"Here Knave," Guenevere reached out her hand, "come see our world beyond the dank confines of this dreary room."
She gestured for him to join her at the window.
After being confined in a darkened room only half lit by flickering torches, Barry was struck first by the richness of the colour. The fortress had been constructed on the top of a vast hill of rich green grass. At the base of the hill was a small village and beyond that was a massive forest that reached out to the horizon.
The ancient forest reminded him more of his home in Canada than of the rolling grassy hills he associated with England.
The homes in the village were two story thatched roofed dwellings of dark wood whose lentils, cornices and shutters were painted in bright reds and yellows. Every home had its plot of land where vegetables were grown. Geese, chickens and pigs roamed freely while cows were confined to a pasture at the edge of the village. The odd home in the village had a single horse tethered in the yard.
Not far from the village a large river of clear blue water, ominously swollen by the days of ceaseless rain, flowed deep into the interior of the mighty forest. A family of pure white swans swam contentedly in the lee of the strong current.
Emerging from a rough road carved along the water's edge, was a long line of soldiers, all in red cloaks carrying pikes topped with colourful blue banners. At the rear of the column two men pounded on massive kettle drums and the marching soldiers sang to the beat, their clear voices rising all the way to the fortress, with no mechanical sounds to compete with its passage.
Villagers were pouring out of their homes to cheer the arriving soldiers. Men held children on their shoulders, women held the hands of infants. At the head of the long column of soldiers rode a large man on a pure white horse, head held proudly high, his armour more resembling that of a Roman legionaire than a traditional Knight, a great red cloak flowing behind him.
Two hawks lazily circled the village in the skies overhead.
"Its beautiful," Barry stammered.
"Aye," said Arthur thoughtfully. "It is our world and our people and our way of life that we protect. And if, mayhap, it cost us our life, it is small price to pay."
Guenevere grabbed Arthur's hand, "But come my Lord we musts greet our guests!" She implored excitedly.
Arthur smiled and held her hand tightly, amused by her joy, "Aye," He agreed. "Come, let us prepare for our company."
"No, don't go!" Barry almost said, but didn't. He watched Guenevere pull Arthur from the room toward Lancelot with sad foreboding.
As the rest of the Knights shuffled wearily from the room, Merlyn held Barry back.
"A moment Sir," the old magician said.
Barry turned to him.
"You know you may not stay here." The old man whispered, gently. "You bring a falsity to our time that may not be. I know not how you came, but I will reverse that error."
He pointed a rugged stick at Barry whose eyes suddenly rolled back in his head as he collapsed to the floor.
Barry opened his eyes to see Linda's anxious face mere inches from his own. "He's coming to," she said.
Diana Gabaldon stood just behind her. "Oh my gosh," she gasped, "You poor man. Are you alright?"
Barry looked around the crowd of astonished faces gathered for Gabaldon's book signing. "Did I pass out?" He asked.
"This stupid bookstore thought it would be amusing to pile copies of my book into pillars representing the standing stones in my novel. And one of the piles fell on top of you. My books tend to run to over a thousand pages, so they're no light-weight. I've heard of people falling asleep reading them, but they've never knock anyone unconscious, until now."
"I had the strangest dream," said Barry in wonderment. "I dreamed I was back in the time of King Arthur. And it was a terrible place. Dark and smoky and dirty. The round table was a cart wheel on a barrel and there were rats and the knights all had fleas."
Gabaldon smiled, "Well that sounds about right for the period. Life expectancy was only about 19 years in those days. Lots of infant mortality but mostly wars and bad hygiene. Cesspools right outside the door, sleeping with their pigs. There was a reason they called it the Dark Ages."
"But it was beautiful too," Barry protested. "The air was so clean, the forests were vast and it was so quiet you could hear people talking a mile away."
"Now you weren't time traveling on me for real, were you?" Diana smiled.
Linda put her arms around him and he laughed ruefully. "We're thinking about our retirement in a couple of years time. And I think this has taught me a few things."
"Such as," Linda prompted.
Barry smiled, "Well, never volunteer for a Diana Gabaldon time travel demonstration, for one. Never judge a place by its reputation, for another. Always wash your hands just like your mother taught you."
"And how about 'There's no place like home?'" Linda asked.
"That too," Barry laughed. He paused and became more thoughtful, "And that some things that look really bad at first, may not be as bad once you start to see the full picture. That human nature is much the same wherever, or whenever, you go. And that there IS nobility in the world. You should have met Arthur. He was so calm yet so strong. he was the centre of everything without even having to move. There was a presence about him."
"You really did bump your head," Linda said, touching a tender lump on his forehead.
"Oh, and I learned one more thing," Barry said earnestly. "I really can speak great Latin. I never knew I could. You should have heard me!"
"Amor et melle et felle est fecundissmismus" said Gabaldon.
"What?" said Barry.
And the two women laughed.
All images in this series were courtesy of Photobucket
Tim, Mike and My Gap Year
9 hours ago