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The Renegades of .CO .ZA regular story challenge, 23rd week Round #02: JollyRogerOX's reply to V's original Arthurian story Liberatoris.
The huge doors to the great hall were not simply knocked open, they burst from their hinges and flew across the decorative chiselled stone floor.
The two Wickermen entered the hall, crumbling the entrance as they did. Once inside though, even their hulking forms were dwarfed by the epic size of the Great Hall. Behind them, the two invader captains – the black knight and the white knight – entered, equally commanding in atmosphere albeit smaller in size.
Weapons sheathed, they made their way halfway across hall – their footsteps echoed in the open room, each step stabbing at the silence. However the shape seated in the throne at the end of the red carpet remained unmoved, his slumped and relaxed posture seemed to mock their grand entrance with boredom. A crown was fixed to his head as if it grew out of him since he was a boy.
The captains halted their march and drew their blades, for the blurry forms behind the King’s throne had become clear. Pews atop pews had come into view, and littered with people of all shapes and sizes. People who all had one thing in common: angel-like voices. Camelot’s choir was cause for the knights’ alarm.
“Ah Sir Gawain, join me as I make my way to the Great Hall. How goes the battle?”
“Sire, the situation grows dire. The north of the city up to Camelot is lost, some 600 homes have been reduced to rubble.”
“Calm yourself Sir Gawain, buildings can be rebuilt. Is the evacuation via the south gate proceeding as predicted?”
“Ai sire, but with that many forces protecting the peasants we are at a loss here. You shall stand alone once I return to my station.”
“Have you assembled the choir in the Great Hall?”
“Ai sire, I did what you asked of me, all 400 members. But alas they are not soldiers nor valuable hostages, I fail to see the strategy.”
“Then I am not alone. And the strategy regarding the choir is nay for me good sir, tis for the blade.”
“Speaking plainly my lord, I fear for your life.”
“Tell me Gawain – as my equal from the table, as my friend, with all of this we’ve built – was my life not forfeit from the day we began? Was this dream not larger than any one person, even a King such as me? If it is not today, it will come, the day when I must pay for my sins and dreams alike.”
“But sire this is no debt-collector; the traitor and the villain have aligned. This whole war is sewn together by the needle and thread of evil. Tales from the frontlines speak of giant moving statues immune to our attacks, ships that sail the sky and birds in such great numbers they blot the sun.”
“Turn yourself away from such dramatic thoughts, Gawain. Mordred and his magic ways have been biting at our heels since before his birth and Lancelot, is only doing as he has always done, as I have always insisted we all do: follow our heart’s mind.”
“Forgive my ignorance my lord, but how can you defend the man who has cut you so deeply?”
“I do not defend Lancelot, Sir Gawain, I merely understand him. I fully intend to balance the debt he owes me for his crimes. Now return to your position, and am here, the Great Hall and the place I will make my presence known to the battlefield.”
King Arthur, the silver knight, unsheathed the legendary blade of Excalibur, raised it above his head and turned to the choir behind him and commanded as only a king could: “Sing Excalibur! The song of Flight!”
In perfect harmony the choir erupted and the blade started to shake violently in the king’s hand, as if he was attempting to hold fast to a wild beast on a leash. The king turned back to the invaders and simply called: “Sing,” as he released the blade.
Excalibur seemed to float mid-air for but a moment, only to begin whirling, spinning, faster and faster until it appeared as a disc of light.
The invaders, who had not moved as they watched the scene unfold with caution, began to question the extent of the magic under the king’s control. Lancelot had seen Excalibur perform countless times but never before a choir, it seemed to push the blade’s magic to new heights. He looked to Mordred, who had since sunk into a tight ball on the ground as if to brace himself for a great impact. Lancelot then looked up at the blade, its fierce spinning making it look as if it were about to burst, and he proceeded then to follow Mordred’s direction – ungraceful as it were.
