The Day Camelot Fell part two: Camelot Reborn
The story so far:
It’s five years after Arthur and Mordred fell at Camlann, and things are not going well at Camelot. The Saxons conquer Camelot, throwing Gwen in the dungeons. Later Leon is put in her dungeon cell as well.
The last remaining Knights stealthily leave Camelot, hoping to raise an army to retake the castle.
Gaius and Merlin had to flee Camelot, it was no longer safe for them. They lived in a cave in the woods. Merlin can’t come to terms with Arthur’s death and slowly he is losing his magic and his mind. In a dream he sees Arthur announcing his return.
On the Isle of Avalon the Nine Sisters have been nursing Arthur back to life, and they are able to send a message to Merlin about Arthur’s return.
Then one day Merlin sees a barge floating from Avalon, and Merlin and Arthur are reunited.
The Knights meanwhile have managed to raise an army and they are marching to Camelot, Percival is also among them. In the woods they reunite with Arthur, Merlin and Gaius. The battle for Camelot is about to begin. They drive away the Saxons and Arthur, with Gwen by his side, sits on the throne once more.
And now the continuation:
Two days. It’s been two days now, and still I can’t talk about it without bursting into tears. Two long, endless, tortuous days.
King Arthur, the late Arthur I should say, there, on the battlefield of Camlann, dubbed me Knight of Camelot only two days ago. Me, a mere squire to Sir Baudwin. The late Sir Baudwin. And former squire now. A few hours later Arthur was dead, killed by that Mordred. I was there, at Camlann, when Arthur died. I remember walking away, there was nothing left to fight for, nor anyone left to fight against. Camelot died that day, Albion died that day, and I died that day. I can hardly remember anything apart from the silence. And carrion-birds. Carrion-birds and silence. I felt as if my soul had left my body, my legs were moving without me knowing. Don’t think I left my friends behind there on the battle-field, although it may seem so to you, please don’t think ill of me. Too many deaths, I guess… But the worst was yet to come. Suddenly I found myself in the woods where I saw a man, a knight, kneeling, holding another man in his arms. I couldn’t see who it was, but he was grieving, that I could see. Grieving for a fallen comrade no doubt, perhaps he had dragged him there for safety. I took a few more steps and then I saw it: Gwaine. It was Gwaine. I remember running towards them, shouting, crying. “Not Gwaine, please don’t let it be Gwaine” I remember yelling, at least I think that’s what I shouted. The knight, Percival, I recognised him now, looked up, startled, but I didn’t see him. All I could see was Gwaine. I knelt and hooked his hair behind his ear, cradling his head. He was dead. I was overcome with grief, as I still am. I remember vaguely Percival’s hand on my shoulder, trying to give comfort while he himself had only grief to give. What happened next I don’t know anymore, everything is hidden deep in my mind, only a few vague memories like intangible wisps of fog remain. I felt my strength flowing into Gwaine. I am also a druid you know, have been since birth. I know how to heal people. Oh, I wanted so desperately to restore Gwaine’s life to him, I was totally willing to give up my own so he could live. I know I tried, giving everything I had and more, trying to get just one tiny spark of life back into Gwaine’s now ice-cold body. The world around me no longer existed, all I could see was Gwaine’s beautiful face, and then there were shadows, spectres, all around me, almost like ghosts. I felt a hand on my shoulder, gently trying to tear me away from Gwaine. There was a comfortable warmth in his touch, a reassurance even. I felt weak, so terribly weak. It must have been the druids, I’m certain of it. Almost certain. I thought I heard them talking, something like “don’t worry, we will take care of him now”. I must have walked away, it was a great day for walking away…, and now I am here, in this little village where there is only talk of the massacre at Camlann and Arthur’s death. I still don’t know how I got here. I must stop now, I can write no more, too much grief.
My name? Galahad. Sir Galahad, Knight of Camelot.
“May I have the honour of this dance, my Lady?” Arthur said, bowing, as he offered his hand to Gwen. She smiled and tenderly took his hand in hers, and together they strode onto the still empty floor of the lavishly decorated Banqueting Hall. The musicians began to play a lively and merry tune on their fiddles and pipes and drums; and Gwen and Arthur opened the ball, the first in many years, and just a few weeks after the recapture of Camelot. A thunderous applause sounded, drowning out the music, and many a goblet was raised as the couple made their first graceful steps. Soon more couples followed, and it did not take long before the Hall was one giant whirling and colourful sea of merry splendour.
