Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Short Story: King Arthur- The Battle of Camlann

by Anushka Kar




The Battlefield

It was a maze. A maze of corpses; this battle was like no other – and King Arthur happened to be in it.
 And then there was Sir Bedivere, ah the poor chap – he just hated the word ‘war’ or ‘battle’ itself. So as you can imagine, the sight in front of him forced bile up his throat. But he had done many a battle – it was a game now. So he did it for Arthur.
  Besides, King Arthur had fought many battles more, so he solved every direction, step and turn like an equation. It was as if his eyes were souly placed on Mordred; anyone within a two metre radius was struck with Arthur’s sword.
The Excalibur.
The sword that no King was worthy of.
No king but Arthur.
And as he strode towards his competitor, the scent of metal on metal consumed his lungs.
 As assumed, one smug knight decided against his own thoughts and edged towards the king from behind. Not surprisingly, Arthur was exceedingly sharp and spun on his heel so fast that he was nose to nose with his opponent.
Eyes ablaze, he growled, “I wouldn’t.”
The force of his words sent a rush of fear surging through the opponent’s body as he recoiled. But as the king took a step back he collided with something – someone. Without a word, the conflict between the two began as their swords clashed.
 As if on cue, the air polluted with darkness and a cry of death, so painful, pulsated in the ear; enough to torment the mind with repulsive thoughts. But all Arthur could hear was the thump of his heart in his head as he fought for his life.
And his competitor you ask?
Mordred.

The return of Excalibur
His call for Bedivere set the knight alert as he broke into a sprint towards his King. “Arthur!” he cried. Almost immediately, he spotted someone heaving for a breath. “Arthur?” he questioned with dread.  The grass beneath him swayed in the light breeze, but as Bedivere slowly gravitated towards the ground, his jaw fell open as his face appeared plain with shock.
“Bedivere,” the king choked, his voice ragged, desperate for more oxygen.
“Yes, my king?” answered Bedivere, a little too quickly.
“Go… go and return The Excalibur – my sword,” croaked Arthur.
“Of course, my king – but where?” asked Bedivere hurriedly.
“Not where, but whom; The Lady of The Lake,” the king corrected.
“I see,” frowned the knight as he paused, not quite sure what to say. “But must I leave you like this?” he questioned.
“If you are as swift and fast as what I know…then yes. Now go brother,” breathed Arthur.
 At this, Bedivere bolted for the lake, left with a horrified expression on his face and a sword clamped in his fist.

The temptation of Excalibur
By now, Bedivere had an assortment of bruises and scratches all over his face, but he didn’t care. He only willed to throw the sword into the lake and return to his king. Only, as he lifted the sword up and swung his arm back, he caught a glimpse of light at the tip of the sword, tinted with a particular shine. Unfortunately for him, the temptation was far too great as he dropped his hand down and sagged his shoulders. He twisted the sword in his palm and scanned every detail, lined with saffron diamonds; his eyes flashed with fascination. But then the trees suddenly rustled, bringing him back to reality as his expression turned to determination. The temptation of the Excalibur was still in the back of his mind as he realised something: he could hide the sword. The knight skimmed his surroundings as he thought with persistence. Oddly enough, while Bedivere was in his own dreamscape, the water lay completely still – but then a ripple appeared, and Bedivere found himself intrigued. The lake appeared to be as clear as the tears that threatened his eyes when he envisioned Arthur, but everything else was a blurred haze. Step after step, the knight caught himself as he paced towards the lake without a care. Slowly, he angled his arm as he dragged it back and with rapid movement suddenly hurled it across the lake, forcing it out of his hand. Promptly, before the sword could go any further, a hand broke out of the water and grasped it without fail. Mystified, Bedivere mused what he had just visualized as the Excalibur submerged under the water.

