The Legacy of Avalon: The Boy, the Elder and the Sword
Author: Luiz Fabrício de Oliveira Mendes ("Goldfield")
Translated to English by: Renan Piccolo Colombini
Revised by: Dominique Scott
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Charcoal skies shrouded nearly every single beam of sunlight, clouds rushing tirelessly through the firmament, as though far too horrified to contemplate the scenario sketched on Earth. Upon the land, dusky mist wafted by – brumes which hastily hid what had taken place, gathering into a vaporous blanket.
Truth be told, though, if the mist was actually a blanket, it would soon be smeared in red…
The Plains of Camlann were fraught with corpses. There, thousands of men had fallen, their metal armor and shields proven worthless. Horses could also be found lying motionless; the poor animals had lost their lives amidst the vicious bloodshed wrought by their riders. In the midst of broken swords and shattered spears, warriors at the edge of their lives still struggled and waved their arms or raised their heads to discover which side had been victorious. Despite it all, their combat spirit was to prevail. The symbols proudly bared on their shields and pennons, as custom would have it, represented the armies for which they fought. In this case, some bore the silhouette of a ferocious red dragon on a white background, while others displayed a golden balance over a background of crimson.
It was upon an oval shield bearing the latter emblem that the iron-coated foot of the knight, roaming through this realm of desolation, landed that very moment. A soft thump echoed from the action, reflecting the steady march of a full army throughout the bleak prevailing silence. At the mere sight of the symbol, the soldier spat in disgust. The drawing somehow managed to be far more repugnant than the massacre – which was already luring in some early ravens, patiently spiraling a few feet above the dreadful scene, preparing to feast. It was the blazon of the Usurper, the traitor responsible for all this carnage. The knight begged both the ancient Celtic gods as well as the new Roman's god that the bastard had met his castigation. It wasn't The Usurper's corpse he was looking for at that moment, though. Among the possible survivors – his friends, the Sworn Knights of the Round Table – Bedivere was on a quest for his king.
The knights of Camelot had arrived united and in brisk formation at Camlann. Yet, since times most ancient, it was known to be tough keeping a keen eye and sharp mind during the heat of the battle's stirring turmoil. Bedivere had sprung against his foes, standing shoulder to shoulder with Percival and Bors, The Younger. Still, he had lost sight of them once he was surrounded by the Usurper's men. He was forced to slay his way through, watching warriors from both sides falling. His armor was stained in blood, his body was sore, and a considerably deep slash spread in the length of his arm. In spite of that, such a wound didn't throb as painfully as the mournful revelation that had been bestowed upon him. He was likely one of the only few surviving Knights of the Round Table. And although he chose not to set his primordial goal as finding his comrades whose lives had been equally spared, he learned he didn't fancy stumbling upon their corpses either. If there was a word that forced him to keep on trudging through this terrifying landscape, it was merely this one…
He cried out for his king in hopes of receiving another yelled cry, or the wave of a hand at least. His penury-ridden voice echoed long and forlorn through the immensity of the plains, reaching only a handful of half-dead men and the crushed ghosts of once-warriors. Nevertheless, he carried on. Bedivere may not have been among the knights when, in years of yore, they went through countless challenges and affairs of honor to find the Holy Grail – sacred artifact of great importance – but that wouldn't lead him to forfeit his search. He staggered onward, stomping on shields, helms, and breastplates. Moments passed amid the brumes, and the brave knight's empty findings made grow in him something far from his own will: despair. His walk became a heavy stride and twice he barely escaped from smashing headlong into the ground after wrangling his feet in ruined banners. He prayed once more to the gods, beseeching that the great King Arthur had been withstood from the gruesome shadow of death…
That's when he saw him.
There was an exposed patch of land down the destroyed plains; it resembled a forest's glade. The nearby corpses formed a circle, a few feet in radius, surrounding the spot, revealing that, in life, those soldiers had made room as to allow their lieges a combat bereft of interference. Bedivere saw Mordred first, the vile Usurper, sprawled over the ground, arms folded by his chest, certainly due to a mortal wound inflicted by the hands of Arthur. His brow was pale and his once-bright, curly blond locks, whilom tucked inside his helm, had traded in their gleam for the umber dullness of dirt. The King of Camelot was fairly close to his defeated enemy… and was also sprawled in the dirt. Blood ran through his armor, yet the faint raise and fall of his chest revealed him to be alive.
