Please Insert All Grails Here: a quest for sharp cheddar cheeze

Chapter 5. Enter the Ninja

I don't know why, but there has been a strong influx of Oriental culture into Arthurian England lately. Perhaps it has to do with the growing silk trade, which flows to England through Italy from the Orient. Perhaps it has to do with some unknown political or economic strife in the Orient, causing a small number of people to immigrate. Any rate, it has created some small, but noticeable differences in life here, such as Lance and Galahad even knowing what Japanese is.

Lance turned out to have been reading the map upside-down, a fact that was pointed our by our resident Monk, Pete. He's a very useful monk. I think that if every group of knights out on a quest kept a monk with them, their rate of success would go up dramatically. I don't know about Galahad, but Lance, Page, Morgan, and myself have all taken a liking to him. It must have something to do with the fact that he's Irish.

There were, in fact, many more villages and small hamlets up ahead of us, most of them noisy and muddy. However, we were passing through one late in the day that caught our attention. It was very clean, the dirt streets looked as if they had just been raked. There was a square at the center, as in most villages, but this square had a small pagoda in the center, and cherry trees planted around.

"I didn't know cherries were still in bloom at the middle of summer," remarked Galahad.

"I didn't know maples came that color in summer, either," said Lance. He was pointing to a Japanese maple, its leaves a dark maroon.

"Strange houses, you think?" said Morgan. The houses were rather strange.

"Look, a rice field," said Page, pointing off to the left.

"Odd, that Monk's wearing orange. I wonder what order he is," said Pete.

"All right, that clinches it. We're leaving," I said. "This is no place for Englishmen."

"Oh, and I suppose it's suitable for English women?" asked Morgan. I sighed heavily.

"No, it's suitable for foreigners."

"You mean like French? This is a French settlement?" asked Lance.

"Look, just ask that person for the time of day and you'll see what I mean," I sighed, pointing to a dark-haired chap walking down the lane.

"You there! What village is this?" shouted Lance, as though the man were hard of hearing.

"Nani? Wakarimasen!" replied the man. We all blinked.

"You see what I mean," I said, and they all followed me out of the village without much further complaint.

The road out of the village was fairly quiet and foreign influence free. However, a bit down the road, there was a large striped pavilion, with smaller tents surrounding it, and lots of horses and various sundry vassals scurrying about.

"A Tournament! They're having a tourney, Merlin!" exclaimed Lance, the closest to exuberant I have ever seen him.

"Can we enter it, Merlin? Please?" asked Galahad, just as excited as Lance.

"I've a good mind to put both of them out of their misery," groaned Morgan. I personally was somewhat excited. Women simply have no concept of sport.

"A tournament? You mean, with lots of blood and hacking and spewing of guts and such?" said Friar Pete eagerly. Page and I gave him the look. "I, I mean, it will be a good opportunity for me to, ah, practice the healing art all monks are taught as basic skills, and such," he backtracked.

"So that's why you're a friar," said Page dryly.

"Well, boys. If there's still room in the tourney, I wish you all well! Let's win a tournament!" Galahad, Lance and the monk cheered, and we began to subtly invade the pavilion complex.

Just as we were almost to the main tent, there came a wrenching scream from inside, followed by the various gruesome noises of a slaughter. Then, just as suddenly, the noise stopped, and all that could be heard was a lone cricket chirping in the background.

"It's quiet," said Lance. "Too quiet."

A figure in black and wearing a mask burst through the fabric above the tent door, vanished, and reappeared in the air above our heads. Several sharp projectiles of some unidentified sort shrieked by us, coming from the figure, who was now in midair and apparently going to stay there.

A few things spontaneously clicked in my head.

"Boys! Boys! Be extremely careful! That's a Ninja!" I yelled to Lance and Galahad, who had their respective lances out and were trying to skewer the Ninja, a task made passing difficult by the odd angle.

"A what?" hollered Lancelot, dodging a thrown knife.

"Ninja! NIN-JA! They're an elite foreign assassin force! Extremely dangerous at all times!" hollered the Monk back. I looked at him sharply, but was prevented by commenting by a shuriken that was suddenly growing out of the center of my chest.

"Arrggh!" I grunted, and promptly fell of my horse. I was endeavoring to work around my beard and the blood around the shuriken to get it loose when a pillar of green fire burst from the general direction of Morgan le Fay.

"Holy bleeding heck!" shouted a voice which I recognized as the Monk's. "Try to freaking aim, you mad witch!" I assumed he was castigating Morgan, who had a habit of chucking around extremely dangerous spells like they were sacks of wool. I looked around. Page was somewhat over and in front of me, holding up a shield to protect herself and me from further damage. From where I was, it looked like Galahad had somehow gotten his lance stuck in the Ninja and was being dragged around a bit. Lance was hacking at Galahad's lance with his sword, trying to free Galahad. Morgan was still offing great bursts of green fire at random, and Friar Pete was quite holding his own dodging the various sharp and dangerous objects still being thrown by the ninja.

