Saturday, January 9, 2010

Exclusive US Preview: Arthur and Excalibur - Chapter 6!

Chapter 6



A BAD SEED IS SOWN








MERLIN AND THE LADY IGRAINE left Silchester Abbey the following morning as a group of the lords, including Canaut, were gathered around the great stone, staring transfixed at the Sword of Britain sparkling in the morning dew, as if mocking them. There to behold, but refusing to budge to even the strongest arm or even arms as several tried their combined force to shift it, but to their intense and vocal frustration it did not even yield a fraction. Merlin smiled to himself, no matter what they did it would never be released to the likes of them, and they still failed to comprehend why, even after all that they had been told by Igraine and himself. The sword would now wait for the arrival of Arthur to claim his inheritance and astound them all by the simplicity of its removal. Such a pity that more years would pass before that happened, some of them wouldn’t even be around to see it. Life unfortunately was going to become very difficult for everyone now, chaos, strife and anarchy would blow across the land like a violent storm, refusing to abate, as clouds gathered in darker and tighter formations before attacking the foundations of society on all fronts. The petty squabbles of the lesser kings would pale into insignificance by comparison as the Germanic tribes increased their hold and influence throughout the land, as they would have many successes to build on. Thankfully they were just as disorganised as our own kings and would not operate as one large coherent force to push right through the land, but as small but growing raiding parties, out for what they could get. There is still time to prepare Arthur and lay the ground work for his arrival on the scene, but he will still be very young for such a responsibility when he his thrown in to the melting pot, although from what I have seen and heard he has the character and ability to succeed.

His thoughts were interrupted by Igraine asking about her son and his progression, and how long must he be kept hidden from her and the world. Merlin replied he was doing exceedingly well but that he would have to remain unknown until he became of age and could legitimately claim the Kingship. He asked her how her son Cador was doing as he must be nearly of age and able to inherit his father’s title, and what of her two daughters, Anna and Morgause, as he hadn’t seen any of them for some while. She replied that indeed her son would become of age the following year and had been well trained in the ways of a knight and courtly behaviour by Sir Brastias, a trusted and long serving knight of her late husband Gorlois. Her two daughters were growing fast and were being educated in all manner of womanly duties by her ladies in waiting. Although Morgause, the eldest had a mind of her own and could be quite rebellious at times and needed a firm hand, whereas Anna was the quiet one who just absorbed what she was taught without question. Morgause was independent and got what she wanted, and she feared that she would be a thorn in any man’s side that she became entangled with, especially if she did not get her own way.

They spent much of their journey discussing what was likely to happen during the time that there was no High King and the consequences for the country generally. Igraine jokingly said that she was a lady of substance now with a fort and a castle, but wasn’t sure how she could manage both, Merlin told her not to worry he would sort out the care and keep of Cadbury, if she was happy with that. That would be most helpful she told him, as she was content at Tintagel, there was something about the place and the area that drew her back to it even when she was away. Merlin had a good idea why that was the case but kept his own counsel on the matter, part of her knew that there was something good there, but reason could not explain it and that was just as well in the circumstances.

In no time at all it seemed they arrived back at Cadbury to be welcomed by Taliesin who had volunteered to stay behind whilst they were at Silchester. As he and Merlin had already communicated telepathically there was little else to add but Igraine unaware of this recited all that had happened to an attentive Taliesin. Asking Merlin why he didn’t say anything, he replied that he couldn’t get a word in and she had done a good job of describing the events anyway. At this she blushed and apologised saying that she got carried away, Merlin laughed and replied that it was a good job that she did on occasions, remembering her speech to the lords.

Igraine left for Tintagel the following morning with an escort that Greyfus had arranged for her and reminded both Merlin and Taliesin to call on her as soon as they had the opportunity, to keep her up to date on what was happening in the country. They both promised to call but said it could be some while as they would most likely be very busy travelling the land in an endeavour to maintain some semblance of peace. There goes a very astute lady, it’s a pity in some respects that she is not a man, but then we wouldn’t have Arthur, lets hope he has as much of her character as he does Uther’s, and Taliesin echoed his thoughts.

