudly, “I do not care.”
“He has killed many men in battle.” The squire whispered.
“I am not afraid,” the knight declared.
“All I am saying,” the squire told him, “Is find a way to use his anger to your advantage.”
The knight smiled. The two horses charged towards each other as the audience cheered. The hooves pounded the turf while the warriors readied their lances, taking aim at each other’s hearts. Both horses flattened back their ears but it was Kurestan who tugged back slightly on his reins. The Saracen charged forward at full speed while Kurestan continued to slow his horse just a little. The Saracen’s noble steed lunged forward while
Sam readied for the attack. Kurestan pulled back on the reins a little harder. Sam the Saracen lunged forward, preparing to finish off his opponent and avenge the insult. To the Saracen’s great surprise his opponent’s horse suddenly veered off to the side at the last moment. Sam the Saracen was expecting a bone crushing collision, had braced himself for it in the saddle. The lack of one threw him off balance, nearly tumbling him from his horse.
In the meantime, Kurestan spun his horse around sharply. Kurestan was now directly behind his jousting opponent. Kurestan’s horse pursued his opponent, charging forward fast. While Sam the Saracen struggled to regain his balance, Kurestan attacked, stabbing his opponent in the buttocks. Startled, Sam the Saracen leapt from the saddle, rubbing his backside. The audience roared with laughter. Sam the Saracen cried foul and ran to the royal box, pleading his case. The king was laughing so hard that tears ran down his face.
“It was not a proper joust,” Sam cried.
“All is fair in love and war,” the king decided. “You were unseated from the saddle.”
Thus Kurestan was declared the victor over Sam the Saracen while the audience cheered their approval. Kurestan’s horse pranced proudly in front of the royal box.
“Your daisy,” Princess Mary shouted, “It has come undone. It will fall off soon if it is not fixed.”
Kurestan looked down at where the daisy was clinging to his chest by a thread and blushed, embarrassed that his beloved would notice the symbol of his devotion hanging askew.
“Let me fix it.” and she motioned him forward. She quickly repinned the flower to his breast. “It must be for someone special,” she said.
“It is,” he replied as he melted beneath her smile.
Kurestan was only two matches from being crowned champion.
The squire led the Kurestan to the arena for the next joust. His opponent this time was a Viking; a barbaric, giant Viking. The Norseman was almost as big as Kurestan’s horse. The Viking’s horse was easily the biggest steed in the tournament. If there was ever such a thing as a carnivorous horse this was it.
“That thing,” the squire gulped as he pointed at the horse, “Looks like it wants to eat me.”
Kurestan looked at the Viking and the same thought crossed his mind.
The Viking had not just defeated his opponents - he had crushed them. The powerful thrust of his lance had shattered the shields and broken the arms of his first few opponents. The next combatant, the Viking had arrogantly dropped his own weapon in the grass and grabbed hold of the tip of his opponents lance, wrenching the rider free from the saddle. To defeat his next opponent, the Viking reached out and grabbed the ears of the other knight’s horse as it was running past, wrestling the equine into submission. Kurestan and the Viking stared at each other across the battlefield. Kurestan blinked first.
Princess Mary dropped the brightly colored scarf and the two opponents charged towards each other at full speed. The Viking and his horse were huge. As the two jousters approached; horses snorting, the Viking let loose with a bloodcurdling scream. Kurestan lost his nerve and pulled hard on the reins, his horse swerving away at the last second to avoid the confrontation. The Viking spun his horse about sharply before Kurestan could charge him from behind. As the two jousters and their two war horses faced each other, Kurestan backed down.
The audience booed.
The Viking turned to the royal box.
“Your majesty,” the Viking addressed the king. “When I have finished off this coward, can I have your daughter’s hand in marriage.”
Princess Mary blushed.
“You already have a wife,” the king replied.
“Viking law allows me more than one wife.”
“Our law doesn’t.”
Kurestan simmered over the Viking’s harsh words. He did not appreciate being called a coward in public even if he had just behaved in a cowardly fashion. Then there was the way Princess Mary had blushed at the Viking’s proposal, as if her innocent royal virtue wanted to be surrendered into the hands of the Viking’s savage barbarism. Kurestan’s blood boiled. There was honor to avenge.
“Princess Mary,” Kurestan shouted “Please give the command to restart us.”
