Sunday, July 12, 2009

Arthur's Story from Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend

Many times, small stories are found in the material that an author must cut from a novel. Following is the story behind Arthur's visit to King Leodegrance and Guinevere.

Arthur's Story

The rider galloped his sweat-streaked horse over the bridge and amid a cloud of dust rode in the bailey (inner courtyard) of the castle. Dismounting, he led his horse to the water trough. The muscles of the broad-boned horse belied its strength. Once the horse was done drinking, the rider dunked his head into the trough. Shaking the water free from his light brown hair, he ran a hand down along the ragged scar on his left cheek. His hand stopped midway as if the scar was painful.


The rider turned and and a broad grin transformed his face and softened the scar.

“Leo,” he replied, striding over to shake the older man’s extended hand.

King Leodegrance pulled Arthur into his arms and hugged him, nearly smothering him in his embrace. Arthur patted the king on the back, his head barely reaching the king’s shoulder.

“It has been many months since these old eyes have rested on your face,” the king said.

“I know, Leo. The northern tribes have kept me and my knights running around a lot of territory just to try and keep up with them, let alone have a chance to conduct a parley.”

“Well, come on inside. Have something to drink and eat. We’ll talk there.”

Arthur glanced around at his battle horse, now breathing more normal.


A short barrel-chested man stomped out of a nearby doorway. His body was covered with a leather apron and he grasped a hammer in his right hand. He acknowledged the hail with a nod of his head and a quick smile on his narrow lips as he recognized the king’s companion.

“Arthur, good to see you again,” Sauder greeted him as Arthur extended his hand which fit easily in Sauder’s.

“Sauder, take care of Arthur’s horse will you?”

“With pleasure, sir.”

“You’ll spend the night?” King Leodegrance asked.

“Yes, if you will extend your hospitality to the knights that are following me. I have gathered several different clans from the southern kings. Somewhere close to two hundred,” Arthur paused.

“It’s not a good sign that you travel with so many,” the king replied.

“No, it is not.”

“Well, no trouble here. I’ll be right back. I’ll advise Brynwyn so Cook can prepare a proper feast for road-weary men.” With that, King Leodegrance left but returned shortly.

As he reentered the room, Arthur was looking out across the bailey. King Leodegrance took a moment to take stock of the young man. Though it had been several months, Arthur had not appeared to have changed much. At times, like now in the safety of friends, his broad shoulders sagged a bit with the weight of the responsibility he had taken upon himself with the death of his father Uther Pendragon. But it was his slight stature that people focused in on, an inheritance from his mother. Most who did not know him believed at first sight that he was weak and easy pickin’s. Those who knew him, like King Leodegrance, understood that that slight stature was deceiving. Rarely was there a warrior as strong mentally and physically as Arthur.

“Well, Arthur, how can I be of assistant in pulling the northern clans together?”

Arthur turned from the window, the sunlight framing him in shining light.

“What I need, Leo,” Arthur started, “is something to make them believe that my proposal is for all of England and not just for my ego. Something that will let them know that this plan, this dream will enable all of us to endure the times ahead.”

“That I agree with. I’m troubled, though, that even with our gathering the support of the southern kingdoms behind you, the northern kings have still chosen to continue their rebellion and their raiding. What do you think they are looking for?”

“I’ve given some thought to this. Maybe stability, a permanence, a sign that whoever pulls all of the kingdoms together will be strong enough to hold them together.” He paused, allowing King Leodegrance to think about his words.

“What do you think would offer this stability, this permanence, this sign?”

“I was thinking of occupying the deserted castle down at Camelot pass. Rebuild the outer walls and fortify the entrances. Also make the castle and other buildings livable. Make it my permanent headquarters. A place where garrisons from all of the kingdoms could live, rotating time of service. What do you think?” He anxiously looked to the king, eager to hear his approval.

King Leodegrance pondered Arthur’s words carefully before speaking. “It just might be what they are looking for, the sign that you are invested in this land like they have been for years. The sign that while you are your father’s son, you bear none of the meanness that he showed them before his death. Yes, it might be a start. But will they also need further assurance?”

“Possibly, but this would be a start. If we work hard, and draw extra men from the southern kings, the castle could be ready by this time next summer.”

“Then let’s do it. We’ll pass the word here tonight and send out messengers to the other kings tomorrow. By the end of the month, you should have an army at work on the castle. Good plan, Arthur.” King Leodegrance reached out and shook Arthur’s hand, sealing the bargain.

“Your highness!” A voice called out from the hall. “Your highness!” James the carver ran into the room. “Cook sent me to tell you,” he paused trying to catch his breath.

“Tell me what?” King Leodegrance demanded.

“Sir, your highness. It’s Guinevere! Look. Out there!”

King Leodegrance strode to the opposite window, Arthur followed. Below, beyond the moat, a crowd was gathering. And there at the edge of the forest ran Guinevere.

“Darn girl. If she were not my daughter and the likeness of my late wife, I could easily take care of her rebellious streak.” He turned and left, off after his daughter. Arthur started to follow, but stopped as the King was confronted by another man outside the room.

“Your highness, you have got to do something about Guinevere. She simply must spend more time on her lessons. It is really a waste of my time otherwise,” Professor Rhymes related.

“How about I decide what is a waste of your time, Professor,” the king answered gruffly as he pushed the professor aside.

“Maybe I’ll just stay here and watch from the window,” Arthur muttered to no one but himself, a smile upon his face. Although he had never met Guinevere, the tales related by the king told of a strong-headed girl on the eve of being a formidable woman.

Watching the scene unfolding below, Arthur continued his conversation with himself.

“What else I need, Leo, my friend and mentor, is a wife. And if I can overcome your objections, I do believe that I have found her.”

If you wish to purchase a signed copy of Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, go to www.beyondtodayeducator.