* * * * *

Sir Ector was having a busy time at Padstow, travelling regularly to Tintagel to liaise with Sir Brastias on the management of the fort whilst Igraine was away. Kay and Arthur always accompanied him and looked forward to those visits as they had developed a good friendship with the older Cador, Igraine’s son, and it provided variety in their ongoing training and took the pressure off Sir Ector at the same time. Sir Ector, aware of the likely problems in the country following Uther’s death thought the time was right to give the boys some wider experience and let them develop friendships and strengthen ties that could prove to be beneficial in the difficult times ahead. Sir Brastias, a steady reliable knight with a wealth of experience with much the same characteristics as Sir Ector, although slightly older, was delighted to have the boys visit as companionship for Cador, and a divergence to the normal routine. They were always keen to be active and doing something constructive and their happy disposition and infectious laughter when something went wrong was a pleasure to observe. Even Igraine’s young daughters were seen on occasions to be watching their antics and shouting encouragement, although Morgause was the more vocal of the two and her comments sometimes most direct, and definitely not ladylike.

Cador, Kay and Arthur were allowed out of the fort on horseback provided that they did not stray too far and could return quickly if any trouble arose, but they had to take their weapons with them just in case. They looked forward to these excursions and were aware of the trust and responsibility given to them as part of their ongoing development and were mindful of not abusing it. However as often happens a situation arose that would test their resolve, but at the same time strengthen their character and give them a chance to prove their worth. They had decided to try a little hunting in the nearby woods and had taken with them spears as well as their swords, not that they had expected to find much game so close to the fort, but it was best to be prepared.

Most of the morning they scoured the woods, slowly penetrating deeper into them, but to no avail. Either they were making too much noise, which was unlikely as they moved quite silently, or there was no game in this part of the woods. The ground was beginning to slope down towards the shoreline when Cador called a halt and said that they should start to make their way back as they had gone far enough. At that moment distant voices came to their ears. Moving off the wide path into the trees and the cover of the bushes Cador motioned them to be quiet as he dismounted and crept back to look along the pathway in the direction of the voices. He quickly returned and whispered that there were four wild looking men approaching talking in a foreign tongue, but between them they were half dragging and half carrying two women roped together. It looked like the woodcutter’s wife and daughter he stated but there was no sign of the woodcutter himself, which probably meant he was dead. They should rescue them said Arthur, otherwise who knew what would happen to them, and Kay agreed, but Cador was hesitant as he had responsibility for the two younger boys. They probably had a ship in the cove which meant that there might be more of them around and they hadn’t got time to go for help. What was their formation? Arthur asked, two in front and two behind, to which Cador nodded an affirmative. Then they needed to surprise them, one of them to jump out and attack the leaders in front when they were close, and the other two to take them from behind with their spears. Cador thought for a moment and then agreed as that seemed their only alternative if they wished to rescue the women, He would take the front if they would take the rear. That agreed Cador moved quietly away from Arthur and Kay to take up position a little further along so that they could ensnare them like meat between two loaves of bread.

The voices grew closer and they seemed to be cursing the women for not moving quickly enough, their guttural voices not understood by the watchers, but the tone was self evident. Kay and Arthur were keeping their horses quiet as the group moved passed their hiding place, and then Cador sprung onto the pathway with a load roar that startled even them. The insurgents were taken totally by surprise and froze for an instant as Cador launched his spear at the leader taking him cleanly through the chest, killing him instantly. At the same moment Arthur and Kay broke out onto the path spears raised, as the rearguard hearing the noise behind them, turned as they drew their swords. Kay’s spear ran true and took out the one on the left whilst Arthur had to wait a fraction of a second as one of the women was slightly blocking his aim and his spear pieced the man through the side, but he was still standing. Without thinking Arthur urged his horse forward and drawing his sword delivered a fatal blow to the insurgent’s neck which almost took his head off. Meanwhile Cador had drawn his sword and attacked the only one left alive, who was still dazed from the speed of the surprise attack. He quickly fell dead under his withering onslaught.

