The punishment for desertion, especially by a member of the king’s guard, was execution. Ignatius wasn’t afraid of being executed; he knew the king would never execute his chosen heir, but he didn’t find it fair at all that he would be the only knight able to get away with desertion. So he wouldn’t let himself get away with desertion. He couldn’t go to live among the peasants, because they were sure to recognize him and inform the king, who would have him brought back to the palace. He decided to isolate himself on the outskirts of Fair Alora’s border, where there was nothing but lonely grassland and woodland for miles and miles. The chills of early spring penetrated his thin potato sack and felt like bites from tiny dragons, but Ignatius carried on until he found a lonely grassy spot by a bubbling creek. He set himself down and cried bitterly.
“Sir Ignatius!” a strange, bubbling voice called out. Ignatius leapt to his feet, and his first instinct was to take off running. But the strange little voice said, “Please, Sir Ignatius, do not run away and desert me, for I require the aid of a good knight!”
“Then it is not me you want,” Ignatius replied, “for I am one of the very worst knights there is.”
“You are Sir Ignatius of Fair Alora, are you not?”
“That I am,” said Ignatius, for he did not feel that he could rightly leave his name behind.
“Then you must be the good knight I am seeking.”
“Where are you?” Ignatius asked, for there was nobody around but himself.
“I am the creek that you’ve set yourself beside,” said the voice, and Ignatius now realized that the voice did sound like the gurgling and bubbling of the creek. “What ails you?” Ignatius asked.
“If you are to walk along the north end of my bank for sixty-five paces, you will find a very tall tree that has fallen in, blocking the passage of my waters,” the creek explained. “It is horribly painful, and my waters weep for being unable to fulfill their purpose and continue on their way. Please, sir, if you are willing to lift this tree, then I shall be forever obliged to you, and my waters shall laugh instead of weep.”
When the creek had finished its lament, Ignatius nodded. “I shall certainly come to your aid, and remove this tree that is causing you so much misery,” he said, and set off to the task. He walked along the north end of the creek’s bank and counted each of his paces aloud, until he reached the sixty-fifth pace and discovered the offending tree.
The creek’s poor waters had been forced to halt in their passage where this tree had been lying, and the jam had created an ugly white foam that gurgled and bubbled and increased in size with each of the waters’ efforts to pass. Ignatius could hear the waters’ cries that created the pitiful gurgling sound that emerged from the spot of foam.
“Please, cry no more,” Ignatius said to them, “for I will release you from your trap, so that you may go on your way.” He wrapped his arms around the trunk of the tree and lifted with all his might. He found that he could only move the tree about twelve inches at a time, so that is what he went about doing. His back ached terribly, and his arms felt as if they were to fall off at any minute, but he kept going. He would not stop until he had cleared the path completely.
Finally, Ignatius had managed to move the tree off to the side and out of the creek path. The waters cheered and laughed and squealed and shouted their thanks to him as they darted off on their way. Ignatius smiled, nodded, and bowed at each cheer and exclamation of thanks. Then he collapsed exhaustedly on the creek’s bank.