Once, long ago but not very far away, there was a young man named Miles. Miles wanted to become a great warrior. So he thought, and thought again, and said, “I shall go on a quest to find Perfect Mastery.” And so he did. Miles hung his sword, picked up his shield and started out.
Now, Miles knew from legends and stories that the secret to Perfect Mastery lay in the center of a Great Dark Wood. But when he reached the forest he found that it was even Greater and Darker than he had imagined. And it seemed to Miles that finding the center would be very difficult indeed.
So he thought, and thought again, and said: “I shall look for a path.” And so he did. Miles walked along the edge of the forest, first in one direction and then the other. He walked and walked. Just when he was about to stop and rest, he came upon two men.
The first was a young man about Miles’ age. He had taken out his sword and was hacking his way into the tree-line. He was breathing hard and sweating quite freely, but seemed to be making some progress. The other man had white hair and a beard, but stood tall and straight despite his obvious age. He wore a well-used and well-oiled mail shirt and a plain hilted sword hung at his side. From time to time he spoke encouragingly to the first man. Miles approached the young man first and said, “Hello, I’m looking for Perfect Mastery. Could you direct me to the path? ” The young man merely wiped his brow and continued his work. Miles turned to the older man and said, “My name is Miles, and I’m looking for Perfect Mastery. Could you direct me to the path?” The old man said, “I am Sir Veritas, and I do know a path.” He stepped aside and Miles could see a path leading into the Great Dark Forest. “I am willing to show you this path if you are willing to be my squire.” Miles thought, and thought again, and said, “I shall become your faithful squire.” And so he did.
Sir Veritas removed his scabbarded sword and handed it to Miles. “Here,” said the knight, “See to its care.” Miles took the sword. It was heavy, but he held it carefully. The knight gestured for Miles to enter the path first and said, “Start down the path, Miles. I will be behind you in case you falter.”
As Miles started down the path he turned to Sir Veritas. “Sir Knight,” said Miles, “why didn’t you show the path to the other man?” The old knight sighed, “He never asked.”
“He must be a great fool,” said Miles.
“Do not think poorly of him,” said the Knight, “for many the effort is as important as reaching the goal. He chooses his own path.”
Miles turned and continued up the path. They walked and walked, the path twisted and turned, rose and fell, and the knight’s sword was heavy. Sir Veritas warned Miles whenever they were coming upon a pitfall or a low-hanging branch, but it was slow going.
By and by, they came upon another young man sitting by the side of the path. He held a sword in his lap similar to the one Miles now carried. The old knight greeted the young man courteously, and the young man replied respectfully as they passed.
“Sir Knight,” said Miles, “who was that sitting by the side of the path?”
The old knight sighed, “He is a squire, like yourself.”
“He must be very lazy,” said Miles.
“Do not think poorly of him,” said the Knight. “He has found a place where he is comfortable, many do not make it even this far.”
They walked and walked, the path twisted and turned, rose and fell, and the knight’s sword was heavy.
“Sir Knight,” said Miles, “I grow weary.”
The old knight sighed, “I promised you a path. I did not promise you an easy one. You may rest if you wish, but we grow no closer to your goal.”
Miles thought, and thought again, and said, “I should like to continue, Sir. If you would continue with me.”
The knight said, “I will be behind you if you falter, Miles; just stay on the path.” And so he did.
Suddenly, or so it seemed to Miles, they came upon a clearing. All about the clearing were other knights, most sat around fires talking. As they entered the clearing Sir Veritas was greeted familiarly by the others. And, to Miles’ surprise, the knights hailed him in friendly fashion as well. They were invited to sit and talk for a while, and so they did. As they talked, Miles watched around him. Occasionally, one of the other knights would get up, go to the edge of the clearing and listen at the tree line. From time to time, he would shout directions to someone unseen in the forest. Eventually someone would break out into the clearing, and be greeted as Miles was.
Sir Veritas turned to Miles and said, “You may return the sword now Miles. This is as far as I can take you. You are now a knight in your own right.”
Miles handed the sword back to Sir Veritas. He had grown used to its weight and it felt strange to suddenly be without it.
“Sir Knight,” said Miles, “is this Perfect Mastery?” The old knight sighed. “No, young Miles, that is still further into the wood. From here, you must find it for yourself.”
“And these other knights?” said Miles, “have they found the secret of Perfect Mastery?”
This time the old knight laughed. “No, I dare say not.”
“Then why do they bide here? They must be very lazy.”
“Do not think poorly of us Sir Miles. Now and again we venture into the wood. Now and again we go back to the edge of the wood to guide others, for these are the duties of a knight. But sometimes it is comfortable to sit here and rest awhile and talk with friends.”
Miles thought, and thought again, and said, “Thank you, brother, for your help. For now I will venture a little ways into the wood. But now and again I will come back to enjoy this fellowship. And now and again I will go back to the edge of the wood and guide others. For these are the duties of a knight.” … and so he did.