Morgan was pretty thoroughly disgusted when I told her what I suspected about the Holy Grail. “I guess I’m not surprised that people were fooled. Knights are not known for their intellect—present company excepted, of course. But sweet Gaia! Wishes and fairy tales. You can’t build a better world on wishes and fairy tales. Have they all regressed back to childhood?”
“As far as I can tell, only Arthur and I saw through the plot.”
“The only two men alive raised by Merlin to question and use critical judgment. Unfortunately.”
The human mind is a truly remarkable device. Capable of the most amazing feats. I mean, suppose Sir Galahad left Camelot three hours ago riding four miles an hour and I really did need to catch him, how fast would I have to ride?
But that’s not what I’m talking about here, of course. One of the mind’s most amazing tricks is that you can go to sleep on a problem without the slightest idea how to solve it, yet when you wake up the answer is right there. Or even on the privy, sometimes. We attribute that to supernatural forces; probably have since Odin shaped a turd into a man. But I’m not buying that whole “God spoke to me in the night” bit. Besides, I have a better theory—I think there’s a part of our mind that only works when your regular mind is asleep and out of the way. And that part of the mind is one hell of a problem solver. Well, at least that part of my mind is (although it still hasn’t come up with anything to do about my oath and Elaine yet); I’m not sure about people who don’t have all that much brain power to start with.
Camelot was abuzz. Thirty or so knights had already returned from their quest. So soon? Didn’t they leave just three weeks ago? I’d lasted twice that long on The First Grail Quest, and I’d been the first one home. There were knights who’d been away for more than a year.
“We heard the Grail has been found.” That was the scuttlebutt, with theme and variations, everywhere I went. Starting about three days ago, in inns and taverns from Londinium to Lancaster, people had been overhead talking about it. Nobody seemed to know any more than that, although there was plenty of speculation about who and where and how.
Had an interesting experience this week: Writing the same scene in 2 different novels.
In Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail, I’ve been rewriting/severely editing about Arthur and Kay’s boyhood with Merlin. Here’s a couple of paragraphs with The Grail telling the story (or course she can communicate):
Kay spent even more time at our cottage, and would have just moved in if his father had allowed it. Arthur’s foster brother was slight and awkward—you could already tell he was never going to be a great knight—but his mental agility more than made up for it. Arthur never really cozened onto mathematics, but Kay ate it up like it was fresh bread with honey. Sometimes they would play an early version of chess that Merlin had brought back from the Middle East; other times they would just match wits. Arthur was Merlin’s pupil and his hope for the future; Kay was more like a son. Continue reading
We made our way north and east along the Cornwall coast, back in the direction of Camelot. Not because either of us particularly wanted to go there, but it was between Tintagel and pretty much anywhere else we might want to go. The area we were traversing had been pretty devastated by raiders—mostly Irish, but freebooters and some Germanic tribesmen as well—back during the Saxon wars when no forces could be spared to counter them. But the land was clearly coming back since the treaty. Little fishing villages dotted the coastline whenever the rugged cliffs and rocks relented enough to permit an inlet or a beach to exist. Plowed fields were in evidence, women had babies on their hips and toddlers underfoot, and a few contented cows watched us without concern. Only once did we see signs of destruction, a handful of burned hovels that were being torn down as we rode by.
In the tales the troubadours tell, a Knight of the Round Table often wins the admiration of a fair lady through an adventure that begins with a dwarf. Lancelot in particular seems to be unusually susceptible to the overtures of dwarves. But I guess that’s not unexpected, since Lancelot is the hero in half the tales. Sir Kay stars in . . . well, none so far. But now that I was spending more time away from Camelot, I was cautiously optimistic.
I’ve been a Knight of the Round Table for eighteen years and I’ve hardly ever even seen a dwarf. An old dwarf used to travel with Largee the jester. A rotund fellow with short, stumpy legs and bad knees. Rumor was that he’d once been part of the act because people naturally love to laugh at the less fortunate, but when I knew him he was too grumpy to laugh at any more and too hobbled up to lead knights off on adventures.
Maleagans led me on a rather desultory tour of the kitchen and dining areas to ‘inspect our goblets and such.’ Having no heart for the task, I didn’t even pretend to be interested as we went through the motions. Of course the Holy Grail wasn’t there. If it was an object of great power, it would have transported itself to somewhere less tasteless. If it wasn’t, well, who the fuck cared if it was there or not? I certainly didn’t.
The household was assembling for the evening meal by the time we’d finished. Needless to say, there was no sign of Elaine. “I’d invite you to stay for dinner, Kay. Even I’m not such a savage as to send a guest out into the dark hungry. But I sense your heart is sore and vexed, and you’d resent the gaiety of our company. So the cook has prepared a packet for you to take on the road.”
The first novel that I wrote is Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail. It is a very powerful, and at the same time very flawed book. It has been revised extensively before, and still languishes away. So I have made the commitment to fix it and submit it for publication. I truly love the book, and it’s too good to languish.
I began (yet again) a critical read of the manuscript at the end of February. What I discovered surprised me.
“How did you get to be so smart, Sire?” Oswald asked me on the road to the Castle Malodorous, as it was now permanently affixed in my lexicon. I mean, it wasn’t really malodorous, but it had the color of stink. Which made it a perfectly acceptable word play, had there been anyone to appreciate the exchange of wordplay nearby.
Like Elaine. She wasn’t exactly ‘nearby,’ but she was at the other end of the road we were on. And if I was really smart, I’d have figured out what to do about her by now.
And if you don’t, Morgan is right down this road as well.
Begone, vile traitor inside my own head! Continue reading
Considering that I’d frozen my ass off for the Holy Grail last time, what did I really know about it? Bits of the legend, and precious little else. Joseph of Arimathea, a friend of the dead god Jesus, had brought it from Palestine to Britain. Why he’d done such a thing had never been satisfactorily explained, but I guess if we were going to search for the Grail without travelling thousands of miles to some desert land on the far side of Rome, it had to get here somehow. It was sacred either because Jesus had drunk from it or because Joseph had caught some of his blood in it as he died.