Kay and Arthur had dismounted and were untying the women, who were both distraught and in shock. It was several minutes before they confirmed who they were and that the woodcutter had been slain by the barbarians as he tried to protect them. Cador had dragged the bodies into the undergrowth, after the gruesome task of removing the spears from the corpses, in case anyone came looking for them, and then asked the women if there were more of them around and if so how many. The mother said that there had been more of them but wasn’t sure how many, but the rest had gone off in a different direction. Cador suggested that Arthur and Kay doubled up and take one of the women each on their horse, he would cover their flank in case they encountered any more trouble en-route. They had better ride back to the fort as quickly as possible, before they encountered any more of the raiders.
Their return journey was thankfully uneventful and each had cause to reflect on what had happened, with the realisation that all their training had paid off and they were unharmed, but that they had each taken a life. Not a pleasant thought, but entirely necessary at the time to rescue the women and uphold the code of chivalry expected of them, even when outnumbered, and they were happy with their actions. Word had been passed to Sir Ector and Sir Brastias well before they had entered the fort as the lookouts had seen the extra burdens on the horses, and they were there to greet them. Demanding to know what had happened as they took in the blood stained spears. Cador quickly related what had taken place and the action that they had taken, the women told of how they had been set upon and that if it had not been for the gallant lads they would not be there to talk about it now. Sir Brastias quickly sent word to gather thirty of his horsemen and bring his and Sir Ector’s horse and set off to try and flush out any insurgents that were still roaming around and asked Cador to look after the women in the meantime.

The light was fading fast when the troop returned and by the odd wound that one or two of the men sported it was obvious that they had encountered the insurgents, but they appeared happy enough so it looked as if they had been successful. Sir Ector and Sir Brastias confirmed this once they had dismounted and their horses had been lead away. They had discovered a ship in the cove and set it adrift so cutting off escape for any that remained, then scoured the woods and surrounding area flushing out as many as they could, putting them to the sword. One group had put up a stiff resistance but were soon overcome, any that were left would have a long trek home unless they could find a boat, Sir Ector confirmed that they appeared to be mainly Saxons. He and Sir Brastias congratulated the boys on a splendid piece of work that was well thought out in the heat of the moment, and that they had put all their training to good use, but not to get carried away with their success because it would not always go to plan, things often never did.

Sir Ector was pleased with the boys progress and that their first real action had not gone to their heads, in fact it did not seem to affect them at all, they had just taken it in their stride. Taking them to Tintagel and introducing them to Cador had been a good move and he would continue with that even after Igraine had returned, which should be soon. Gwendolyn had been horrified when she first learned of Arthur’s encounter from Sir Ector, but that was just normal motherly instinct that she had for him, even though she was not his real mother she had provided that necessary loving support. It would be hard when they eventually had to part, but she would be there whilst he needed her. Arthur and Kay continued their training in earnest before the days faded into winter again. Once a week they went to Tintagel and trained with Cador, but thankfully without any further incidents.

* * * * *

Merlin, Taliesin and the other Elders were busy in their areas trying to hold the peace together, and they were having a hard time of it with petty squabbles blowing up all over the place, but so far nothing major had occurred, even the Saxons were quiet and that was even more worrying. Perhaps they were biding their time and building up their forces, although no word had reached Merlin of any large scale influx from the continent. The Elders had convened a full council meeting which lasted three days and covered all aspects of the problems facing the country, from the external influences to the more important power manoeuvring that was taking place internally. All were aware that the fragile peace would not last, but there was no one strong enough to bind them together at the moment, so it was just a matter of time before anarchy reigned again, which would allow foreign usurpers to try and snatch power, or at least extend their influence.

* * * * *

Autumn passed quickly and winter arrived with a roar of violent winds, torrential rain and mountains of snow to grind the country to a standstill. Very little moved unless it was absolutely necessary, neither man nor beast forsook their shelter to venture out into the hostile world, and so peace prevailed a little longer across the land, and Merlin gave thanks for the small but welcome respite. The great mounds of snow slowly began to melt as spring nudged winter into forgotten history and the rivers swelled and overflowed onto the surrounding lands creating vast acres of lakes, transforming the landscape into new inland seas and drowning hamlets and ancient towns as if washing away bad memories. Nowhere in the country escaped natures revenge, it did not discriminate between Saxons or Britons, Picts or Celts, Jutes or Angles. It treated all with contempt as it scoured the land clean. Merlin viewed the whole catastrophe with mild humour, no matter what mankind did Mother Nature would take her revenge, in her own time without warning, in a violent and unprecedented way causing much loss of life, yet always the animal kingdom would be aware beforehand and seek safety. The human race still had much to learn from the so called lesser intelligent species of this world, but would they, doubtful in the short term but possible eventually. At least the peace would last awhile yet as everyone from lord to serf would have too much to think about to salvage what they could, but then it would turn as each tried to recoup their loses. Another year closer to Arthur coming of age, and I am thankful of help from any quarter, however unexpected.

