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Sir Gorleth and the Torch Lighter
by Kieran Judge

Sir Gorleth snatched the torch from the cold tunnel wall, burned his hand in the process, and brandished it against the darkness. ‘You there! Show yourself!’

Sir Gorleth had just vanquished The Guardian Knight of the Wondrous Fort by lopping off his head in single combat. The Guardian, it should be noted, was hampered by a severe cold and a running nose from standing in front of the fort entrance waiting for a knight to challenge him. Now deep in a cave on the way home again, Sir Gorleth feared a servant of the Guardian Knight was coming for revenge.

‘Put that back!’ said the darkness.

From the shadows emerged a small man. He was crooked and bent with age. His skin was pale and he had smudges of soot all over his face.

‘Who are you?’ Sir Gorleth asked.

‘I’m the Torch Lighter.’

‘What is a Torch Lighter?’

‘Oh how ignorant; you’re a knight alright. Now put that torch back where it belongs. It takes ages to do them all again.’

Sir Gorleth, stunned into servitude, did as he was asked. The torch slotted snugly into the metal buckle. The old man smiled like a mother when her child returned home for supper, happy it hadn’t been eaten by the neighbourhood dragon.

‘Do you light these torches?’ Sir Gorleth asked.

‘Oh, he’s clever. Yes, I light them. And then pompous knights come along and take them on your quests and adventures. You never think of the poor soul that has to replace them, do you?’

‘I’m... sorry,’ Sir Gorleth spluttered as he wiped his brow. ‘I didn’t realise.’

‘You knights never do.’

The old man stared Sir Gorleth down defiantly. The wrinkles in his brow were beginning to grey, and the knight felt a stab of pity for this man, alone in the dark, doing a task nobody else took the time to thank him for.

‘I... um... I’m afraid I must be on my way, sir,’ Sir Gorleth said.

‘Just go,’ the old man sighed. He gestured into the cold murk. ‘Down there, first right, go straight for a mile and a half, left at the split, past the waterfall, behind the giant ancient stone dancing dragon, don’t ask, and up through the scree pile. The main trail should be three miles south from there.’

Sir Gorleth bowed and crossed the man’s palm with gold as an apology. The Torch Lighter didn’t seem to care but he took the money anyway. Sir Gorleth ventured on, the torches guiding his way. He found the giant dragon statue and sniggered (it was doing a jig for crying out loud; look at its little tail!). He scrambled up the scree pile and left the Torch Lighter in peace to guard his children against the ignorant questing elite.