The blade leapt forth, travelling the length of the great hall in the blink of an eye. It tore through the eastern-facing Wickerman’s leg as light cuts through air. Then in an arc, it came back around and separated the creature’s torso, before arcing again to remove the head, the burning fire in the eyes of the Wickerman faded as it disintegrated to the hall floor. The choir’s song faded and the blade returned to Arthur’s hand, the expression on his face had changed from boredom to anger, and hate, and disgust.
“Do you share any concept of what is required to create just one Wickerman, o’ King of Lies?”
“Well if it isn’t my flesh and blood sin. Tell me boy, has your mother used any more spells in order to be raped, in recent memory?”
“DOG! I shall boil your face off for that!”
“You dare bring that filth with you into Camelot, Lancelot, have you no shame? At all?”
“Careful King – I’ve got this hall surrounded and your rudeness presses my already bleeding mercy.”
“Lancelot, hush-up your dog while the adult’s converse.”
“I’ve come to silence that smug face of…”
“MORDRED enough! He will get what’s due to him and you will have your fill… You brought this about yourself, Arthur.”
“King. King Arthur to you outcast. And dare I play reflection and remind you that it was you who betrayed his King and bedded my wife.”
“And so the outcast I would have remained if you had protected her from harm. But now she is dead and I’ve come to claim justice.”
“JUSTICE! What justice could the traitor seek? I trusted you, you most of all. So much so I only felt safe if I knew you were protecting the love most precious to me. Tell me, Lancelot. TELL ME? Which broken promise do you regret the most? Your promise to our dream and the people of this land? Or perhaps the vows between and man and his wife under the eyes of God? Or mayperhaps it is the promise betweens brothers, that old primal understanding between kin that causes you discomfort? Nay, I know of your ilk: oaths are like leaves in the wind to you, as long as you and they travel in the same direction you will carry them. But alas the wind has changed direction and there is no promise greater than the love you have for yourself, even Guinevere was fool enough too..”
“Do NOT dare speak her name!”
“She was my WIFE and QUEEN to my Kingdom, you DARE not lay ownership o’ her name!”
“Alas, that’s all she was to you, a vessel to play queen while you played king. Did you ever see her as woman, King Arthur? Did you ever see her as more than just the queen? You scream at me of selfishness yet you are blind to your sins. You neglected your most precious gem for a grander prize.”
“Again you confuse selfish with selfless, white knight. Guinevere knew as I did, we are but servants to the vision we all agreed on. Camelot is more than a man and his wife shepherding their flock, we had to be more – you will never understand. It was you who made her weak to desire, it was you who made her want less, it was you who sent her about the path of destruction and pain, and it is you who will pay for her death. That, my old friend is the only justice you will find inbetween these walls. NOW DIE!”
King Arthur, the silver knight, unsheathed the legendary blade of Excalibur, raised it above his head and turned to the choir behind him and commanded as only a king could: “Sing Excalibur! The song of Destruction!”
The 400-strong choir, lifted by the inspiring acts of Excalibur, sang then with more enthusiasm. When the Silver Knight turned back to look upon his foes, both his eyes and Excalibur emitted a radiance as if the very sun was inside them, desperate to burst out. King Arthur’s hair and cape fluttered about as if in a great storm. He took a step forward.
In a brilliant flash he was behind Mordred and Lancelot. Effortlessly, he swept Excalibur through the air to cut off Mordred’s sword-arm, before the blade came back down across both of Mordred’s legs, the armor might as well have been made of water. King Arthur turned to face Lancelot. The Wandering Knave dove back clambering in the direction of the remaining Wickerman, scrambling on all fours like a scared animal. The Wickerman, while slow to react, was already in full motion of slamming its fist down at King Arthur’s location. The King lifted his free hand to pause the attack mid-transit, flicking Excalibur through the arm of the evil creature. It looked curiously at its shortened appendage, before proceeding to repeat the attack with its other – still intact – arm. King Arthur used the time to place both hands on Excalibur and stab the ground in front of him. A bolt of lightning caused a great crack to spilt open then ground between him and the Wickerman. Hundreds of hands and arms and screams emerged from the wound, pulling and tugging at the lumbering beast as it began to slip into the seemingly bottomless pit. Once the monster was wholly inside, King Arthur lifted Excalibur from the ground, the screams were no more and the choir’s song once again reigned.
