Original story by Christine Emming
Today and tomorrow and always, there lives a boy called Sir Nice. Sometimes he is you. He is muscled and brave and wears the shiny armor of a knight with the longest silver sword you’ve ever seen. Indeed it is so polished, you can see your face in it. Also, he smiles most of the time, and his smile is kind.
Do you know how Sir Nice got his name? Once his name was something far more dull, like Dale, or Jerry, or your name. Once he wasn’t even a knight, just a small boy who helped when he was needed.
Monday dawned so gloomy and hazy, and the King couldn’t see his breakfast plate from the table. “Is it bacon or waffles?” he boomed, and someone he couldn’t see answered, “Toast, sire, with peanut butter and honey.” His eyes were tired, he excused the gloom.
But by the time the King finished his breakfast and began to brush his teeth, as everyone does each morning, the castle entire was enveloped in a fog so thick he couldn’t see his face in the mirror. “How shall I know if my hair is combed properly?” he complained. “No one will know,” his squire answered from somewhere in the hallway. “Jeremy?” he said. “Where is my robe?” “I couldn’t find it, sire,” Jeremy answered. “The fog, you see. I don’t even know where I am.” The King shook his head, “You’re in the hallway, Jeremy.”
For the first time since he became King, the King dressed himself.
In her chambers, the Queen was just as confused. She forgot to brush her hair, misplaced the crown, and donned mismatched shoes.
The world continued to darken. By 10 o’clock, Princess Poo Poo flushed the royal potty, and the crowd cheered in absolute black.
“Help!” The small boy heard a girl’s voice whisper in the darkness. She sounded both sad and far away. “I’m coming,” he said, hoping she could hear. And he left the safety of his house. He wandered in the dark, lost as anyone. Both hands against houses and walls, he stumbled toward the castle, where his fingers recognized the wooden boards, the iron band of the broad gate.
As a baby, his mother carried him to the castle every morning. While she swept floors, he chewed apples on the rugs. While she darned holes in the Queen’s stockings, he held the golden bannisters and toddled up stairs. While she baked bread in the domed oven, he pried up the smooth stones that paved the courtyard to look for bugs underneath. While she washed rugs, he fed dried corn, kernel by kernel, to the spotted goats. He knew the castle grounds better than his own house.
“Help!” the voice grew louder. He’d chosen the right path.
Bigger now, he still remembered his way past the goat house, through the courtyard. He headed for the stairs and tripped over something in his path. “Ouch!” said the thing, and it was the same voice he’d heard earlier.
“Hello,” he said, “and also I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there.”
“Of course you didn’t!” the girl’s voice came again. “No one can see a thing.”
“I came to help you,” said the boy.
“How can you help?” the girl asked, and there was a sound of sniffling.
A sharp, familiar scent makes her draw back. Then a flickering light comes toward her. She sees a boy with kind eyes, holding up a match. She watches the match burn and smiles at him. He lights another and hands it to her. “Hold this. I’ll be right back,” he says. Holding the golden banisters, he climbs seven stories to the cupboard on the landing in the servants’ quarters, where candles are kept. He lights two and brings one down to the girl. “Can you make your way home with this?” She nods.
Up the steps he ventures again. The matches are gone now, but he touches one wick against another and lights one more candle. He fills his pockets with more candles and begins walking from room to room.
By the time the boy finds the King in his dressing room, there are only three candles left. One for the King, one for a little boy who’s crying with fear, and one for himself. He carries it around, finding more candles, lighting them all, until the kingdom is a pile of small lights.
The small boy takes his own candle to climb up to the mountain, and there he builds a bonfire. It grows large enough that the castle entire can view it, along with most of the east-facing town. With a long breath, he blows into the fire. The fire leaps out, over the edge of the mountain. It whooshes the clouds away. Behind the clouds, the rim of a shy sun smiles at him. He bows.
And then the boy is gone.
“Where did he go?” wonders the King, gazing from his tower window. His candle has only burned halfway down.
“I’m so glad he did that,” the Queen sighs. “Who was he?”
Posters soon offer a reward to anyone who can tell the royal family the identity of the kind boy. But no one recognizes the blurry, sketched face in the picture. Everyone wants to see the boy rewarded, but the thick fog plasters over memories as well.
A little girl sits on the bench in the marketplace and watches, as day after day goes by. And then one day she sees the face she remembers behind the match. “It’s him!” she cries.
No one remembers his real name now that he’s been knighted by the King. There was even a parade, with lots of candy. Sir Nice is the youngest knight who has ever lived and he continues to be the most helpful. Sometimes he is you.
© 2018 Christine Emming. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.