Once again the two horses lined up facing each other, pawing at the earth while their riders tightened their grip on their lances, twirling the long slender spears in their hands. Kurestan was determined not to lose his cool this time.
Princess Mary grabbed a brightly colored scarf and dangled it from the royal box. It was hard to believe that such delicate beauty could release such violent mayhem. Her fingers spread apart and the brightly colored scarf fluttered to the ground.
The two horses galloped towards each other with a violent ferocity. Kurestan would meet the giant Norseman head on and may the best man win. Kurestan centered himself, crouching low so that he could spring like a cat as the horses neared. Both hands gripped the lance tightly, determined beyond reason to prevail as the victor. This time it was the Viking who pulled up short on the reins. Stopping his giant steed short of the confrontation. Bewildered, Kurestan did the same, so that the two horses stood motionless in the center of the arena, facing each other from about thirty feet away. The confused audience watched in perplexed silence.
The Viking shattered the silence with a bloodcurdling scream. The Viking adjusted the grip on his lance and then rolled his massive powerful shoulder muscles. His right arm strode forward with a mighty grunt and the Viking heaved the lance forward like a spear. No normal man could throw the long, unwieldy heavy lances but the giant barbarian was no normal man.
Kurestan looked up to see the long, long spear flying through the air, the tip of the lance coming straight for him, aim good and true. As soon as the spear touched him he would be split asunder. There was nothing Kurestan could do about it. His frightened horse whinnied.
Then the wind gusted. It was almost as if the Gods shined favor upon Kurestan because without the sudden gusting headwind, surely the airborne lance would have found its target and Kurestan met his demise. Instead, the stiff breeze pushed the tip of the lance sharply downwards, sending the spear into the earth short of its target. The strength of the Viking was so great that a little cloud of dust exploded upwards as the tip hit the earth. The lance had been thrown with such force that it ricocheted. The angle of impact was so unusual, that the weapon bounced back in the direction from whence it came - like a boomerang.
The Viking smiled, preparing to retrieve his lance from the sky. Then he would finish off Kurestan, he was certain. His lance came back to him with much more force than he was expecting. The Viking fumbled the catch and handle of his long heavy weapon struck him in the chest, knocking him from the saddle.
“Your majesty,” Kurestan cried out. “My opponent has been knocked from his saddle during the course of combat. No matter how it has happened, by the rules of jousting I have won the match.”
Seated prone on the grass the Viking’s jaw fell agape.
The king laughed and thrust his arm forward while the audience waited in breathless anticipation for his verdict. The king stuck out his thumb and slowly turned his fist downwards. The Viking had lost. The crowd cheered too loudly for the Viking’s angry protests to be heard. The king excused himself and stepped out of the royal box for a moment. Kurestan had just won his way through to the finals.
The last opponent was the Green Knight; a Celtic warrior from the Emerald Isles. The Celt was dressed all in green with a darker green shamrock in the center. He wore a vine necklace, garlanded with flowers hanging down like jewels. At the end of each sleeve he wore bracelets of leaves. Atop his helmet, the Celtic warrior wore the horns of a mighty stag. As they approached the royal box, both jousting knights sat atop their steeds holding their helmets in their hands.
The king exchanged bureaucratic formalities with both warrior athletes, wishing them good luck and reminding them of the lucrative purse which was at stake to the winner. Kurestan paused to sniff the daisy at his breast for inspiration, hoping to win a much more worthy prize.
Princess Mary rose, standing beside her royal father and smiled. God, she was beautiful; so beautiful that Kurestan could not help but gasp.
“My lady,” the Green Knight blurted out. “Might I ask you a special favor?”
Mary pursed her lips, waiting to hear the question.
“Might I have,” the Green Knight inquired humbly, “If I am not too bold in asking, might I have a daisy from your wreath?”
She smiled and removed her wreath from her head, plucking a single daisy to hand to the Green Knight. The Green Knight pinned the daisy to his breast.
“And to whom do you pledge your undying devotion?” she asked.
“To the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,” the Green Knight replied. “I pledge my love eternal to thee.”
The audience gasped at his boldness.
Then to the amazement of everyone present, the princess plucked a second daisy and handed it to the Green Knight. “This love is returned,” Princess Mary said in a soft voice barely above a whisper.