Bedivere rushed forward, hoping the damage was not grave. It was true that, even after the magic scabbard, which could instantly cure his lord, was stolen by the hideous Morgan, Arthur had still shown fierceness and resistance against most battle injuries. It shouldn't be different here, the Britain's dragon was to rise once more… or so he thought. For as he neared his beloved king, Bedivere came to a gloomy realization: that day, his fortune was to be bitter.
Arthur's breastplate was shattered to pieces, the hauberk he wore underneath it failing to hide the severity to the laceration splitting through his chest. It was a fleshy, deep, diagonal slash. Bedivere couldn't help but shiver as he bowed his head down, arms leaning onto his own sword. The bitterest tear he had ever shed danced down his face. It was undeniable; his king was dying.
Arthur's dwindling yet still majestic voice called him forth. The knight dried his tears with the back of his ironclad hand and faced his sovereign. He was aware that this could be the very last time he'd ever see his blond-haired and blond-bearded king's countenance, a figure he'd learned to admire so much. The dying king held him under a firm stare, nearly frosting Bedivere with his cold blue pupils when he said,
"Take Excalibur… take it back… to the lake. Such was the deal. It must be done so."
The soldier shuddered once more. Excalibur, King Arthur's magic sword – a sublime weapon and source of great jealousy amongst his enemies, including Morgan and her most terrible creation, the Usurper. Not even the Knights of the Round Table themselves knew with certainty the origin of such a gift. Although, some would speculate – perhaps motivated by intrigue – it had been through the intermediary of Merlin, the wise wizard, currently missing – or by the waters' entity which the Celtics called "Nimueh", the Lady of the Lake.
Now, in his last moments, Arthur confirmed this tale's veracity to Bedivere, of all the people, even biding him to return the sword to its rightful owner.
"My king, I don't know if…" he began.
"You must." Even on his death throes, Arthur stressed the word vehemently. "Take Excalibur. Take a horse; you shall ride on and only cease galloping upon reaching the lake I indicate… the sword must be returned."
Spreading his arms, a motion he soon abandoned due to a fierce spasm of pain, the king pointed out the weapon lying next to him. Contrary to what most thought, Excalibur was a weapon studded in neither luxury nor richness – at least not within the definition of "richness" most men in times of such hardship would have in mind. The blade was pure steel, which, thanks to ancient magic, would never go dull. It shone brightly despite the overcast skies, but if it weren't for its mystical properties, the sword would be nothing but steel. The hilt was simple, made of bare metal, lacking any sort of adornment or carved figure, making for a plain handle to be wielded. The pommel was austere and ended on a small, dark red ruby – the only existing gem in the weapon, representing the imposing dragon of the Pendragon, the lineage Arthur hailed from; the inheritance of his father, Uther.
Bedivere, however, had learned at least one of the sabre's secrets, and had known it for some time now. Many a time as he followed Arthur through his battles, he would watch him wielding Excalibur under the light of the sun or the moon. Once, underneath those celestial rays, keen-eyed that he was, he noticed symbols arrayed onto the blade. Wrought upon the steel, certainly through means of magic, were ancient Celtic runes. Before his act of betrayal, Mordred himself had confided the knight with the meaning of those runes...
The fact that both Arthur and the sword itself had given the order forced Bedivere to hold Excalibur tightly. He watched the symbols shining as he brought it up with extreme caution. It weighed the same as a normal sword; nevertheless, lifting it felt as demanding as heaving a thousand blades, due to the incredible responsibility – and power – bore within the weapon.
The warrior came back to confer with his King, listening intently to the instructions Arthur gave.