* * * * *

The harvest was very poor that year as many of the fertile meadows had been swamped with so much water that they were unable to support the crops that would normally have been planted to provide winter food. Consequently the small amount that was gathered had to be fiercely protected by villages to ensure that they had something to help them through what could be a long and bitterly cold time, and attacks by marauding bands became a frequent occurrence. Village took up arms against village and neighbours attacked each other, even for the smallest amount of grain, and much blood was spilt as fear and greed spread like wildfire. The kings and lords of the regions were even worse as they had their armies to feed and sent their men out to seize and confiscate whatever they could find, irrespective of whose land it was, and soon they were fighting each other. Full scale campaigns were not possible as the scarcity of food would stretch them beyond their limits, so border raids became common place, before the weather made even those difficult. Hunting of game had to be done in force for protection from possible attack, but that was counter productive as the noise created by a large body of men soon frightened the animals into hiding. Many had moved their habitat before the flooding and were now more difficult to locate, especially for horsemen. Merlin’s vision of anarchy and strife had begun, but this was only the tip of the iceberg, worse was to come as the weather tightened its grip on an already badly wounded country. Would it pull through and survive or would it fragment into thousands of tiny pieces and be at the mercy of the lurking vultures, waiting to pounce as the Island of Britain rolled over and died. Merlin and the Elders would do their best, but they were so few and without any real authority, they could only rely on their diplomacy and cunning.

* * * * *

The year passed into oblivion and with it many thousands of souls, either through hunger and cold or if they were lucky, quickly at the end of a sword or spear. Fear and unrest were spreading fast and violence thrust itself upon the land and endured throughout the year and into the following one, and now the Saxons were beginning to make inroads into new areas, either by force or coercion. Time was counting down to Arthur’s coming of age, but would it be too little too late, was there just too much for one man to accomplish, especially at such a young age. Merlin hoped not, otherwise all their hard work would have been in vain, but he would need help and guidance to steer him on the right pathway and the Elders would do their best to provide that, until he was strong enough to stand on his own.

The southwest did not suffer as badly as the rest of the country as the atrocious weather had come down from the north and east and its intensity had lessened by the time it had reached the peninsular, but there was considerable flooding as the torrents of water flowed downstream. The supply of food was affected but not nearly as much as the rest of the country and there was an influx of game into the higher ground as the animals migrated to safer havens. Surprisingly there was little trouble from outsiders except on the more northerly and easterly borders, these were quickly repulsed as the population in this region tended to stick together and protect each other. Very little trouble occurred between neighbours, most being just minor squabbles that were soon resolved, as they were a different breed of people inhabiting these lands, they needed to be with the sea pounding them on both sides.

* * * * *

Cador became of age during this time and inherited his father’s title of Duke of Cornwall and a great party was held at Tintagel in celebration and many attended from all parts of the region including the King of Cornwall. Naturally Kay and Arthur were there with Sir Ector and were introduced to so many prominent people that their heads buzzed with trying to remember all their names. Merlin had put in an appearance and so had Taliesin, it was too good an opportunity to miss to use their diplomacy and gauge the feeling and seek the thoughts of so many nobles. What they learned was promising and predictable, but this was only one small part of the country, concern was voiced for the well being and autonomy of their own region, but the nobles would consider working with the new High King when, and if, one was agreed upon. Until then they would fight for and defend their own territory against all comers, Saxon or Briton, and they were all strong in their resolve on this matter. Solidarity of one region at least was heartening news to both of them in these troubled times, and something they hoped to build on. The festivities lasted for three days during which time Merlin managed to speak with Igraine and discover how her two daughters were doing and Taliesin spent some time with Arthur and Kay recounting some of the many stories of his travels.

It was the talk of the villages for many weeks after and the boys spent many hours discussing who they had met and kept plying Sir Ector with questions on some of them that they thought were interesting characters. Even though Cador was now the Duke the visits to Tintagel continued as before, easing the burden on Sir Ector with the increased training schedule that the boys were undertaking. Learning more skills in the use of different weapons, horsemanship and care of their animals. Arthur was endeavouring to teach Kay and Cador how to see the aura created by the energy field around living creatures, by using their eyes differently, so that they could tell if an animal or human was suffering any ailment. They found this quite difficult at first but slowly started to have some success when Arthur emphasised that they should also go with their feelings and instincts and marry the two together. Later he encouraged them to try the same principal with flowers, trees and rocks as everything had this colourful haze around it, but was not as strong when there was little or no movement. Sir Cador and Kay were fascinated by this and spent many hours practising until they became proficient enough to be successful most times. Although as Arthur pointed out strong direct sunlight made it very difficult to see the haze and therefore was best done in subdued light. He also introduced them to the tell tale signs and sounds of the animals and birds and how to use them to their advantage as their acute senses would warn of danger long before they themselves were aware of it. Look and listen to their surroundings he instructed, as there was much useful information to be gleaned and it would heighten their senses and awareness and could save their life, even silence told them something and sharpened their instincts.

