The Sleepless Knights are a reclusive order of warriors whose mountain fortress is known as Keep Awake. They have mastered the art of not sleeping. There are no beds within the Keep. Recruits train their first year sleeping every other night. Insomniacs do very well in the training. The following year they only sleep every third day. When they can forgo sleep indefinitely, they become Sleepless Knights. Only then is the true purpose of the order made known to them.
One knight is about to fulfill that purpose.
A knock sounds at her door in the dead of night. She rises from the chair where she has not been sleeping. The warden of the dungeon stands outside her door.
“It is time,” he says plainly.
“Are you sure?” she asks. It was only three months ago that she was knighted.
“You are ready or you would not be a knight.” He turns and leaves without another word.
The knight smooths her tunic and adjusts her sword. She considers grabbing her shield but knows it will be of no use to her for this fight. With nothing else to delay her, she sets out after the warden. He is waiting in the lowest part of the dungeon at the door that leads into the chamber the elder knights call the crypt. A knight, never a recruit, guards the door at all times. The warden pulls a key from around his neck and unlocks the door.
“The inner door is already unlocked,” he says, “Remember what you face in there is not a fellow knight. Use deadly force if necessary. The knight that proceeded you knew it might come to that. Just like you know that the knight that follows you might have to make the same choice.”
She nods. “How long has he been in there?”
“Five months. Almost a new record but don’t think you have to try to match that. Most only last a month or two at the most.”
“Ok, open it up.” The warden heaves the door open revealing a short passage way to a second door. The guard hands her a torch. Once inside the door is closed behind her. She pushes open the inner door and enters the crypt. It is a large room lit by white flames from empty oil lamps, with tattered banners on the walls, and a threadbare rug leading to a raised throne. On the throne a man in Sleepless Knight clothing, much like her own, sat with a gleaming crown upon his head. As she begins to ascend the steps to the throne his eyes open glowing with the same white flame illuminating the room.
“You’ve come for something haven’t you?” His voice is quiet but rattles her eardrums.
“Yes, I’ve come to release you from your duty.” She grips her sword but does not draw it, yet.
“My duty?” He looks at his hands and then around the room. “Where am I? I was sleeping but then I woke up.” The knight closes the distance to stand on the same level as the crowned man while he seems confused. He stands to face her. “Who are you?” He is still partially asleep and thus unaware of the power he could wield against her.
If he was aware of that power, then her duty would be a fast and deadly strike. But he is not, so the knight drives her fist into his chest, just below his breastbone. There is a moment of shock, a gasp for air with lungs that will not fill, then he folds over and rolls down the steps. As he falls, she takes hold of the crown and it slips from his head. The lights fade. For a moment, she considers just leaving the crown alone in the room. Then she hears it. Whispers of power, strength, of anything she could ever want. And she knows she can not leave it for anyone to find. She must do her duty.
She raises the crown over her head and lowers it unto her head. At first, she feels nothing except the cold metal, then a heat within her ignites. The truth of reality opens to her mind like a flower. A fountain of power wells up inside her body and mind. She could be a Queen, no a Goddess, with this power. The former crown bearer has recovered his feet and stands at the base of the throne staring up at her. With a flick of her wrist he is pushed out of the chamber, the inner door closes and locks.
Immeasurable power awaits her command. What will you do? What will you create? What will you destroy? It seems to whisper in her mind. She sits on the throne, one hand supporting her head, and falls asleep.
There are many things a person could desire: wealth, vengeance, justice, peace, war; but a Sleepless Knight’s first desire will always be a deep, dreamless sleep. As long as the wearer of the crown sleeps, its power is contained. This is the purpose of the Sleepless Knights.