X - X - X
As unlikely as it seemed, finding a living horse wasn't much of a challenge – the universe appeared to plot in favor of fulfilling the king's last wish, which made Bedivere even more inclined to believe in the powerful magic said to reign about the lands. On the verge of finding what lies beyond the veil, the king had refused Bedivere's wish that he journey to the lake with him – and so the warrior decided to respect and abide to his Lord's quiet wish of dying a restful death. Mounting his warmblood, he rode towards the place Arthur had pointed out, carrying Excalibur wrapped on a red piece of cloth that earlier had been part of the Usurper's flag.
For hours Bedivere galloped, crossing meadows, hills, forests, and streams. All of Britain's landscapes seemed to come and go along the knight's way as if as a symbol or token of the gorgeous land for which Arthur had given his life. At last, in the middle of the beclouded afternoon, he reached the lake indicated by his king. Crystal clear waters rippled balmily when skimmed by the soft, swift, and reassuring breeze. It was hard to believe this place existed in the same world as the nightmarish Plains of Camlann. Aware of his duty, Bedivere unwrapped the magic sword, grabbed the hilt, and prepared to throw it into the waters…
The sword shone in the absence of light, a phenomenon the warrior already assumed to be the fruit of pure magic. The blade's surface displayed the same set of runes he knew, but in a different order, revealing something he had failed to realize before: there were two distinctive messages on the sword, one on each side of the steel. The new one, in particular, was a follow-up to King Arthur's instructions, as a memorandum to the hesitant knight.
That which he was to do, hurl it into the lake, to Nimueh. But…
How could he withdraw such a perfect artifact? Throughout the decades Arthur had wielded it, he had unified Britain, repelled the brutish Saxon invaders, protected the meek, made tyrants meet justice, led his knights in the quest for the Grail… Would this truly be an acceptable fate? Should such a weapon repose now and forever in the depths of a lake, destined to the whims and cares of an uncertain divinity? Bedivere already brooded upon what would be of Britain, of Camelot, without its king. If this truly prodigious weapon were to be lost, then the hopes of Britain's people would be no more.
Tormented, he turned the sabre's blade in his hands, facing the opposite message…
A decision was made. He could not commit such a crime. He must return the sword to Arthur. A half-turn later and he was already galloping back to Camlann, feeling as if a mammoth burden, far heavier than Excalibur's, had been lifted from his shoulders.
X - X - X
Bedivere was imbued in uneasiness once he arrived at the battlefield, but he made his best to ignore it and roved directly towards the unfortunate Arthur. The king remained on the ground, breathing his last breaths, his gelid blue eyes darting at Bedivere as he came closer. His eyebrows frowned and his mouth curled downward as soon as he noticed the shrouded Excalibur was still attached to the knight's back.
"Why won't you respect and abide by my will, Sir Bedivere?" the king inquired as furiously as his condition allowed. "You must return Excalibur to the lake. This is my last wish!"
"But my lord…" the soldier tried to argue. "This sword… it is far too powerful to be…"
"That's exactly why it must be returned to the place where it belongs," Arthur cut him off. "Excalibur shall not fall into the wrong hands nor be under control of one who could bring Britain to misery. It shall be safe with Nimueh until time comes for a warrior worthy of wielding it arrives to lead Camelot in my place. Go. Fulfill my wish or risk being haunted by my ghost throughout all eternity."
Tottering a little before the threat, Bedivere shook his head in accordance, returning promptly to his stallion. After shooting a last glance towards Arthur and the battlefield's desolation, he stirred into riding once more towards the mystical lake where Excalibur should find its abode.
Throughout the next hours, Bedivere galloped on; the afternoon was sinking into darkness when he reached the lake once more. He climbed down from his mount and marched, sword on his back, towards the edge of the lake. Once more he stared at the dreamy ripples on its surface, then he took Excalibur out of its wraps. The weapon glistened before him, and the blade face that met his eyes manifested its will.
He pursed his lips and, feigning a deaf ear to his pleading inner voice, which insisted he do otherwise, raised the weapon by its hilt and he tossed the weapon down the lake with as much power as he could muster.