Hundreds and hundreds of expensive beeswax candles were burning brightly in dozens of chandeliers and candelabrums, setting the Hall and everyone in it in a rich and golden light. All the knights, whether survivor or newly dubbed, had donned their best mail shirts and armour, polished to a brilliant shine, reflecting the candle-flames a thousand times over; and all the ladies were wearing their most beautiful gowns in silk and brocade, many specially made for this evening, and their most gorgeous jewellery was sparkling like thousands of bright little stars.
Merlin too had new clothes, gone were his simple tunic and jacket of old; he now wore a lush green linen tunic trimmed with bands of dark red, and a leather jerkin dyed the same red colour as the knight’s gambesons.
The feasting would last for a whole week throughout the entire kingdom of Camelot, and there would be a tourney and a joust, and, on the last day, a mêlée. Arthur, however, much to his distress, could not compete, for he was still too weak, but he had already been training with the knights, and his strength was rapidly returning, and all expected him to compete and win next year.
“Are you going to the market square tomorrow?” Leon asked Percival as he popped another pickled egg in his mouth, washing it away with a large swig of ale, “The stage players have finally come to Camelot”.
“Of course,” Percival answered, picking clean a roasted pheasant leg, “I’ve been looking forward to it for days now. Merlin, didn’t you want to come too?”
“Yes, absolutely, and I’m sure Arthur can do without me for one afternoon,” Merlin said, looking pleadingly at Arthur. He too had heard of the play, it was supposed to be filled with all kinds of magic. There already were carts with scenery on the market square where a troupe of wandering players performed their tale involving an enchanted island, a spirit who supposedly appears and disappears from thin air, a horrifying harpy, disappearing tables and there was even talk of a real tempest! Surely they must use real magic, Merlin thought.
“Of course you can go, Merlin, but only if you wash my shirts and polish my boots this very night, I need them clean by tomorrow,” came Arthur’s carefully even voice, “and don’t forget to polish my armour too.”
“Or Merlin can wash them the day after tomorrow,” Gwen said, gently patting Arthur’s arm, “you have plenty of clean shirts, and I’m sure there’s a kitchen boy somewhere willing to polish your boots.”
“You might want to come too, Sire, I’ve heard there’ve staged something especially for you,” Merlin said with a frolicsome twinkle in his eyes, “A booth with glove puppets,” and then he quickly had to duck, trying not to get hit by the cream pie Arthur had thrown at him. Laughter erupted, and with a single glance it was understood between Arthur and Merlin that he could go and watch the play, and not do all those chores tonight Arthur had joked about.
“He has risen,” they hissed, “‘tis done, he has return’d.” Three hideous creatures were stirring in a huge cauldron. The foul-smelling liquid inside it bubbled and almost cried out in agony as more and more indefinable bits were thrown in. “Why has he risen,” they hissed angrily, “‘tis not something that should have happened.” The cave now filled with smoke, thick and green and smelling of rotten eggs. The three sisters, for sisters they were, stood there with their backs bent; dirty, grey-white hair hanging down their faces, obscuring their totally black eyes. The hissing continued, a snake-like sound coming from almost toothless mouths. Their gnarled hands with long, dirty fingernails clutched the ladle as they kept stirring, oblivious to the intense heat from the fire. “We must not tarry, and act with haste,” they hissed. “for Camelot was almost ours, we must not fail now.”
“But she is not ready,” they answered themselves, “we must do more if we are to succeed.”
A handful of dried bat-wings found their way into the cauldron, turning the liquid from green to the most blackest of black. “On the morrow, when the sun rises, ’tis ready to be sure,” they hissed and they kept on stirring, not needing any rest nor sleep, “And on the new morn she must be made ready too.”
The next day the liquid was as clear as water, and the three sisters hissed: “’tis finally ready, now she must be made to drink it.” They poured some of it in a crude wooden beaker, and with faltering steps made their way into the deepest recesses of the cave. No light penetrated there, and the one small flickering candle was unable to drive away the darkness.
“Drink,” they commanded, and they poured the liquid into the slightly open mouth of the woman who was laying there, her hair like a black halo around her head. The three sisters held out their hands, eyes closed in utter concentration, murmuring dark and ancient spells, from a distant time before the Old Religion, under their breath. Suddenly the woman let out a gasp, followed by a coughing fit as she tried to sit up. Her eyes suddenly opened wide, feral eyes nervously looking to and fro, and then she fell back again, but now her breathing was deep and there was colour on her face again. The three sisters looked at each other and smiled their toothless smiles. “‘tis done,” they hissed, “she has return’d. Soon Camelot will be ours. Now we must make her do our bidding.”
To be continued…