"Ghh! Ninja can fly!" exclaimed the Monk, rather unnecessarily. I finally got the throwing star out of my chest, but that lead to further problems, such as a rather uncomfortable amount of bleeding. For a reason I could not possibly fathom, a lot of green moss was starting to grow around the edge of my vision.

"EYYYYYYYYAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIII!" a bloodcurdlingly primal yell snapped me back to full consciousness. From what I had gathered, Lance had launched himself off both his horse and, oddly, Galahad, and caught the ninja. More accurately, caught him on his sword. Lance was now doing a bizarre victory dance common among most varieties of cannibal, and the ninja was stuck to the ground like some grotesque bug in a naturalist's collection.

"Whew!" sighed Page, heaving the shield to one side. Morgan gave a final blast of green fire for no reason and rushed to the ninja, to confirm whether or not he was dead.

"Holy cats he's still alive!" she exclaimed, jumping back and hissing slightly.

"He is? Well, for god's sake, pull the sword out of him! Looks damned uncomfortable!" I grunted as the Monk hauled me to my feet, supporting me over his shoulder like I was a drunkard. Being wounded is a load of crap. Morgan gave me a completely blank look.

"Pull the sword out? But he's..."

"Our Enemy!" finished Lance. "He was my foe, and I have vanquished him! We shall roast him on a spit and use his skull as a drinking cup!" Galahad sighed and dropped out of sight behind his horse. Poor Galahad. It must be rough, being good friends with someone like Lance.

"No, Lance, cannibalism is not condoned by the church, it is, in fact, a mortal sin. I agree with Merlin, just watching him twitch is making my stomach hurt," said Friar Pete in a rather weary voice.

We were saved from further argument by the ninja himself, who, to the amazement of all present, had pulled the sword out of his midriff and was now sitting up. His ninja mask had fallen off, and we now saw him to be a young, handsome oriental with bright blue hair. He did not look entirely comfortable, actually, he looked like he was about to pass out.

Lancelot and Morgan took over the interrogation.

"Who are you, and why did you try to kill us and succeed in killing the occupants of an entire pavilion?" thundered Lance, as Morgan leered at him, fondling a sinister dagger.

The ninja didn't say a word.

Lance tried again. "What are you doing in England, horseface?"

The ninja didn't say a word.

"Where were you on the night of August the seventeenth?"

The ninja didn't say word.

"Which do you prefer, flounder or rock cod?"

The ninja didn't say a word.

"Well, if you wont tell us that, then what's your name?"

The ninja persisted in remaining silent.

"Maybe he can't talk," suggested Galahad. Page, meanwhile, had rounded up the horses and was busy pulling a medical alchemist's kit from her saddlebag.

"Well, I think I can answer most of those questions for him," said the Monk. "For one, he's a ninja. It's part of the job description. For another, if you had just had your internal organs rearranged by a sword, you wouldn't feel very much like talking either."

"But I've had my internal organs skewered before, and it didn't stop me from talking," said Lancelot. We collectively chose to ignore him.

"Well, all that aside, we still have to decide what to do with him. Do we simply leave him? Or do we take him with us?" I asked the group rhetorically.

"Oh, let's do the humane thing and kill the poor bastard," said Lance, raising his battleaxe.

"No you don't, Lancelot," said Page. She had opened her medical alchemist's kit and was busy bandaging and treating the conspicuous hole in the ninja's chest. "I think I'll keep him."

Needless to say, we all facefaulted.

"Page, you can't possibly be serious?" gasped Lance, looking somewhat like a beached fish. "What could you possibly want with a ninja?"

"Well, with him, Merlin, Pete and I could play four-person card games. And maybe he could teach us how to fly. Don't you think he'd be useful?" explained Page.

Lance had no argument. "Well, all right, but he's your responsibility, and it isn't my fault if he dies." I could have laughed. The conversation between Lance and Page sounded like that of father and teenaged daughter over the adoption of an abandoned kitten.

"Well, if he is going to stick with us, we ought to be able to call him something other than 'the ninja.'" said Galahad.

"Ooh, I have an idea," said Lance. "We shall call him... Ninja!"

"Damn, man, how dull can one knight be? If I stick around the son of a bitch much longer, I think I'll go mad," sighed the Monk. I snorted.

"It's enough to make a saint swear, innit," I breathed, which was growing increasingly difficult. I'm not a young man, and blood loss can be very detrimental to the health of a chap of my years.

"Merlin, colleague, you look pale," said Morgan, cocking her head. I would have said something sarcastic and biting, but my retort was postponed, for just then, I passed out.

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Ooh, suspense! I hate cliffhangers too, but they're so fun to write! But you know it'll all turn out right in the end, eh? I'm not killing anybody off anytime soon, so don't worry. Actually, this isn't much of a cliffhanger...

A/N: On Friar jokes... from what I understand, Friars are monks that wander around the countryside rather like hermits, like the well known Friar Tuck. Pete was probably forced to be a friar, it was likely a choice of either that or the Abbot going off the deep end.

Next Chapter: The First National Eukanuba Dog Show Championship!

wait... WHAT THE HECK? A dog show?

or is it... **x-files music**