|Conan and Meta froze in their tracks. The afternoon sun gleamed off
the white armor and drawn sword of the knight who faced them across the
glade. The white plume which stood at attention atop his helmet glowed.
With his visor lowered, not even the shadow of his face smudged his shining
countenance. The red circle and cross slash emblem on his shield stood
in bold relief. The shield was as tall as Conan.
Conan motioned for Meta to remain and took a step forward. "Good day
to you, Sir Knight," he said pleasantly. "We are two weary travelers seeking
to traverse the forest before night draws her dark curtain."
"None shall pass this glade but those deemed worthy." The knight's voice
had the grinding, metallic tone of a sword being sharpened.
"And by whom shall worth be judged?" Conan's voice remained even, but
his hand twitched at the hilt of his sword.
"By the Knights the Patently Correct, defenders of correct thought against
dangerous 'isms' and potentially offensive content and the guardians of
parental consent requirements." The knight stepped forward. "We have dedicated
ourselves to the highest of all crusades--the protection of humankind from
its own baser self." He stood tall and straight in the center of the glade,
his sword pointing to a spot just ahead of his toes. "Now identify yourself
and state your quest."
Meta grabbed Conan's arm. "The Knights of PC!" she whispered.
Conan made no response. His hand rested on the hilt of his still sheathed
sword as he took a step forward. "I am Conan. My companion and I seek only
to pass through this glade."
"Conan!" the knight exclaimed. "Then by the amulet you wear I say you
are Conan the Librarian, proponent of the radical cult of free access and
intellectual freedom. Yet I recall that the Temple you so rabidly defend
refused to accept a donation of our treatise The NEA and the Bestiary Moralus.
Is that not itself the censorship you decry?"
"The Priesthood of Acquisition understands the difference between selection
and censorship. The values of the one are not the values of the other."
"There is but one correct set of values," the Knight roared, his raised
sword reflecting the sunlight so that it seemed to Conan's eyes that he
looked into that brilliant disk itself. "All incorrect ideas and 'isms'
must be stamped out--by reason or by the sword!"
"There is but one dangerous 'ism'!" Conan shouted, drawing his own sword.
"Dogmatism! And it listens not to reason."
As the two swords met, Meta took cover in a thicket of trees at the
edge of the glade. But she could not hide from the fierce sounds of close
combat. She would hear the ringing of swords for hours after. Then as suddenly
as it had started, it was over, leaving only the sound of one man's labored
breathing. She waited. Now there were heavy footsteps moving toward her
from the glade. She held her breath. The footsteps moved closer.
© 1992 by Hadley V. Baxendale