WHEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS
Once upon a time there was a Knight. A Good Knight. A Brave Knight. A Fair Knight.
A Lonely Knight.
Once upon a time there was a Good Knight. One morning while he and his companion were riding among the forest trees, the two Knights chanced upon a beautiful lady tending roses behind a high garden wall.
In an instant the Good Knight was captivated by this Princess' loveliness and grace, and exclaimed upon her beauty to his friend. He felt himself immediately under her spell, although his fellow Knight merely agreed to her loveliness. The Good Knight decided the Princess must become part of his world. So he contrived to meet her, to come before her; to enter her garden and make himself known to her.
But he found himself unable to enter her magical garden; turned away by the great walls and refused entry at the gate. Soon the Knight learned that she was under the spell of the wicked Magician-King, the ruler of the realm, who was also her Father. The Princess was being held captive by her Father, who desired to keep her beauty and innocence all to himself. But the Magician-King also kept her imprisoned because she knew the secret of his power, and therefore the secret of his destruction.
The Magician-King's confederates also knew this, and so encouraged the Magician-King to imprison his daughter so she could not likewise betray them. In response to the concerns of his Accomplices, many years ago the Magician-King had placed a charm upon the Princess: Never could she love any Knight who wooed her, and she would forever be bound only her Father.
The King's Accomplices were pleased by this action. Because of the spell it so came about that none of the Knights who vied for the hand of the Princess were able to break the enchantment and capture her heart. So the Princess had remained alone and lonely, guarded by her Magician-Father, and watched by his supporters.
Yet she bedeviled the Good Knight, and held him in thrall.
Other subjects of the realm became aware of the Knight's desire. Because they hated the Magician-King, and wished to see him stripped of his wealth and power, they sought to make the Knight their champion. The Knight, they plotted, would capture the Princess' heart, whereupon she would divulge her Father's secret, and all would be free.
They took their scheme to the Knight and laid their plan before him. At first the Knight refused to join in their deceit. The Good Knight sympathized with the plight of his countrymen, for he felt strongly against the abuses practised by the Magician-King. Yet he was torn by their council to free the nation by capturing the Princess' heart. It did not seem well that he should subordinate his love to another cause.
But the Conspirators played upon his most basic fears. They pretended to think him unable to win over the Princess. They called him cowardly and unmanly. They proposed to substitute the Knight's closest companion in their scheme.
The Knight resisted these denouncements, for he knew himself to be a strong and worthy master. So he contemplated his plight. He did not see what harm could come to either the Princess or him if he were to continue to pursue his prey. And if he were to incidentally defeat the Magician-King as well, then all purposes would be served.
Thus the Confederates cajoled the Knight into proving his abilities, and tricked the Knight into conspiring against the Magician-King.
Because the Good Knight was also a clever Knight, he so contrived to keep his identity a secret from the Princess, and therefore her Father. He would appear at her garden gate every morning, disguised as a simple Laborer, pretending to be unaware of her ancestry and weaving a spell of mystery upon her. In this way she would be ensnared by him. And the Good Knight carried out his plan, day after day.
And one day the Princess allowed him in her garden.
Beware, warned his friend and compatriot, his fellow Knight. Just as the gentle rose has savage thorns, the glorious lady has hidden perils.
Your concern is unwarranted, the Knight had replied. Already she awaits my presence each day. I see her breath quicken and her eyes shine with excitement when I approach. Soon I will have her soul, and know the secret of her Father as well. Soon we will all be liberated.
Still, beware, his bosom friend had answered. You are as dear to me as any I have ever known, and I do not wish to see you come to defeat.
And it came to pass that the Good Knight had forged a successful strategy. The Princess lost her heart to the Handsome Knight she knew only as a common Laborer. And the Knight felt himself joyful and elated.
But while the Knight had rightly judged the gracious Princess, he had wrongly judged the Conspirators who encouraged his adventure. For the Conspirators sought not to gain the defeat of the King through his direct overthrow, but by disclosing to the King's Accomplices that the Princess had been lost to her Father, and was betraying them all.
Thus the Magician-King's allies would become his enemies, and he would be destroyed.
But before he was totally destroyed, they would force him to betray his Compatriots. Thus the Conspirators would not only vanquish the Magician-King, but any who would replace him. The Conspirators would become sovereign in the realm.