The three queens
“My king, I must now take you to the three queens that await you,” puffed Bedivere.
“You have returned the Excalibur?” asked Arthur
“How can you only think about the sword, Arthur?” seethed Bedivere.
“You did not answer the question, Bedivere.”
“Yes, my lord – I have returned the Excalibur,” sighed Bedivere.
 There was a deafening silence as Bedivere pondered what more was to be said.
“Bedivere,” croaked Arthur, setting him alert. “I believe you were going to take me to the queens.”
“Forgive me, Arthur; if you must know, I’m not quite the expert in these situations.”
At this, Arthur laughed with warmth in his voice -probably his last one- “How could I forget? You never were quite the one for bloodshed.”
“Indeed,” replied Bedivere as his mouth twitched into a smile.
Without another word, he carried his king down the ridges leading towards the queens. The rocks seemed to weather away more easily than expected as Bedivere planned every step ahead of him.
 After about half an hour, the knight spotted the three queens, all with hopeful eyes. But as he edged closer to them, Guinevere, Arthur’s queen, wailed out in anguish.
“Arthur!” she shrieked, “What happened?”
“Mordred happened,” answered Bedivere, as he laid Arthur on a bed of silk.
“What?” whispered the queen with fear.
“I said Mor-”
“I heard what you said,” she snapped, cutting him off.
“Right. Well I shall meet you later to place Arthur on the barge,” replied Bedivere as he flinched with hurt. But Guinevere only sniffed, and with that, Bedivere turned away leaving the queens’ in their grief.
 The sun shone upon the king’s face as the queens murmured their prayers in misery; everything was a dull mirage. It seemed as if they were all in a different realm: the trees were modest but soulless, the grass was lifeless with a sickly green cast, and although there was every royal colour imaginable sitting beside Arthur, they glowed a bleak, sombre hue.


Preparing for Avalon
It was as if he was senseless; not a word or sound was uttered from Arthur as he was placed on the barge. His expression only flickered from confusion, to torment, to desolation. The slight breeze blew a scent of minerals from the water as the king silently wheezed with despair in his lungs. But he suddenly saw a subtle outline of someone in his daze that appeared to be getting closer. In his stubbornness, Arthur willed his eyes to stay open – but the thread was thin. He felt his eyelids grow heavy, but he lingered on – for about a second.
And the thread snapped.

Bedivere’s final farewell
“Ah Arthur, the times we had,” chuckled Bedivere. He tilted his head as a soft smile played on his lips, but one that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “But why brother, must you go now?” he said as his eyes grew sad with grief.
 One look at his king and the knight’s eyes stung with angry, sorrowful tears. The words caught in his throat seemed connected to the gut-wrench in the pit of his stomach.
I am never far brother.
 Bewildered, Bedivere’s head snapped up to scan Arthur’s face. “Arthur?” he whispered as his breath caught.
Nothing.
He clasped Arthur’s hands in his. “You will return,” he said fiercely. So fiercely, that it seemed as if he was telling himself rather than the king. But who could blame him?

He had known Arthur like a brother.

He survived the fateful battle.

He was there right from the beginning.

Avalon
You would’ve expected Bedivere’s last words to Arthur to be a soft murmur of ‘goodbye’, but instead it was an ear-splitting cry of the king’s name. His shouts echoed onwards to Avalon where Arthur drifted to. At this, his eyes fluttered open as his pupils grew wider, consuming the icy blue ringlets around them.
It was the only thing that kept him alive for five minutes at the most.
 By now we all know that Arthur, was in fact, a very clever man which meant in less than approximately forty seconds, King Arthur had already acknowledged where he was. Unfortunately for him, all he could physically see was the sky. The plain, faded, dry sky. But to Arthur it was a sheet of many colours -dull, yes- but contrasting. It was one of those days where you couldn’t tell whether the sky was merely getting dark or whether there was a huge, grey cloud with a tinge of blue.
 As he drifted across the water, he contemplated for a good minute whether the boat was actually moving; it did not seem to sway as it should. But the image of the battle of Camlann seemed to slowly fade from where Arthur could see. It was as if the water itself carefully carried him across as he approached Avalon – but the place did not seem as it was said to be.
It was undeniably dark.
In fact, it was so dark, you could not even wish the place upon your own enemy.
 As he entered, Arthur’s heart lurched at the sight; his jaws twitched; nerves were struck and reflexes kicked in.

And he pounced.

He pounced right of the boat - like an animal, you could say. Arthur stood there for a second looking around without even moving his head - almost sheepishly. Brows raised, his eyes swivelled back to a sword clutched in his hand.

Placed almost perfectly.
Too perfectly.
And then there was the classical snap of a twig behind him.
‘How original’ he thought.
The king spun around rolling his eyes when nothing was there, only to be stopped halfway to see dark caramel eyes filled with hatred.

“Mordred,” he breathed.


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