Once upon a time there was a knight known as Sir Colin the Kind. And he certainly was a kind knight, good hearted through and through. He was as brave as any, although he didn’t like heights, which made rescuing princesses from tall towers quite out of the question. That was ok though, because he wasn’t a fan of fire either and princesses in tall towers were usually accompanied by dragons. So, with the exception of towers and dragons, Sir Colin was up to any challenge; oh yes, he also avoided sea serpents, but that was only because his armor rusted easily and he didn’t like to spend any unnecessary time scrubbing it when there were so many adventures to be had.
In terms of adventure, Sir Colin was quite accomplished. He very rarely lost a joust (which happened very rarely anyway because he was the only left-handed knight in most of Britain, and no right-handed man would ever be able to joust a left-handed one) and he never failed to show good sport in any large-scale tournament. He was also always standing up for the honor of poor maidens, and was constantly ready to defend anyone who found themselves in need. Perhaps his most renowned feat was his success in his quest for the Holy Grail.
It all started when Sir Colin decided he wanted to become a member of the Round Table, a sort of elite club to which his friends and acquaintances were always trying to gain membership. Fortunately, Colin’s third-cousin on his mother’s side was well renowned in his village for being on good terms with Sir Lancelot. This cousin was always talking about the time he gave Lancelot a lift in his cart when the poor knight had lost his horse. So Sir Colin went to his third-cousin to see about possibly getting a good word in for him, just a little something to get his foot in the door. Of course his cousin was obliged to help out, but when he got back to Sir Colin, he didn’t have good news. Apparently the Round Table had stopped taking new applicants, but, according to Colin’s third-cousin, Lancelot had suggested that Sir Colin work on his resume while he waited.
“You know, go fight some monsters or something,” his cousin suggested when Colin inquired about what that might look like. “There are some good dragons down in Wales, I hear. Or you could fall in love with someone and have to rescue them from evil. The Round Table loves that stuff,” he said, nodding reassuringly. “Lancelot told me all about it when I gave him a lift that time. See, you gotta go on a quest for the Holy Grail, then you gotta fall in… no, no wait. I’m mixed up. First you fall in love, then you go on a quest for the Grail so that you can fall out of love, then you come back and save your love who you don’t love no more from evil. That’s what Lancelot was up to last time we talked. He was runnin’ off to go save this lady from this tower at this castle I used to work at. The boss there was a real piece ‘a work, let me tell you, and Lancelot had this dead horse…”
At this point, Sir Colin interrupted for he had already heard the story many times. “What about this Holy Grail stuff?” Sir Colin asked, thinking of towers with long spiral staircases and no handrail. “How do I find that?”
“Now how would I know?” his cousin snapped. He always snapped when Colin brought up specifics of things like that. “If I knew a thing like that, would I still be drinking out of this old flask? No sir! I would have me a nice ol’ grail to drink from.”
Colin was about to ask what a drinking cup had to do with falling in and out of love, but he thought better of it and decided it was time for him to set out on his quest.
Not really knowing where to go, Sir Colin started by asking around the local taverns and inns to see if anyone knew where he might find the Grail. Most people ignored him completely, which Colin found very rude. Several times he even offered to duel over some particularly snide comments, but it never went anywhere. He was beginning to feel that this Grail thing was quite ridiculous when an old and wart covered woman, with rather terrible breath, approached him. After many unnecessary riddles and rhymes, she finally told him that he should really start by looking for a green chapel. “There you’ll find what you’re looking for,” she said.
“But where is this green chapel?” Colin asked tentatively. The woman had him a little spooked and he wasn’t sure of her advice.
“Ohhh, it is just down the street,” said the woman, apparently surprised at the simplicity of the question. “You just keep walking until the road vanishes, then walk a little bit further. Once you have passed a group of giants, your chapel is on the right.” Trying to pretend like he hadn’t heard her comment about the giants, Sir Colin thanked her graciously and promptly offered his services in any knightly matters she may need help with. To this she only coughed (or was it a laugh?) and hobbled back to the stoop on which she had been sitting.
Pleased to have such clear directions, Colin set out in high spirits. It wasn’t until the sun had gone down that he realized he forgot to pack a blanket and would have to sleep in his armor. This didn’t deter him too much because he was certain that he would reach the green chapel by the next morning and be able to borrow a blanket from its occupants. The next morning came and went, as did the one after that, and only gradually did the road disappear and become part of the forest. However, soon enough, Sir Colin did stumble across a pair of giants, and truly they were giant. They were also babbling and carrying on like nothing Sir Colin had ever heard before. Though he knew he probably should stop and do battle with them, he decided that they probably wouldn’t hear his challenges over their own gibbering, so he passed on without disturbing them.
