THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XXVI: Sir Galahad
Morgause rather quickly reached the point where she couldn’t stand being around Turquin anymore. So she kicked him out of her bed, gave him The Grail as a consolation prize, and sent him off to chaplain. Unsure how to do that, he spent his hours wandering the castle, muttering self-assigned Hail Marys and Our Fathers. Inevitably he turned to drink.
Here is The Grail’s description of those days.
I had scrupulously stayed out of Morgause’s head and concealed my abilities as best I could. And it must have worked—despite Drysi’s warning, she never discovered that I was a device of powerful magic. So when she finally tired of her jest, she replaced me with a finer golden goblet and gave me to Turquin.
Thus it came to pass that in the span of a decade, I fell from spending long hours in intellectual conversations with Merlin to listening to hours of drunken monologues consisting mostly of “Hail Mary full of grace. Blessed are your fruit of the looms,” repeated over and over to drown out the babble of voices inside Sir Turquin’s skull. I spent a barren half-hour one afternoon probing the depths of his mind, only to discover that I was wading in a bathtub. At least I was still useful in my alternate career, holding wine.
I promise you, I kept my mouth shut. But Turquin uncovered my secret anyway. Or rather, he didn’t really uncover my secret because he didn’t have any idea how he was doing what he was doing, but rather stumbled onto the formula for using me. He was alone in the grand hall, lying half passed out with his head on the great table, when an overworked serving woman passing through dropped a tray of dishes with a huge and painful clatter. Imagining that she was a demon come to slay him, Turquin jumped up and screamed, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to be gone.” The woman took one look, turned, and fled.
When Turquin’s head cleared enough to realize that it had been a serving woman rather than a demon, he was astonished. He routinely issued commands to his own demons with varying results, but it had been all-but-impossible to get the servants to do anything for him. Once the domestics realized that Morgause didn’t care, they took out their own frustrations by laughing at him and mocking him whenever he asked for something. But this woman hadn’t even stuck out her tongue as she hastened to do his bidding. Turquin decided that it must have been the volume he had used in invoking the name of Jesus. The next time he had a chance, he tried it again. “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to fetch me another flagon of wine.” Again the servant stopped everything and obeyed.
So England prospered. Arthur and Guinevere didn’t produce any heirs, but they continued to practice anyway. Mordred learned the knightly arts from the Companions and bided his time. And I spent my days helping dotty old Sir Turquin order the servants around.
This little state of affairs went on for a couple of years, at the rate of about twenty thousand Hail Marys per year. It might have lasted another decade or more, had not an agent of change appeared at Arthur’s court in the person of Galahad.
* * *
Again, this is all material that The Grail knows nothing of first hand, and we painstakingly pieced together our best guess. I summarize:
Galahad, the illegitimate son of Lancelot, was brought up on tales of the Knights of the Round Table. So as soon as he figured he could do so without embarrassing himself, he came over from Brittany and entered a tournament. He almost beat his father, and his graciousness won the hearts of all.
A missionary priest named Father Ignatius, willing to do whatever it took to convert Arthur’s court to Christianity, planted a gaudy gold ersatz Holy Grail on Glastonbury Tor and gave Galahad hints about where to find it. There was much uproar over the discovery, but the ingenious Kay proved it to be a fake.
Then Morgan le Fay, who was rumored to have a thing for Sir Kay and a soft spot for Galahad both, although The Grail never heard the reason, dropped a hint to Galahad that her sister had the real Holy Grail.
And so there was yet a third Grail Quest. Picking up again where The Grail was a first-hand observer . . .
A number of the Knights of the Round Table had preceded Galahad to Orkney, but not a single one had actually talked to Morgause in person. Sir Turquin, assigning himself the position of her protector, received all visitors to insure that their business was suitable for the Queen. Invariably, while listening to their conjectures about the theft of the Holy Grail, he would become infuriated that vile unbelievers would dare think his patron capable of such a crime. Full of righteous fury, he would leap up and rage at the astonished knight, finally finishing his diatribe with, “And thus I command you, in the name of Jesus Christ, begone!” And in short order the knight would find himself back outside the castle, riding away, wondering what had just happened and why he had decided not to talk to Morgause about the grail after all.
But as the fates would have it, Galahad was one of those rare people, like Old Gabe so many years before in Atlantis, who are immune to The Grail’s power. When Sir Turquin started commanding him to do this and do that in the name of Jesus Christ, he just laughed. Turquin became so incensed that someone had defied both him and his God—people had been hustling to obey his every command for a long time now—that he went for Galahad’s sword. When he couldn’t wrest it away, he began attacking Galahad with tooth and nail. And while Galahad was a gentle and patient man, he was Lancelot’s son. A quick thrust of his blade freed Turquin at last from his earthly demons.
I had been knocked to the floor during this exchange, and Galahad stooped to pick me up before going to find Morgause. I’m sure this was an unconscious act on his part, left over from his many days of waiting tables in Old Ban’s castle. But it gave me an in.
“Tada dada, tada!” I trumpeted in his brain.”Noble Sir Galahad has recovered the Holy Grail.”
And so at last, a Grail quest ended successfully. I was taken back to Camelot with much ceremony, reverently cleaned and polished and set in a place of honor, a hand-carved cedar pedestal beside Arthur’s seat in the great hall. There I was kept filled with fresh wine and allowed to rest in peace. Bored out of my mind, but at least it was better than being pawed by Turquin.
THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XXVI: OUTTAKES
“Did Arthur and Sir Kay recognize you from their days at Merlin’s home?”
Kay did the first time he saw me sitting up there, and noted that to Arthur. But it was more like, “I’m sure Merlin used to own that cup. Wonder how it got to Orkney?” rather than, “Merlin used to own that cup. There must be some significance we’ve not figured out yet.” Neither one of them ever picked me up.
“Doesn’t that seem strange?”
It is curious, now that we’re talking about it. I wonder if they were a little afraid of me. Maybe Merlin had told some inflated tale to keep Arthur and Kay away from me when they were boys. But for whatever reason, I stayed up there on my pedestal, watching but never able to give him my opinion.
“How sad. Maybe you could have changed history.”
By then, the Grail had refined getting the last word into an art form.
* * *
The Grail and I jokingly made up a little fantasy to explain Galahad’s immunity to The Grail’s persuasion. A cross between Rube Goldberg and Monty Python, a train of improbable events where one of the sons of Old Gabe, the Atlantian king’s bodyguard, escaped from Atlantis before it sank, landed in France, and ended up as Galahad’s 30th or so grandfather.
Harrumph. I think that is a very plausible explanation for Sir Galahad’s resistance. Much more satisfying than your coldly logical explanation that it was a mere accident of genetics.
“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with logic. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”
I have nothing against logic. I have every bit as much as you do, young man. More, probably. I just don’t hide behind it. Or let it get in the way of a good story. After all, Galahad was destined to be the Grail knight. What better way than to give him the right heritage?
“You think I’m hiding behind logic?”
Absolutely. Otherwise you wouldn’t be so resistant to the concept of writing my story as fiction instead of history. What other explanation is there?”