The sword whirled across the air, its blade shining with each spin as though it were a shooting star. When it was about a foot away from splashing into the water, it was seized by its hilt; a perfect catch performed by a feminine arm that sprung out suddenly from the lake. Visible up to the elbow, the arm was clad by what seemed to be a white, half transparent dress sleeve, the wrist beautified by a bracelet made of pure gold. Giving Excalibur a steady grip, her fingers kept it straight up as Arthur himself did to stir inspiration into his men before battle. The hand then sank back to the lake, taking the sword with it.
Bedivere stood there for some moments, dumbfounded in his silence, contemplating the stark lake, brooding on both the sword's fate and the magical mysteries he failed to grasp in full. He was already turning his horse by the reins toward Camlann, when he heard the unmistakable sound of something emerging from the water behind him.
He turned his eyes back to the lake. Appearing little by little, a human figure arose from the lake.
Nay, she was more than human.
The stunningly beautiful young lass, with her greenish eyes and lengthy, soaked and dripping tawny hair was clearly the one responsible for seizing Excalibur. Such was easily concluded by her garment: a floor-length white gown embroidered in lace and runic inscriptions, the sleeves half transparent and embellished in gilt throughout their extension. She walked barefoot to Bedivere never breaking eye contact, practically hypnotizing him. The Lady of the Lake, however, did not have King Arthur's sword at hand.
Instead, she held a sort of wrapping, as white as her dress, by her lap. It was moving.
The thunderstruck knight soon realized those weren't mere wrappings, but a swaddled baby, agitating his tiny arms about the entity's bosom.
"Sir Bedivere," she called him back, her voice resembling a thousand of the most sublime birds chirping and tweeting. "He who returns Excalibur must take care of Arthur's legacy. Take him. You know the sword's secret and its resting place. Thereupon you must see that, in the future, the Pendragon lineage comes to brandish it."
She extended the child towards the warrior who, in extreme confusion, or perhaps fear, didn't correctly comprehend the words Nimueh spoke.
"What do you mean?" he inquired.
"My son brought this child to me, surrendering him to my care, probably seeking redemption from the act of betrayal he perpetuated against his own lord. Unfortunate it is that King Arthur shall leave this world unaware of having produced a legitimate heir, blood of his blood, other than the malignant Mordred. I speak of this pure and innocent child."
A traitor seeking redemption? In regard to Camelot, Bedivere knew only two traitors. The Usurper, well known for being Morgan's offspring, whose corpse lay dead on the Plains of Camlann… and Sir Lancelot du Lac, who had been the very best among the Knights of the Round Table. That was, until his falling for Queen Guinevere, Arthur's wife. She and Lancelot sank the kingdom into depths of disgrace when their adultery was uncovered, leading to a chain of events whose aftermath was Mordred's taking of the throne, succeeded by his final combat against the rightful king. After having some of his own fellows from the Table slain when sent to arrest him, Lancelot fled alongside Guinevere. The couple had been missing for a handful of months now, leaving Camelot and its king to their own luck. It was a surprising turn of events to find the mother of the so-called knight, the more since she was a water nymph.
"Lancelot's mother? Sir Lancelot du Lac?" Bedivere sought to confirm it, still reckoning the whole tale, though it was unsettling to say the least.
"Yes, I am Lancelot's mother. A foster mother, however. I raised him from a very young age, once his true parents were slaughtered under the terrible King Claudas' order, across the channel."
Regardless, to hear about the other traitor of Arthur's court, more so in his king's moment of death, made Bedivere fraught with disgust. "I will not accept anything coming from Lancelot. All he can offer is lies and betrayal."
"Not even the heir of your beloved king?" The Lady of the Lake's voice intensified subtly, yet her tone remained harmonious. "Listen, noble knight. Lancelot did wrong, that be true, when he gave in to his forbidden passion towards Queen Guinevere, but he regrets it, that I can guarantee. For I know him better. He sought me out, willing to become a monk for the rest of his days in order to redeem his sins, but before his closure in a cloister, he brought me this boy. Arthur did wrong, too, in casting Guinevere out of Camelot in his blinding rage, not even granting her a chance to reveal that she was bearing his child. The baby was born in exile, and Lancelot could not claim him as his own. It is of utmost importance that this child be raised by someone who can ensure he will sit upon the throne as soon as he comes of age. When that time comes, he shall return here so he can retrieve his rightful sword. As Arthur charged you with Excalibur, I charge you with this boy. Go, take and protect him. That would be your king's will."