Again King Arthur turned to Lancelot, but he blinked causing the light from his eyes to flash and flicker wildly. Lancelot looked to King Arthur’s side, seeing Mordred smiling with glee. The Black Knight had crawled close to Arthur will he was disposing of the Wickerman and managed to stab a blow under Arthur’s arm, where the armour was lighter and close to the heart. Blood bubbled from Mordred’s mouth as he began to laughed hysterically. King Arthur swatted at Mordred with Excalibur cutting off his arm and opening his face in two, but Mordred’s smile persisted. King Arthur removed the dagger from his wound, the handle of the blade was hollow and made of glass – it was a blade designed to inject poison into the victim. King Arthur could feel his insides begin to melt. With a cry of frustration and disappointment he fell to his knees, blood began pouring from his mouth and eyes, down his chin and throat, onto the floor, where it pooled at an unnatural rate. Lancelot, a seasoned warrior and worldly adventurer, had seen many wondrous and mysterious events… but this battle had eclipsed them all. He was shocked to his core and all his motives melted away. He never imagined his friend commanded such power, he realised he was but a man in the presence of a god. He acknowledge Arthur could have ended him at any time, but he hadn’t, he showed mercy time and time again, and now a gimmick was about to end his rule.
“Is this your justice, Lancelot?”
“Arthur? No. I wanted honour, and grace – I always respected you, you must know that please. I thought you needed to be taught a lesson, to feel my pain. All this, all this is too much. You, you are my king, my leader, my friend. I hate you for my pain, but this, this is too much…”
“Haha! Foolish to the end I see, what did you expect, Lancelot? This dream is bigger than you and I, the players involved play to win. With great authority comes great…”
“Arthur, please cease, you must rest! I’ll fetch Gawain, he’ll know what to do.”
“I’ll be dead before you reach the door, Lancelot…”
“Arthur, tell me what to do! Please, guide me once more – I’m lost without my sun and my moon.”
“You make me weep to hear those words Lancelot, at least the tears water down the burning blood. But there is nothing left for us old friend save for us to carry the consequence of our actions.”
“Then…then, I know what I must do. Arthur let me help you to stand. You must swing Excalibur one more time and let the blade of Camelot judge me.”
“It won’t find you guilt-free, Lancelot.”
“Ai, but let me carry my consequences, at least in the end. Let me know the weight of my choices.”
King Arthur, the Silver Knight, after struggling to his feet with aid of the legendary blade, Excalibur, raised it above his head and turned to the choir behind him and meekly commanded, as blood and poison spilled from every orifice of his head: “Sing Excalibur! The song of Justice!”
The 400-weak choir – stunned by the twist in the fight – began with a low hum. With a pathetic ungraceful swing, Excalibur flew in a near-perfect circle around Lancelot, trimming him of his arms and legs, sending him like a rag flopping to the floor. He stared up at the ceiling of this Great Hall wondering whether the more fitting justice be that he bleed out and die, or live out his days as a cripple accompanied by his guilt. He suddenly became overwhelmed with memories of a better time. He turned to Arthur, coughing and choking – drowning in his own blood as Mordred’s poisons melted away his lungs. Then the window behind Arthur caught Lancelot’s focus: the stained glass window of Arthur’s wedding, the perfect moment. He was still brother and honourable, Guinevere was pure and never more beautiful, and Arthur’s heart was full. Tears bled from Lancelot’s eyes, it was all too much, the weight of his actions had finally pierced his amour of justice. What cruel twist to a dream so pure. What a tragedy for any soul to endure. He begged God, begged with everything he had – like no man had every begged before, nor will again – please let it end, let me die, let this book close for good. For good.
And with that, the choir stopped and silence reigned.
The Renegades of .CO .ZA regular story challenge, 23rd week Round #02: JollyRogerOX's reply to V's original Arthurian story Liberatoris.