Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pendragon--A Fantasy (Part 3 of 5)


Anon, Fair Maidens, Lords and Common Folk, please be advised you are about to embark on a flight of purest fantasy. Unlike other posts to this blog, it cannot be read as a stand alone, but musts require you to enjoin it at its very beginning, Part One far below.

Having fulfilled that obligation, then be hushed for the curtain lifts and our players take the stage.


It was only after the vicious swing of Merlyn's staff came to halt mere inches from his skull, that Barry flinched in terror. His feeble attempts to duck hampered by the heavy chains on his wrists.

Merlyn's gaze was unwavering, judging what he saw before him.

"Well," he said after a time. "It's obvious the man is no warrior. As you can see, my liege, his reactions are untrained. Remove his chains, Arthur, whatever we have here is no threat."

Arthur nodded to Percival who sighed, threw back his great cloak and bent to unlock Barry's chains.

As Barry made to rise, Merlyn's staff touched his forehead and pushed him back.

"Nay, sir. A seat in the mud will suit for now." Merlyn began pacing around him again, like a dog around a bear seeking a vulnerability.

"His strange clothing vouchsafes his odd tale," smiled Guenevere. "Have you seen the like Merlyn?"

"I have not my lady." The elderly magician crouched down, his face mere inches from Barry's own, his old man's rancid breath leaking through rotted teeth. "If truly you travel through time, sir, why come you here?"

Barry gathered his thoughts and looked up at Guenevere, "I don't really understand it myself. I hadn't expected time travel to work. It was a joke." he explained. "I guess I had Camelot on my mind because my wife and I plan to retire soon and I've been thinking about the healthiest place to choose. You know, our perfect place. Our Camelot."

Arthur nodded approvingly, "Camelot is the strongest fortress in the land."

"It wasn't a fortress I was thinking of. I just turned 65 and..."

Merlyn's staff whacked him in the forehead. "Don't test our credulity, sir." The old magician hissed. "You can be no more than 35. Our liege is but 24, our knights no more than 19 or thereabouts. Guenevere is but months from 15 though I myself am ancient at 51. We know our ages sir and you cannot be 65."

"No I am 65!" Barry protested with equal vehemence. "In the future we have better sanitation and better medicine. It is not unusual to live to be 80 or 90. That's what makes retirement so difficult to plan. I could well live another 20-25 years."

Arthur was intrigued. "This retirement, you speak of, what is that?"

"Well, you put money aside, the government puts money aside, the company you work for puts money aside and around 65 you stop working and start just enjoying life."

Coughing harshly, Gawain staggered angrily to his feet and began to draw his sword, "I've enough with these lies, my Lord. Let me end this!"

But it was Guenevere who answered, "Nay good Gawain. He amuses me." She turned to Barry. "Sir, I have not much time, we are expecting company. An alliance is to be formed, our guests will soon arrive and I musts change and prepare their greeting. Their herald reached us yesterday. So tell me true, this place, our Camelot is revered in the future?"

Barry nodded gravely, "It is my lady. Camelot is remembered as a nearly perfect land and Arthur the wisest and bravest of Kings. His knights, their ladies and the people lived the best of lives under his reign."

At the back of the room, Galahad voiced his accent. "I've seen worse," he said. "We fight the decline in everything since the departure of Rome in the time of our father's fathers. Then the land was at peace and people lived on splendid estates. Roman senators had estates here and magnificent homes. Now all about us the land returns to mindless violence and decline. The Angles and the Saxons and the Jutes invade from across the channel. We fight to preserve what little civilization is left."

There was a murmur of agreement from around the room and a beating of goblets upon the rounded table top. But Barry could sense the frustration and the weariness beneath the bravado. They were too few and the decline too pervasive.

Guenevere rose, "I must go. Our guests will be cold and wet and weary when they arrive." She curtsied to Arthur, "My liege, my husband, I must go. But keep this man safe. He will amuse our guests this evening, to be sure."

Arthur reached a hand down to Barry, "Come sir, up with you and sit with us at our table. I would speak with you some more. But vouchsafe me this I pray you, there will be no singing from you ever again!"