The Return of Conan the Librarian
Chapter 5
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

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