Thursday night Judy Blue Eyes and I ate Thai food, talked about what a laughingstock poor old Gerald Ford had become, held hands through an art film that had enough nudity in it to be mildly entertaining, and walked a half mile to and from her car just for the pure pleasure of it. Then we went back to my place and made love.
It was awful.
THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XXII: Nimue
Within six months after the battle at Mount Baden, the Saxons signed a pact agreeing to stay within the old treaty boundaries and stop attacking the Britons. They were actually pretty good allies. Fiercely protective of what lands they had left, they had no sympathy—or mercy—for any newcomer hoping to establish a foothold in Britain.
And thus the peoples of Britain, Celt and Saxon alike, experienced the first real peace they’d known since the Romans left. The countryside exploded with new fields that would survive to be harvested instead of burned by some invader, a brand new expectation for most people. Arthur divided his time between his new wife Guinevere—they’d been married for five years but he’d spent so little time at home she’d not gotten pregnant yet—and establishing the legal basis for a new kind of kingdom. A kingdom in the mold of Merlin’s ideal where everyone, noble and peasant alike, obeyed the laws. Even the king, if you can believe it.
After my first class Monday morning, Dolly, the undergrad who was helping fill in for Marcie, was waiting at the door with a note from Dr. Giles. “Come see me after class. Important that I talk to you this morning. G.” When I stuck my head in his office he informed me that we had an appointment with Dr. Sandeman, head of the English department, at 1:30 that afternoon, and sincerely hoped I could make it. No problem on my end. I would have to let my history tutorial out a few minutes early, but this late in the semester, it might even save my life at the hands of a bunch of freshmen crazed by the deadly combination of spring-induced hormone overload and finals.
THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XXI: Arthur’s Wars
What I would most like to do—before the intrusion of the FBI, what I planned to accomplish in life, someway, somehow—was to use The Grail’s knowledge to write a definitive history of King Arthur. What I am actually doing is writing a novel about The Holy Grail.
The next several sections were the hardest for me, with those two tasks battling for dominance. But I’ve managed it, more or less. Ripped the history of King Arthur right out of this novel, along with big chunks of my heart.
* * * Continue reading
Considering how poorly I’d slept Saturday night, only the promise of hearing the next chapter in the story of Arthur’s reign got my sorry butt out of bed. My head was woozy, and I couldn’t concentrate or seem to think clearly. I hadn’t drunk enough for a hangover; hopefully what I was experiencing was a touch of the flu rather than falling in love.
“What is it like inside her head?” I pestered The Grail. “She held you; you know everything. Give me a little insight, you pewter ingrate.”
Now Bradley Schuster. You vehemently denounce those philistines who kiss and tell. In fact, you used that as an excuse to deceive the young lady, albeit mildly. How can you of all people ask me to betray an intimate confidence so imprudently?
THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XX: Beltane
Beltane was the most important holiday for the Celtic inhabitants of fifth century Britain. A celebration dating back to long before The Grail was born, the magic of fertility was tapped to insure the ongoing fruitfulness of the land and all that inhabited it: crops, livestock, and people.
Food enough for a feast was still a little hard to come by, since the first plantings of the spring were barely far enough along to be harvested. But the bubbling vats of “Mother’s Grog” more than made up for that shortcoming. Each clan had its own secret recipe, passed down and perfected through generations. Great handfuls of what The Grail called weaselwhisker and loco weed were simmered with freshly fermented apple squeezings and raw red wine to release their potent intoxicants, along with raisins and spices and honey to cut the bitter taste. Mother’s Grog brought on visions and uninhibited behavior, not to mention blinding headaches and queasy stomachs the next day.
Smack in the middle of Arthur’s preparations for Beltane, The Grail decided it was time to quit for the day so I could get ready for my date. “C’mon. Just another half hour,” I begged. “It only takes me five minutes to get ready.” But she’d have no part of it. You have a lot to atone for tonight, she scolded me. No reason to make it worse by being late.
“Sometimes I think the years in Judea turned you into a Jewish mother,” I snipped, hoping for at least a few minutes more. But my insults had no impact. I don’t expect that this Saturday will be as exciting as last Saturday, but you never know. You might be willing to skip this date for the sake of history, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XIX: The Morning After
When I’d feasted on the tales of King Arthur as a boy, I’d assumed that the high king was the real power of the land and all the other kings had to do what he said. Apparently that wasn’t even close. The Grail didn’t know for sure either, but we pieced together a credible explanation. If this were a history, I would temper my certainty by saying ‘the most likely explanation.’ But since it’s fiction, I can tell you exactly what ‘high king’ meant in sixth century Britain.
Where there was no external threat, kings squabbled and schemed to increase their own holdings because that’s what kings do. Often their machinations lead to open warfare. But since kingdoms were small—we tend to think of “army” as being tens of thousands of men, but in post-Roman Britain, a king’s army might only be a few dozen armored men-at-arms—sporadic fighting wasn’t that big a deal. Plus they didn’t burn each others’ lands in those days, so the peasants could keep farming while the boys played their games.
Learning the truth about Jesus Christ had been the most fascinating, exciting, enlightening, and potentially life-changing event to happen in my life since I’d discovered what the difference between boys and girls was really all about. But what was all of that, compared with King Arthur, the greatest romance in the English language? Now I alone among living scholars knew for certain that not only was he a real person, but how he came to be king. And in the days to come, I was going to learn what really happened during his reign (as opposed to the stories, legends, and myths that have been added since his death)—from an eyewitness.
THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XVIII: The Sword in the Stone
The first day of the Grand Council was given over totally to feasting and speech-making. A great pavilion had been erected not too far from the Giant’s Dance, but so many nobles and knights had gathered that all but the highest ranking were relegated to crude benches under the April sun. Beef and ale were the fare of the day, and the local peasants were doing some magic of their own (or at least some alchemy) transforming their scrawny herds or hogsheads of beer into pocketfuls of gold.