* * * * *

The year rolled on without any major incident in the region as the boys learned more and more of the ways of life and how they should conduct themselves. Visitors were frequent and they were gradually introduced to the finer points of etiquette expected of them in the social aspects of entertaining, both at home and when visiting other dignitaries. As usual they were quick learners and received many gracious compliments from their peers and it was particularly noted that they also showed respect to servants and those of lesser rank, and this found favour in many quarters. Igraine’s eldest daughter Morgause became of age and a great party was held at Tintagel, which many attended. She seemed to have taken an obvious fancy to Arthur and spent some time in his company, which embarrassed him slightly, although he didn’t understand why, as he was at ease with most people. Perhaps it was because she was a good looking woman in full bloom and those inner stirrings were awakening, as boy moved towards manhood, causing some confusion in his mind so that he wasn’t sure how to react. Luckily Sir Ector intervened and saved him from further embarrassment by indicating that they really must go as he didn’t wish to be on the road too late. Disappointed Morgause let him go, after extracting a promise that he would call on her on his next visit, which he agreed without thinking if it would be possible, as he felt entirely out of his depth for once.

A month later Kay became of age and Sir Ector hosted a party on his behalf and although on a smaller scale it was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone, and Arthur was half relieved to find that Morgause couldn’t make it, as he hadn’t seen her on the weekly visits to Tintagel, although Igraine attended as expected.

The year slipped quietly to a close with little chance of socialising after that. At least the weather had been kind of late and the harvest had eventually been fairly good and the troubles of the previous winter did not re-occur. Merlin and Taliesin were notable this time by their absence and it hadn’t gone unnoticed by the boys or Sir Ector either, no doubt they had more pressing engagements. It was as well that they did not know the reasons as the south west regions were insulated from events in the rest of the country and went about their own business often ignorant of anything happening elsewhere.

* * * * *

Merlin was travelling the welsh kingdoms and was having a difficult job trying to keep the peace between the various kings fighting for position. His diplomacy was stretched to the limit and it was only because he was well respected there, as that was his homeland, that he was having any success at all. The biggest problem was keeping the northern kings from tearing out the throats of the southern kings, as there had always been great rivalry between the two, and at varying times a great deal of animosity. At the moment it was in the balance with just minor clashes but it was starting to look ugly, unless he could diffuse the situation.

Taliesin on the other hand was having just as much trouble with the kingdoms of southern Britain, but his problems were twofold, the infighting between kings and the Saxon encroachment into the lands. He was trying to convince them to stop fighting each other and join together against the slow Saxon advance, some were for and others against concerted action, especially if they were not directly affected. Taliesin politely pointed out that if they did nothing to help it would not be long before the Saxons would be at their door, and where would the help come from then. It was hard slow going trying to convince them and drum up enough enthusiasm to get a positive response, but he kept on, hoping to wear them down by his influence as he too was well respected in the area.
* * * * *

Winter meandered in to early spring and the Elders met for another full council and Merlin was reminded that Arthur would soon be of age, although Arthur had not yet asked anyone the date that he was born, it would only be a matter of time before he did. For once Merlin had forgotten the problems that this might cause if Arthur’s correct date was used, as Igraine would possibly come to the conclusion that he might be her son, and ask awkward questions that could jeopardise the situation before he was ready. Merlin thought it best if it was closer to the annual King making council on the first of September and he would speak to Gwendolyn, Arthur’s surrogate mother, and advise her of the need to move it for the lad’s sake. Arthur needed to come to this ceremony as it was possible that it would be the time for the vision to be fulfilled. He would see to it that Sir Ector brought both Kay and Arthur, supposedly for the experience, let the cards be dealt and the hands played out, Merlin reflected. So it was agreed, and as the other matters concerning the state of the country and the Elders high profile diplomacy had been discussed, they dispersed and Merlin headed for Padstow and Tintagel.