The knight faltered for one or two instants, but eventually reached for the baby and cradled him in his arms. He was dazzled by the baby's puerile grace and, as the baby's little face lit up in a smile, the warrior marveled that the little one had inherited his father's piercing blue eyes.
"Has the child been given a name?" he asked Nimueh.
"Yes, given by Guinevere herself upon mothering him in her arms for the very first time: Amr."
"Amr." Strong name, appropriate for the heir of he that Bedivere held in regard as the greatest among the kings who had reigned over men. He contemplated the baby a bit longer, toying with his petite hands. When he raised his head in order to ask the Lady of the Lake where exactly he was supposed to take the kid, the water's deity was gone, leaving behind only a gentle streak of some floral scent sprinkled with twinkling lights which, in the blink of an eye, were cleared out of existence.
In silence, he peered down at the boy as the lake's little breezes dusked and shivered around them. Bedivere pondered upon Nimueh's words. "Unfortunate it is that King Arthur shall leave this world unaware of having produced a legitimate heir…"
Could it be? Was she affirming that the ruler of Camelot was no more?
Dreadful doubt took over the soldier, soon mingled with the woes of imagining his king could pass away without ever knowing the son he had generated. In a mighty haste, the knight and the cradled child mounted the warmblood, and with unyielding determination, galloped once more to Camlann.
The odds of success were meek, but… he had to try and show the king his unknown heir, even if that were to be the last thing he would see in life.
When he reached the edge of the plains, the afternoon was waning – the clouds had dissipated, framing the sinking sun in the crimson horizon, like a sphere of the purest gold.
Bedivere made his way through the corpses of both armies, thanking the gods above that the baby was far too small to grasp the somber series of events that had played out here.
He searched for a while, blaming his weariness for watering his senses down… soon enough, though, he concluded that King Arthur's body, by the means of some sort of eerie mystery, was no longer there. For a phantom of a moment, the warrior's heart welled up in hope, anticipating that his ruler, indomitable as he was, had somehow recuperated from his wounds and rose on his own, returning to Camelot along with the remainder of the surviving knights. However, such a hypothesis was exceedingly farfetched for his worn out mind, most likely false as well.
But when he rode towards the sea with the baby dwelling in his arms, Bedivere was met with a sight beyond the greatest marvels he could ever foresee… he would even dare go as far as to claim what he saw made his heart more lull and tranquil than seeing Arthur alive.
Fading away above the rippling waves, bathed by the last dying sun beams, thus christened in a red gold glinting aura, a small wooden ship proudly bearing a majestic pennon exhibiting the symbol of Camelot ferried King Arthur's body away. Regardless of the ever-growing distance, Bedivere noticed his ruler's body had been cleaned up and clad in an intact armor, his united hands perched upon his chest and the elm's visor pulled down, thus granting a mystical aura to the brave commander who had unified the entirety of Britain. Gathered around him, three women stood in resplendent niveous garments which fluttered to the winds, keeping vigil over the king. One was blonde, one was a brunette, and one was a redhead. For a brief moment, Bedivere could swear for his life Nimueh herself was one of them.
Slowly, the vessel evanesced on the rim of the horizon, as if meeting the king of stars in its fading twilight, retiring from the world side by side. Amazed by this glorious moment, Bedivere lingered in remembrance, recalling the Celtic legends and uncountable prophecies regarding the figure of Arthur. If those were to be trusted, his sovereign was being taken to Avalon, the Isle of the Blessed, so one day he could majestically return and lead his beloved kingdom once more.
"Until then…" sighed the knight, turning his eyes downward to the kid in his lap. "Camelot will belong to you, my little Amr, to you and to those who shall come after you. And that shall be until the return of your heroic father. You are the one who has the right to brandish the divine Excalibur… and, for as long as you can't hold it with your own hands, I will protect you with my life."April 27, 2019, 6:57 p.m. 0 Report Embed 120
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