While the stunned audience watched, Princess Mary plucked two more daisies from the wreath and pinned them to her own dress, just above her heart. There was one daisy representing the Green Knight’s love for her and one flower representing hers for him. Princess Mary discarded her wreath. The queen mother fainted. The audience broke into spontaneous cheers.
Kurestan was furious. His one and only true love had forsaken him! And right before the championship match! Not only that but she pledged her love to his opponent.
“Your majesty,” Kurestan interrupted. “Don’t we have a jousting match to proceed with?’
“Quite right,” the king said. “You are a practical man. I like that. Gentleman, to your marks.”
While his squire was leading him to his starting position, Kurestan pulled the remaining daisy from his shirt and fed it to his horse. He vowed to win now more than ever. His horse snorted. Kurestan was so angry that he snorted too.
“Remember,” his squire warned him. “Do not allow your opponent to use your anger to his advantage.”
Kurestan never said a word, focusing all his attention on his opponent. Kurestan spit. Princess Mary leaned forward dangling her brightly colored scarf above the earth. She did not cast a single glance in Kurestan’s direction but locked her gaze lovingly on the Green Knight. Kurestan suddenly charged forward, holding the tip of his lance out in attack.
Startled, Princess Mary looked up and dropped her scarf. Surprised, the Green Knight realized his opponent had already advanced halfway towards him. The Green Knight realized too late that the scarf was now fluttering towards the ground, he urged his horse forward. The Green Knight adjusted himself in the saddle, extending his arms and thrusting his lance as he prepared for the onset of battle. Kurestan’s horse raged forward, hooves pounding the turf as Kurestan took aim at the center of his opponent’s chest. As the two opponents neared, Kurestan leaned forward, lunging from the saddle and thrusting his lance towards the Green Knight.
Startled and still off balance from the unexpected start, the Green Knight barely had time to react. The move the Green Knight used to defend himself was more appropriate to swordplay or fencing but the Green Knight parried Kurestan’s blow by deflecting the tip of his lance. The Green Knight pushed the point of Kurestan’s lance downwards. With his arms extended, Kurestan was unable to deflect the Green Knight’s defense. The tip of Kurestan’s lance drove into the earth, burying itself in the dirt; the shaft snapping in half.
The audience roared, assuming that the Green Knight had been victorious and would now marry the princess. Kurestan spun his horse around, holding his half lance at the ready, jagged broken edge pointing outwards. His horse was pawing at the ground ready to charge once more. As soon as the crowd quieted down, Kurestan spoke to the king.
“Your majesty,” Kurestan announced. “Would you ask your daughter to drop the scarf and start another jousting charge?”
The king replied, “But your lance is shattered.”
Kurestan shouted defiantly, “I will never surrender.”
The king uttered a command which caused a servant to scamper out of the box, picking up the scarf and handing it to the princess. Princess Mary took the scarf reluctantly, holding it by her fingertips as if it carried some sort of disease. The Green Knight swung his horse slowly to the starting line, pleading his case to the king. “I do not want to hurt him. Surely, the match is finished.”
“But you did not unseat him from the saddle.” the king explained. “By the rules of jousting you have not yet won.”
“I will never surrender,” Kurestan repeated. He held his horse and his lance at the ready.
The princess dropped the scarf and the two horses charged each other. Kurestan urged his horse on faster and faster, rushing recklessly towards his hated opponent. The Green Knight’s horse trotted forward, his heart not into it, trying to find a way to defeat his opponent without hurting him too badly. Kurestan was just the opposite, his heart was so badly scorched with jealousy that he no longer cared about victory but wanted to inflict the most damage possible upon the Green Knight as retribution for stealing the princess’s heart.
The two horses flattened back their ears as they approached each other. The Green Knight held the tip of his lance straight outwards, expecting his advantage in length to provide an easy victory. As the Green Knight’s horse galloped forward, Kurestan did nothing to defend himself.
Instead, he did something highly unexpected. Kurestan abandoned his horse and leapt from the saddle. Kurestan let loose with a blood curdling scream which would have made the Viking proud. Kurestan flew through the air, just above the Green Knight’s weapon, traversing the length of the shaft, soaring straight towards his target. Kurestan rammed the broken edges of his lance into the center of the two daisies the Green Knight wore upon his breast.