And the fate of the Knight and his Princess concerned them not.
So the King's allies became his enemies. They learned of the Princess' lover, and believed they had been betrayed by her. And the King saw his kingdom crumble and his magical powers torn from him.
The Rebel Conspirators first rejoiced, then offered the King a pact: they would save his life and the life of his daughter if he would help them conquer his successors. And the Magician-King had no choice but to accept.
But to revenge himself he revealed to his daughter that she had been deceived by the Laborer-Knight. He counseled her that she had been made a fool of by the Knight and that he had cultivated her love only to slay her Father. And the Princess was devastated by the knowledge, and she hated the Knight for freeing her love only to crush her Father with it.
But because the Knight had freed her love, the Princess was no longer under the spell of her Magician-Father. And his words held no potency, and she saw that he spoke only half-truths. She knew the Laborer-Knight had won her heart honestly, and it rightly belonged to him.
The Knight rejoiced. The Magician-King was to be banished, the land would be freed, and the Princess was to be his.
But the freedom he had given his love was a double-edged sword, and it soon cut through his heart. For the Princess, because she no longer loved her Father by way of magic, loved her Father by way of nature. And she found she truly could not leave his side and abandon him to the loneliness to which she knew he had subjected her.
Instead, she would abandon the Knight who had taught her of love, because he had the mark of survival upon him.
And no one lived happily ever after.
* * * * *
Of late Starsky had been tormenting himself by filling his home with roses of every variety. Red, yellow, white, whatever; the flower shop down on Sunset had been only too happy to oblige. He knew sooner or later he'd have to give up this obsession, but the pain of rejection the roses gave him blotted out the other pain, the pain of recognizing a fantasy masquerading as reality.
It had taken him a while, but gradually Starsky had come to realize that living out a Fairy Tale was not the same as believing in one.
Rosey had come along during a particularly vulnerable time in his life. It was a time when he'd been feeling rather lonely and not a little lost. Overwhelmed by his actual losses, overpowered by the threat of others. And ready to give up on not a few dreams.
And then came Rosey. Lovely, lithe Rosey. Fairy-tale Rosey. A fantasy in tight jeans and blonde hair. Looking back, Starsky could see he'd fallen inexorably into her trap. Well, not her trap. It had been a trap he'd constructed himself. She became a challenge to his manhood, a conquest of his masculinity; she'd given him something to focus and concentrate on, something to do. She'd filled that empty, lonely spot inside him, and given him pleasure beside. She'd broken the dam behind which he'd walled in all his old dreams of love and marriage and family, but only because he'd needed someone to break it.
That was really the key. He'd been desperate, albeit unknowingly, for someone to lift his spirits and show him the world wasn't as bleak and barren as he'd lately found. And all the elements had come together at the right time. One beautiful lady. An emptiness in his soul. A challenge from not only those blasted federal cops, but also from his partner. The luxury of time alone and no interference from anybody.
It was the shock of realizing that Rosey had been only a fantasy that bothered him the most. Maybe because he'd wanted the fantasy so badly, needed that fantasy, that he hadn't been aware of what was happening. But it was clear now.
For any reality that didn't include Hutch could only be a fantasy.
Only weeks later, when Hutch had been asking him for details about Rosey and what she'd been like, had it occurred to Starsky: Hutch was asking because he didn't know her. He'd never known her. And she'd never known Hutch. They had been two totally separate elements of his life. And that's what he'd come to love in Rosey. He could make her into anything he wanted, any woman he desired; construct any life with her he chose. Because their relationship together didn't include a relationship with Hutch.
In fact, he couldn't even imagine how the three of them would have gotten along. Monopoly games until dawn? Trips to the miniature golf park with the kids and Uncle Ken? Rosey nestled comfortably and safely in the crook of Hutch's arm while Starsky was driving them somewhere? Somehow, Rosey just did not fit comfortably and safely with Hutch. Somehow, Rosey and Hutch were just not enough alike--or, wait--maybe too much alike...
And the reflection had ended there, to be absorbed by this thought:
Ludicrous to think he could live any part of his life without Hutch being involved, too.
Or better yet, a fantasy.
[Another in the "Starsky's Ladies" series.]