Once past the giants, Sir Colin began looking around for a green chapel. It wasn’t long until he found what he was looking for. Though it wasn’t green, unless you count the moss growing on the roof (which Colin did count), the building he stumbled upon was unmistakably an old chapel. If it were not for the faint sound of singing coming from within, Colin would have thought the place deserted (which seriously dampened his hopes of borrowing a blanket). Stepping through a now door-less opening, he found himself entering the building with his hand on his sword. With a mighty crash and clanging of armor, Sir Colin slipped, kicking a rock and cascaded to the ground. His attempt to quickly get up was twice as loud as his fall. When he finally stood again, the singing had stopped. Looking around cautiously he could see no one. The building was empty. A sudden movement in the rafters caused him to glance up just in time to catch sight of a dozen pigeons taking flight as a figure jumped from the rafters. Dropping like a cat, the figure was suddenly standing in front of Colin, and it was a girl. Completely confounded, Colin took a step back (almost falling for a second time) and the girl laughed.
“Are you lost?” the girl asked in a kind voice.
“Ye-yes, I mean, no. I mean,” stammering, Colin paused for a second, and then tried again, “Sir Colin the Kind, at your service.” To this, she laughed again and started climbing back up the broken alter and into the rafters, a feat that made Colin’s head spin just thinking about it.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Climbing,” was the brief response that came from already high above, “and what are you doing?”
“I am looking for the Holy Grail,” Colin replied, without looking up, “Do you know where I might find it?”
“A holy what?” she asked, excitedly jumping down from the rafters, again. So Sir Colin explained, starting with his third cousin all the way through the giants on the way to the green chapel. Though the girl looked puzzled and would have probably liked to ask more than a few questions along the way, she kept silent and let Colin talk until he had completed his tale. When he had finished, the girl remained quiet for a minute, visibly deep in thought. Then, with a smile and air of definiteness she said, “I am Claire and I will help you find a holy grail.”
“THE Holy Grail,” Colin corrected her, then said, “Lady Claire, I am Sir Colin the Kind at your service.” Again laughing at him, Claire turned and began walking through the old chapel.
“You said that already, and you sure the Grail is here?”
“The old lady said I would find what I’m looking for here, so it must be,” Colin said, beginning to walk around the opposite end of the building. As they rifled through the loose debris littering the little church’s isles, Colin explained the ins and outs of being a knight to Claire, much of which she found unnecessarily amusing. As they searched, Colin couldn’t help but notice that this strange girl was quite pretty and he kept thinking about what his third-cousin had said about falling in love.
They searched all day without finding anything, inside or outside the chapel, and Sir Colin was beginning to despair when Claire had the idea of searching the small bell tower at the front of the building. Colin said she could go for it while he checked behind the alter again, and away Claire went. It was barely two minutes later that Claire was calling him. Excitedly, Colin ran to the foot of the ladder that led up to the old bell. But Claire wasn’t calling him because she had found the Grail. Instead, shouts of “HELP! My foot is stuck!” came drifting down from the dark heights. Sir Colin was terrified.
He tried to stammer back a response, something along the lines of “wiggle it back and forth and maybe it will come unstuck,” but nothing came out. It then occurred to him that he wasn’t really required to rescue her unless they were in love. And they weren’t so he had no obligations. Still, he couldn’t just leave her there. Closing his eyes and biting his tongue, he slowly took hold of the ladder and laboriously he began his climb. After several long minutes of climbing, he glanced down and gulped. He was a terrifying eight feet of the ground! Even more terrifying, was the endless ladder that lay in front of him, ascending up into an abyss of cobwebs and dust.
Claire must have heard him coming, for she stopped her calling and waited silently as he climbed. Finally at the top, he slid out onto the rickety wood platform that was trying (and failing) to fulfill the responsibilities of a floor. Without even standing up, Colin crawled over to where Claire’s foot had broken through a board and, pulling out his sword, made an impressive hack at the wood. Only a few swings later, Claire was free. It only took Colin a couple seconds to slide back to the ladder and then descend as quickly as he possibly could without falling.
Only when he was back on stable ground did Colin dare to stop and turn back to see if Claire was all right. Suddenly, Claire was calling down to him again, this time with excitement. “Look, look! I think we found it!” There was a scuffling sound from above and down she descended, barely touching the ladder the whole way. In her hand was an old drinking cup, rotted and decaying from years of disuse in that old bell tower. Ecstatic, Sir Colin began inspecting it.
“Well it certainly looks old enough,” he said hopefully, “and the old lady did say I would find it here. So this must be it.” Grinning broadly, he glanced up at Claire, who had a funny look on her face.
“You know, you can’t really drink out of this anymore. It’s too old.” As she spoke, the excitement was slowly coming back to her voice. “But, there are rumors that a magic tinsmith lives in these woods who could make you a cup that will never rust. Let’s go look for him!” she said and practically bounced towards the door.
No one had ever told Sir Colin what he was supposed to do with the Grail once he found it. So he decided it would be all right to leave it there for the next knight who needed a career boost.
Dropping the Holy Grail next to the door, Colin followed Claire out into the woods. All in all, he was feeling pretty good about himself. He had rescued a maiden from a tower and found the Holy Grail, all in the same day. He thought again about what his third-cousin had said about falling in love and noticed again how pretty Claire was. Maybe he had also fallen in love in that day. This thought had barely crossed his mind when he realized it couldn’t be true. One had to fall out of love when they found the Grail, and he still didn’t feel any different. Making a mental note to ask this magic tinsmith man if he knew anything about it, Colin gave up thinking on the subject and settled for trying to find the easiest way to follow Claire through the woods.