* * * * *

On one of their frequent training visits to Tintagel Arthur had taken the opportunity, during a lull in their schedule, to take his horse out for a workout as it was a new animal that he was using now and he wished to bond with it and learn it’s little quirks. His ride took him in the direction of the rock that he had mysteriously entered when a young lad and he thought it was time to pay another visit and maybe explore it a little more. To his consternation he noticed that tall thorn bushes had grown up around it, partially hiding its base and making it seem smaller than actually it was. Riding slowly around it he noticed several animal runs through the thorns and selecting one that was larger than the others he dismounted and laying on his stomach was able to crawl slowly through without getting ripped to shreds by the menacing spikes. There was just room to stand up close to the rock and edge carefully around it until he found the recess that he had used to enter it previously. Studying the rock he began to see the shimmering haze emanating a little way from the surface, and stretching out his hand to it he gently moved it backwards and forwards, allowing his energy to merge with that of the rock. Slowly he pushed his hand forward and just as before it appeared to disappear into the solid structure, and using a circular movement it widened the gap until first his shoulder then his body were through and he was standing in that cavern again. He sat down and allowed his eyes to adjust to the dim light that was coming from a multitude of places, not natural light but energy glowing faintly from ghostly objects scattered about the cave. A voice came into his head breaking the eerie silence and startling him, enquiring what had brought him back again. What strange manner of things is this, he thought, am I dreaming, there is no one here, to which the voice answered him saying that he, the guardian of the cave was here and reiterated his question. Arthur answered that he was intrigued by this place and how he had managed to enter it and now that he was older wished to see if he still could and maybe understand how it had happened.

“Then you have not come to steal the ancient treasures hidden here?” the voice replied.

“What treasures?” queried Arthur, “for I see nothing except dim lights glowing in the shadows,” as he said this the light slowly increased, bringing into view a wondrous assortment of weapons and strange looking objects that he had never seen before.

“All this,” the voice indicated, “that has been hidden here for many a long year under my guardianship, but no one has ever returned to lay claim to any of it, and that is a pity. You are one of the few,” the voice continued, “that has the ability to enter here and therefore you must have some blood of the Elder race in you from somewhere in the past. I see great things for you Arthur in your life ahead, but fear that like so many your human side will let you down at some point and it will be your undoing.”

“Who are you?” questioned Arthur, “that you know my name, but I do not know yours.”

“In my time here I was known as Eudaf Hen, King of Ewyas and Lord of the Gewisse, also known as Octavius the Old in some quarters. Before that I had many names but none would be familiar to you as they were so long ago and go back to the time of the Elder race.”

Arthur replied that he had heard many tales of his exploits and some said that he was the first real High King of Britain.
That is an exaggeration,” Eudaf replied, “as I was only the Overlord of the southern kingdoms. My son-in-law, Magnus Maximus, who succeeded me became the first High King of all Britain, and most of the High Kings since have descended from my blood line.”

Arthur wanted to know more about what lay ahead of him in his life but the voice was not forthcoming as he said that he was not at liberty to go into detail but that there were two items in the cave that would be of use to him in the future, and that he would know the time to use them. They were made of material that would be unknown to him, Eudaf said, but would serve their purpose admirably although he would need to keep them covered and hidden until that time and should not mention to anyone where they came from.

“The secret of this cave and its location must remain hidden from all until such a time as you might have a need for it, but remember only one with blood of the Elder race in them can enter here. I will dim the light and you will find the items by your feet for it is time for you to leave, always follow your instincts and you will rarely go wrong, let your light shine forth, good luck and god speed on your journey.”

Arthur thanked him as the light dimmed and he heard a gentle thud of something landing by his feet, gathering the items up he stood and turned, letting his eyes adjust and focus on the rock face to find his exit in the same way that he had entered. Once outside he surveyed what was in his arm that he had kept close to his body as he pushed himself through the opening. A covered shield in a different shape to what he was used to and a roll of some type of white material whose texture he did not know. Under the prickly thorns he crawled again to where his horse was grazing contentedly on the lush grass. Slinging the shield on his back and stuffing the roll of material in his tunic he unfolded his cape, that he had left on his saddle, and put it around himself to hide the shield from view. His return to Tintagel was uneventful and he found a safe place to hide the shield in the stable until they left for Padstow a little later.

