Le Mort d’Arthur

“So what you’re basically saying is, they take all their best fighters…”

“Their best rich ones.”

“Their best rich fighters, dress them up in metal cans, and then get them to try and kill each other?”

“Yes. That’s basically it.”

The two observers were sitting on top of the castle battlements overlooking the tournament field with good views of the proceedings. They’d got there early in the morning before the sun rose so they could sneak in unobserved. The guards were too busy with preparations for the day’s jousting to inspect the high battlements properly, and besides, who was going to attack the castle when all the knights and the army were there ready for a fight? Far better to come along later when everyone was worn out and tired and just mop up.

Chivalry in warfare always confused the observers. They were far more used to the front end of battle, the whole tooth and claw of fighting. If they wanted to take over an area they wouldn’t first send an envoy inviting the local king to come along and have a chat to decide when it was mutually convenient to try and kill each other. They’d just turn up when everyone was asleep and get it over with.

The sun had risen several hours ago and the knights had turned up with their squires and assorted paraphernalia. After a few hours of banging bits of metal about they had proceeded to try and kill each other.

“You see Fred, what they’re trying to do is to hone their skills while they’re not at war with someone else. If they didn’t, then they’d just sit around all day drinking, eating, playing cards no doubt, and well, generally just being a nuisance.”

“I understand that Bob, but what I don’t understand is why are they actually trying to kill each other? Why use real swords and axes instead of wooden ones?”

“Ah, but then they’d know it wasn’t real, and they wouldn’t put as much effort into it. And of course when they were then out on the battlefield they’d not be as worried about getting hit, which would be quite a big mistake really.”

A loud gasp went up from the crowd that had gathered below to watch the literal cut and thrust of what passed for entertainment. A knight in very shiny armour had been knocked from his horse and was lying on his back like a tortoise in the sun, his arms and legs flailing in a desperate attempt to roll himself over before it was too late.

“Forgive me if I’m missing out on something here, but surely killing off half the best, rich fighters isn’t exactly a good way to prepare for war?”

“Well, it’s survival of the fittest Fred. You see, the general idea is that the best ones survive and go on to breed more really good fighters.”

The crowd down below was now cheering as the knight had managed to roll onto his front and was starting to get to his feet as the knight in black approached from behind with his sword raised.

“Unless a war comes up before they do that, in which case they’ll all be slaughtered because there’ll be a lot less of them about.”

“Well, yes. There is that. Luckily for them though, all the other countries do it too.”

The cheering rose in volume as the luckless knight discovered briefly how it felt to become a kebab before falling back to the ground.

“It’s a wonder this species survives at all.”

“Oh, I don’t think they’ll be around much longer.”

The two dragons had seen enough of the games. They raised themselves onto their haunches as they spread out their wings and flew away from civilisation towards the mountains.