The Green Knight toppled backwards from the saddle with Kurestan falling down on top of him. Kurestan used his body weight to press down, the jagged edges of his broken lance piercing the Green Knight’s armor. The audience gasped as Kurestan stood above his fallen opponent, still holding the broken lance with his bloody hands. With a malicious grin, Kurestan twisted the grip on his lance. The Green Knight cried out with a sharp yelp of pain. He raised his head, looked into the royal box, and mouthed the words “I love you,” before he groaned, dropped his head and died. Princess Mary broke into tears and fled from the royal box.
The audience booed, throwing rotten vegetables on to the field and in Kurestan’s general direction. “Foul! Foul!” the king cried out. “I declare there is no true champion at this tournament.”
Kurestan walked to the royal box, pleading his case to collect the prize money, and still hoping beyond hope to somehow win the real prize - Princess Mary’s hand. The king was unable to hear Kurestan’s words above the raucous boos of the crowd. In the background, Kurestan could see the queen mother consoling her daughter. Princess Mary wept and wept for her fallen hero. Realizing that she would never love him now, Kurestan hoped that her tears burned. Kurestan’s horse stood beside him, grazing upon the discarded daisy wreath. When the last daisy had been eaten; Kurestan, his horse, and squire all exited the jousting arena; feeling victorious and defeated at the same time.
The road home took them through the same forest, leading them to the same meadow, where the same strange smelly old woman stood in the same spot selling daisies. Kurestan led the way, loosely holding the reins of his horse as it followed behind, with the squire in the rear; carrying all the heavy weaponry.
“How was the jousting tournament?” the old crone inquired.
Kurestan grumbled something indecipherable under his breath.
“The Green Knight wanted to buy the first daisy of spring.” The hag explained. “The first daisy of spring has special powers you know. The Green Knight didn’t have a hundred silver arks but I let him kiss the flower for ten. Told him it would bring him good luck. Tell me did he win the tournament?”
“Hardly.” the squire snapped. “He lost badly. Your precious daisy didn’t bring him any luck at all unless it was bad.”
The shocked old woman gasped. “B…b…but…” She stammered.
Kurestan sighed. “Remember squire, the Green Knight won a much more valuable prize.”
“What could be more treasured than a jousting purse?” The squire said.
The old woman interjected. “Love… true love is the most valuable prize of all.”
Kurestan’s face grew red, his blood boiled, and he even snorted like an angered wild boar. Suddenly the crone understood. “The Green Knight stole the heart of your true love.”
Kurestan was so angry he couldn‘t speak. Instead he spit, a thin line of venomous drool landing with a small splash in the grassy meadow.
“The Green Knight didn’t win the tournament,” The hag surmised “But he did win the heart of the Princess. That was his good luck.”
“His luck couldn’t have been too good,” the squire retorted. “He’s dead now.”
“Dead?! How?!” she cried out.
“I killed him.” Kurestan stated coldly.
“Out of jealousy!? You bought a double daisy,” the hag complained. “That is supposed to mean that your true love returns your devotion. You cannot decide for her. If you bought two daisies without asking her permission then you got what you deserved”
Kurestan leapt into action, he removed his sword and leapt forward, planting all his weight on his right foot as he swung from the heels, wielding the blade with both hands. His sword sliced her head clean off her shoulders. The hag’s head rolled slowly from her torso and tumbled to the earth, landing with a splat. A few small bugs who had nested in her hair scampered to safety.
Then she opened her eyes. The head spoke from where it sat bodiless in the field. “Look where you stepped.” The witch cackled.
Kurestan slowly raised his right foot and looked beneath it. Crumpled underneath his toes was the first daisy of spring.
“Whoever kills the first daisy of spring is cursed. You‘ll see.” She laughed and laughed at Kurestan and then she died, her eyes rolling back into her head and her skull crumbling into dust.
Kurestan and his squire stared at each other in fear. Eventually, there was nothing to do except start for home. Kurestan died on Christmas Eve, just like any other man since the beginning of time who has killed the first daisy of spring. Then just as the curse demands, the first daisy of spring reappeared on the grave of the man who killed it. The squire was kneeling on Kurestan’s grave and weeping when it sprouted.
© October, 2014 Gary Every
Gary Every's work has appeared in Tales of the Talisman, Mythic Delerium, Aofie's Kiss and many other places.