The Lady and the Sword
“A Young King Arthur Tale”
By John Pirillo
“Snot nose!”That’s what the giant twins would call him, and then dumps him in a barrel or horse trough of ice water.
He had no intentions of that happening that morning or any other, so he sought a lesser known route through the small village of Amlot that bordered King Uther Pendragon’s Castle and the Black Tower of his mistress, Lady Morgana.
Arthur was a short lad, barely standing at a tad over four feet. But he had hopes of reaching at least five. He, like most of those of his age, didn’t truly start to show their stretches until they hit their teens. And he was still several years from that. Two to be exact.
His uncle, a reticent man, who spent more time ruminating on what the world should be like, than what it was like, had told him that morning to watch out for the Ilks. The Ilks ran through the storms this time of year, using its cover to do the harm they could, which was to steal souls and put them into stones and trees.
His uncle had told him, quite straight faced, that there were no talking trees but those that had been made so by the Ilks, but Arthur didn’t believe in talking trees or Ilks, so he had ignored the warning, as most village teens and youth did, choosing instead to plow through the cold, branching winds of winter without a care, knowing in the insanity and assuredness of youth, that nothing could touch them.
Arthur felt something brush his neck, and swatted at it. It stopped. Flies in the winter. They never let the villagers alone. So many lived in not much more than homes built of horse, cow and sheep dung welded together with buckets of water and whatever straw they could find growing wildly at the nearby streams and river, where the Ogres, Giants , Minotaurs and Centaurs also dwelt. Though not so many these days. Most had been driven north by King Uther, who hated all forms of magic, except the dark magic of Lady Morgana, which Arthur suspected he only tolerated because of his love for her…or whatever a man like that felt.
“Tooossssskkkk.”Came a voice into his right ear, followed by a light touch on his head again.
That was no fly!
He swiveled around, hair standing on end on the back of his neck, ready to defend himself to the death if need be. Nothing t here.
“Tooosssskkk!” The voice whispered more urgently. Again, the touch on his head.
He swatted at the top of his head so hard he gave himself a headache for a moment. But he had touched nothing.
Puzzled, he pressed his back to Goodman William’s hut, which was a bit taller than most and more firm of wall. He searched up and down the narrow corridor of dung buildings, hoping to catch the miscreant that had swatted him and whispered in his ear.
Nothing.And no one.
He waited several moments, and then gave up. He had to get back to his Uncles to work on a cloak he had taken for task. His Uncle and he depended on the few coins he got for his work. He had been getting quite good at threading, so his reputation was starting to pull even the Lords and Ladies to him for purchases or repairs.
Taking one swifter look up and down the corridor, he finally turned his back to the east and ran up the corridor. He was fleet of foot, so nothing short of a demon could catch him once he started moving.
“Toossssskkk!” The voice whispered in both ears this time and he got a swat on his head that caused his head to ring for several moments, almost causing him to lose his footing and fall to the muddy ground.
He froze and searched about him.
Not a thing.
“Who’s doing this to me?” He asked the air.
He spun around, but saw no one.
“Where are you?”
Arthur turned around to where he thought the voice was coming from, but no one was there.
“I don’t see you!” He hollered.
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“Why are you doing this to yourself, Arthur?”
Arthur balled his fists in anger. “I’m leaving.”
“It’s not your destiny!”
Arthur grimaced. “Oh yeah! We’ll see about that!”
Arthur ran along the corridor of homes, took a hard right, then a hard left and found the door to his humble home, which actually had some wood in it. Living wood. His Uncle had groomed several trees to grow together and used them as the roof. Everyone remarked about how extraordinary it was, but to Arthur it was just home. Plain and simple.
He flung the door open, slammed it shut and threw down a piece of wood to bar it.
“Now!” He muttered with a grin. “See you find me now!”
“I already have.”
Arthur spun around. In the depths of the large one room structure a form seemed to stand there. It could have been any sex. It just wasn’t that easy to see.
“Who are you?”
“Wrong question, Arthur.”
“What’s the right one?”
The form was silent.
Arthur sat down with his back to the door. He was bone tired from the help he had been giving the Tucker Twins, two elderly women who couldn’t walk outside or anywhere pretty much. He helped bring in wood for their fire, which meant seeking it, then carrying it from the woods, which were far off, and then cutting it to size and bringing it back. Back breaking work, but worth it to him. He just loved their silly sense of humor.
“Well, you just stand there and I’ll just sit here.” He told the form. “Uncle should be back soon and he’ll take care of you.”
“What’s so funny?”
“He will, you know.” Arthur insisted. “My Uncle is a very big man and he knows how to use that sword he carries. It’s sharp and can cut through anything.”
Laughter yet again.
Arthur blushed this time. He knew his Uncle only carried a whittling knife, and it was dull at that.
“Okay. You got me. What do you want?”
“What do you want, Arthur?”
Arthur sighed and shrunk against the door even more, dropping his head into his hands. “This is driving me nuts.”
“Arthur. Find me and you will find the way to your salvation.”
Arthur looked up. For a moment the form was revealed.
He jumped to his feet, so startled he couldn’t believe his eyes, and then he fell to the ground and bowed.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
He felt a gentle hand on his head.
“When it is time, Arthur, we shall meet again.”
He looked up into a dazzling face shrouded with clouds of pure white. “Who are you?”
“I am your Destiny.” She told him, giving him a big smile.
“I am your beginning and your end.”
“How will I know where to find you again?”
She smiled and gave him a tiny flower. “Where this flower will grow. There you will find me again.”
Merlin shuffled on the bed of stone he used for his resting place at night, adjusting the furs there to get more comfortable. He eyed Arthur thoughtfully.
“And have you figured out who the Lady was yet?”
“I’ll show you.”
Arthur led Merlin from the cave. It was nearly full moon and the light was so bright it was easy to follow the path to the Lake of the Lady, a huge reservoir of water naturally fed by streams of water from the hills.
They reached the edge of the lake and Arthur pointed to a flower. It was the tallest of them all.
They were both silent. For a brief moment it seemed like everything in the world dropped to a hush, then the lake boiled and a mighty sword thrust from the waters. The most beautiful Sword ever made. It glowed with the light of truth and hope and justice.
Arthur's eyes bugged out. "What is that?"
Merlin put an arm around his shoulder. "A promise for the future, Arthur. A promise for the future."
The Sword put off a burst of powerful light and Arthur shielded his eyes with his forearm. When he lowered his arm, the Sword was gone.
"Where did it go, Merlin?"
"A future. Where it is yours or not, remains to be seen."
Merlin gave Arthur a friendly pat on the back. "And now we must return home, I've got a nice chicken in the oven, and we wouldn't want to have fried chicken for dinner now, would we?"
"Chicken!" Arthur exclaimed. "I'll race you, Old Man."
Merlin laughed. "Dream on!"
Merlin stomped his magic staff on the ground and vanished.
Arthur stamped his foot angrily. "That's cheating!"
Then he grinned. "Chicken!" He ran back home to have the best meal of his life. For that day