On an otherwise unremarkable day, Sir Florianus returned to his home at the foot of the great pyramid of the Rinji. He’d gathered a small crowd behind him on his journey through the goblin city. His countrymen stared at him, jaws agape, eyes agog. Sir Florianus made a point to nod graciously to anyone who made eye contact -- regardless of their station or apparent incredulity. Sir Hughes had always said that a knight noted social status and then ignored it, being naturally courteous to all. Sir Florianus was a knight -- the first proper goblin knight -- and he was resolved -- nay! Committed! -- to making a good impression.
He stopped before the brightly painted archway of his ancestral home -- the pillars carved and gaily painted. It had been decades since he stood here last -- and he’d hardly noticed the craftsmanship all those years ago.
“Ah, Laurel,” he said to his mount, with a gentle smile and a satisfied sigh. “It is most good to be home.”
The ill-tempered Laurel, a bright yellow hollerbird slightly larger than her strange rider, snapped her immense beak peevishly. Florianus treated this as her dignified agreement.
He rode under the arch and into a stone paved courtyard to the consternation of those without and those within.
Sir Florianus dismounted, slapped away Laurel’s attempt to bite his arm with hardly a thought and smiled at the nearest goblin.
“My good lad,” said Florianus. “Would you be so kind as to inform my mother that I’ve returned.”
“Your… mother?” asked the child, confused.
“Matron Sana,” the knight clarified.
The boy looked perplexed -- and then his eyes grew wide, the whites showing all the way around the iris. “Grandmama Sana? You’re… you’re…”
“I go by Sir Florianus, now,” he said, indulgent of the flabbergasted response. “Do let her know?”
The poor lad remained rooted to the spot for another moment, struck dumb by the splendid sight of Sir Florianus. Then he squeaked and ran for the house.
“What’s on his face?”
“Is it a caterpillar?”
“Who is he?”
“Our crazy uncle…”
“Quiet!” snapped Matron Sana -- and a hush swept through the room.
Matron Sana reclined amidst a heaping pile of fine pillows and cushions. She was one of the most important goblins of the Rinji -- excepting those in the priesthood -- and she had nearly as many grandchildren scattered around her as she had pillows. Ordinarily, she spent her days keeping a nominal eye on the youngins and ordering around her grown children. She liked to think of the family home as her own personal pyramid, and ruled it with the iron will of a Rinji matriarch.
Sana liked being in control -- one of several reasons she and her eldest son had fought so much. He’d wandered off looking for adventures ages ago and she’d given up on hope of his return not long after. Now he stood before her once more, in strange armor, with a stranger accent, and apparently having gone even more mad. She was not thrilled.
“So. Back, eh?” she said to her son.
“Indeed,” said Sir Florianus. He bowed deeply -- as is only proper to one’s old mother. “I am returned from glorious adventures -- from deeds of daring-do and mighty compassion. I have become a knight, madam.”
“A knight!” said Sir Florianus, a light entering his eyes. “I defend the weak, and fight with all my heart, and dedicate all my deeds to the noble Lady Teleri, whose memory I cherish beyond all others. Even above the righteous Sir Hughes, who took me in and made me what I am. Though only slightly.”
“A lady, eh?” said Matron Sana. She glanced behind Sir Florianus. “Does this mean I have more grandchildren?”
“Madam!” exclaimed Sir Florianus, aghast. “She is a noble lady, and one who I hardly dare to speak to. I worship her from afar. Besides which, she is a lady of the Walled Kingdoms.”
“What’s that then?” asked Matron Sana.
Primly, Sir Florianus said, “The people of the Walled Kingdoms have elegant whiskers, soft fur, dainty pointed snouts, and shapely rounded ears.”
“Like mice?!” asked one goblin lass. A wave of giggles erupted among Sir Florianus’s nieces and nephews. He smiled, indulgent of the clever little imps.
“Precisely,” he said. “A bit like mice.”
More laughter followed, but hushed when the knight held up a green hand.
“The Walled Kingdoms are a great realm -- where chivalry and honor rule the lives of knights and lords and ladies. When I and Laurel were ill and weak and far from home, the good Sir Hughes took us in and taught me the codes of nobility and how to be a gentleman.”
“Laurel?” asked Matron Sana.
“Ah -- Pik. My hollerbird.”
“That evil creature is still alive?!”
“Very much so!” said Florianus with a jovial laugh. “A better steed I could not ask for!”
Matron Sana glanced back at the door, as though the monster might appear at the mere sound of its name.
“Steed?” she said.
“Yes. I ride her into battle -- as is proper for a knight. I rode her to defend Sir Hughes from the most calumnious slander of the infamous Sir Gormont and to rescue the Lady Teleri. It had rained all day -- turning the yard to mud -- but the sun broke through the clouds as the foul Gormont and I rode into the lists. Some laughed at Laurel and I -- for they had not seen us fight and were no true knights nor ladies. But Sir Hughes -- ah, Sir Hughes -- his belief in us gave me strength.”
“Sir Gormont and I jousted in the clear sunshine -- riding twelve passes against each other! Then we dismounted and fought with swords. Ah, it was a dreadful battle -- I shall not give you the details, as some among this company are quite young -- but believe me, it was worthy of a song or two. I’m proud to say that none other than the bard Amren Sol saw fit to write a short ballad to commemorate the fight.” He gave a little bow -- it was not right to boast too much of his deeds. Not the moment to mention that afterwards, Sir Gormont’s goons set upon him. That he had to fight his way through dozens of soldiers to rescue Sir Hughes and Lady Teleri. That Mistress Sol was not the only one to write a song or poem in his praise.
Matron Sana eyed him skeptically. She hadn’t truly understood much of what her crazy son had said.
“Well… that’s nice, Chippy,” said the matron. “It’s good you’re are home. Your siblings are useless with the hollerbirds -- the fence around those monsters has been broken for years!”
“I go by my knightly name now: Florianus,” said the goblin -- wincing only slightly at the use of his old name. “And I shall be glad to inspect the fencing, madam. I’ll take my leave of you and see to it at once.”
With a flourish, Sir Florianus turned and left. He easily found his way through the compound and out to where the hollerbird pack ran wild. There was indeed a gaping hole in the fencing -- and half the pack was out near the jungle’s edge.
Looking upon all the bright yellow avians, Florianus imagined a whole host of goblin knights charging into battle on these excellent creatures. That would be a sight! He would make Sir Hughes proud and dedicate all their deeds of military prowess and goodness to the Lady Teleri. He touched his belt, lightly, where a handkerchief from that very lady was hidden.
As he stood, lost in thought, he didn’t notice the small goblin lad who had followed him outside.
Tentatively, the child tugged on the hem of Sir Florianus’ tunic, looking up at him wide eyed.
“Was it true?” he whispered, face full of hope -- wishing for his tale of chivalrous mice and adventure and valor to be real. It was the same lad who had first seen the knight in the courtyard.
Sir Florianus twirled the end of his mustache and pulled a coin from his pocket. He crouched down, bringing himself eye to eye with the child and held up the metal disc. It was made of silver and clearly stamped on one side with the distinguished profile of King Percos of the Walled Kingdoms. On the other was a rose covered wall on an escutcheon -- the King’s coat of arms. Gently, the knight placed the coin in the boy’s hand -- closing his little green fingers around it.
“Every word,” said Sir Florianus. “A true knight of the Walled Kingdoms cannot lie, you know.”