The week following the death of Arthur was pretty frantic. The end of the semester was upon us, one portent of which was that I had a major paper due on Wednesday that I had mostly researched but hadn’t even started writing (if you’ve gotten the impression that academics consumed an insignificant part of my waking hours, even with the research part temporarily suspended, let me correct that misunderstanding). Exams would follow in short order. Just exactly what I didn’t need in my life was a looming command performance to address Ms. Doubletree’s creative writing class on ‘a topic of my choosing.’ Well, I guess things could have been worse: she could have propositioned me. Continue reading
THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XXVIII: Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
Arthur was sickened by what had happened. Deeply despondent, he refused to even go through the motions of ruling. I sat on my cedar pedestal for weeks without so much as a glimpse of him. Kay made decisions and issued orders in the King’s name and tried to hold it all together. But although he certainly had the brains to rule, he didn’t have the charisma.
Guinevere took refuge in a convent, but even so, the Young Companions refused to let it go. They wanted her tried for treason. And now they had a new leader—Mordred. He called for an assembly of the Knights of the Round Table to proclaim that he was Arthur’s son and defy the king to deny it. Continue reading
That night it all sort of came crashing down on me. Things had been barreling forward at a frantic pace, and I hadn’t really had much time to think about it all. But it was a Saturday night and Layl’Annie was in Beaumont. Finals were right around the corner. And Arthur was about to die.
The last was the worst. The impending death of Arthur and destruction of Camelot lay on me like the USS Texas’s anchor. I mean, I knew all along what was going to happen. What the hell, I was a historian and every historical person who ever lived was dead. But this was somehow more poignant. More personal. More of a crying shame than most deaths.
THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XXVII: Agravain
Two of Morgause and Lot’s sons, Gawain and Gareth, were among the greatest of the Knights of the Round Table. A third son, Gaheris, while not of their class on the battlefield or in the lists, was warm and gentle, much beloved by all.
And then there was Agravain. Too lazy to train yet resentful that he wasn’t as good as the other knights, loud and opinionated when he should have just kept quiet. Agravain became the ringleader of the ‘Young Companions,’ those who had joined at the tail end of the Saxon Wars or even later and thus spent most of their knightly careers looking for adventure—or trouble—rather than saving Britain or doing good in the name of the king.
On Wednesday afternoon, having not seen The Boomer for over a week, I called him up and bummed a ride to the post office to see what treasures we’d garnered from my latest radio appeal. On the ride down he was cordial enough—drank the beer I handed him when I got in, made multisyllabic responses to my conversational gambits, and so forth—but I could tell his mind was elsewhere.
I sent a tempting fly floating out over the pond. “Weatherman says that it’s going to snow later this afternoon.”
But The Boomer was the daddy bass, and he wasn’t going to get caught by such amateurish bait. “If you intend that as a disparaging comment on my state of preoccupation, I refuse to be disparaged.”
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. Continue reading
Saturday had been filled with Drysi’s schemes and Morgause’s shenanigans. Anne and I had been up pretty late the night before, mostly because she had plans for Saturday and we wouldn’t be getting together. So I’d figured on an evening of light studying, followed by an early bedtime. But after the Grail and I finished for the day, I realized that it was a perfect time to do my assigned second radio appeal with a pseudo-scientific attempt at a control. At least it was the same day, and roughly same time, as it had been before.
In my typically Bradley fashion, I hadn’t given it more than five minutes of thought since The Boomer and I had discussed it. So once again I had to wing it.
THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XXV: Morgause
The Grail’s next memories were of being bounced and jostled for an interminable period of time. At last, when by her own admission she had “begun to despair just a little,” Drysi dug around in the sack, fished her out, and dramatically plopped her down in front of another woman who The Grail didn’t recognize but would come to know intimately—Morgause.
There was a moment of dramatic silence, and then Morgause reached out to grasp me. But before she could touch me, Drysi sharply admonished her. “I’d be careful if I were you. That rather ugly cup is a magical device of great power and possibly hostile intent.”
Morgause drew back her hand as if I were a viper instead of a rather handsome goblet, Drysi’s gratis insult notwithstanding. But after a moment, she reached out and carefully picked me up. I didn’t give myself away by trying anything fancy, but even without actively seeking to learn anything about her I was instantly filled with a sense of pervasive evil. Continue reading
Friday night Anne and I went to a baseball game.
Football is the All American spectator sport, and in at least this one regard I was no less American than average. My experiences playing football in high school are some of my most precious memories, despite the knowledge that I was hardly worth the paper it took to put my name in the program. In those days—before weight machines, much less steroids—most high school players were either small and quick or large and slow, with only a very few of the college bound both large and quick. I helped the average by being undersized and slow but fortunately attended a school small enough that they were glad to have anybody who came out. For the majority of my inglorious career I was a self-propelled blocking dummy—somebody for the first string to scrimmage against—although I actually got to start part of my senior year. I broke bones, sprained ligaments, and endured an array of mental and physical torments from the first practice during the heat and the gnats of August through the brutal bite of November wind that you don’t feel when you’re playing but which is tough to endure when you’re sitting on the bench all night. And I loved every minute of it.
THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XXIV: The Death of Merlin
Drysi would have been banished from Avalon except that she had persistent blurry vision, which she might have been faking, and a fractured left wrist that she definitely wasn’t. Vivian wasn’t cruel enough to send her packing under those circumstances. Nimue almost left over it, but in the end agreed to honor her vows if Drysi was kept under guard and away from Merlin and her. Nimue had given much better than she’d received in the fight—she was sporting a nice shiner and some deep scratches, but nothing disabling—so I doubt Drysi took much persuasion.
Merlin was as good as new in a couple of days. Not sure how they countered the effects of the love potion, and whether it was Merlin or the priestesses who did it, but he showed no lingering attraction to Drysi. Just disgust at his own performance—and/or his lack of performance—and chagrin that he had to wait an entire year for another chance.