Merlin arrived unexpectedly the following day whilst the boys were out training with Sir Ector and he took the opportunity to seek out Gwendolyn and speak to her in private. She was pleased to see him as the thought of Arthur’s coming of age had been on her mind recently and she was not sure what to say if asked, knowing the secrecy surrounding his birth. Merlin gave her instructions, including the date that she was to quote, and he would speak to Sir Ector because much would be happening around that time and it would not be possible to have a party here. He also spoke to her in confidence about the role that she had played in Arthur’s upbringing and thanked her for all her efforts and that on or shortly after his coming of age it was most likely that his birth mother’s name would become common knowledge. She reminded him that she had accepted that at the very beginning of the relationship with Arthur and was prepared for it. But it was nice that he had given her forewarning of the likely hood of it occurring in the near future, so that she would not be taken by surprise when it happened. As they finished speaking the trio returned and catching sight of Merlin the boys gave a whoop of joy and rode over to him shouting that it was good to see him and not to leave before they had finished seeing to their horses.

“Don’t worry,” he laughed, “I shall still be here as I have much to speak to Sir Ector about, so do not rush your chores, otherwise you will be waiting around for some while before I am finished and can listen to your tales.” They departed in a flurry and Sir Ector invited Merlin to come and join him in some refreshment, which he gratefully accepted, whilst he brought him up to date on events in the land.

They spent several hours in conversation and eventually the topic turned to Arthur’s coming of age, Sir Ector had been waiting to speak to Merlin about this for some time as something had held him back from mentioning it to Gwendolyn or even Arthur. Merlin said that he was pleased that he had waited as it was a delicate situation after all, but it would have been alright to approach Gwendolyn about it as she had been expecting an inquiry, but never mind as that was hindsight. Merlin mentioned the King making council on the first of September and requested that Sir Ector should attend as he thought that this year they might get a result and that he should take Sir Kay and Arthur with him, for the experience. As it was only two days after Arthur’s coming of age he thought an initial party should be held for him at Silchester, as he was inviting Igraine and Sir Cador to the event as well, followed by one later on their return here. Sir Ector thought about this for a moment then queried the need for them to go in the first place. Merlin had anticipated this and said that if the new King was chosen, then he would require all the show of support that he could get to make his position tenable, and that was what the country needed at the moment, a strong High King. Sir Ector saw the logic of this and agreed but thought that Arthur might not be too happy about celebrating his coming of age in a strange place. Well, said Merlin lets ask him as he saw the boys lurking in the shadows, waiting to join them, and he waved them over. Arthur jumped at the opportunity as he had never been that far a field and didn’t really mind where it was, but asked that his mother could come as well to make it a proper family gathering. Good lad, thought Merlin, that saves me the problem of persuading Sir Ector to take her along, without raising any suspicions. They both agreed that in the circumstances she should accompany them, and the talk then turned to the boys exploits since they had last seen Merlin, but Arthur never mentioned the cave or what he had been given, as he always kept his word.

Merlin departed two days later and made for Tintagel to see Igraine and persuade her to attend the King making council. She thought it would be good experience for her son, the new Duke, to be seen by the other lords from around the country and she would leave her eldest daughter Morgause in charge of the fort jointly with the Duke’s battle chief. That would keep her daughter in order and give her some sense of responsibility that sometimes she seemed to be lacking, but keep her reigned in to some extent as even she did not argue with Sir Brastias. So it was settled, she would travel with Sir Ector and his party as they would call en-route to collect them and whatever escort she felt that she required. Merlin was pleased as all the major players were being brought together at the same place and the same time and something should certainly happen, hopefully for the best, but only time would tell. The next part of his vision was getting stronger all the while, soon it would be time for Arthur to stake his claim and make his mark with all the dithering and self centred lords and kings. It promised to be a most interesting time, but Merlin needed to see that Arthur could generate the required support for one so young, so he must continue his travels, and shortly took his leave of Igraine.

* * * * *

Summer was upon them and this was the time of year that Arthur and Kay revelled in as although the training had become quite strenuous they had the light evenings to relax in and often these days Sir Cador visited them and joined in their merriment. Weekly visits were still being made to Tintagel to break the monotony of the same location, but Arthur had still not paid a call on Igraine’s daughter Morgause as he had promised, mainly because they were always on the go, but also because he was unsure how to handle her. The situation was about to be taken out of his hands however, as a week before they were due to leave for Silchester and the King making council Arthur felt that his horse was not quite right whilst training at Tintagel and said to the others that he was going to take him back to the stables and give him a good going over to try and find out what the problem might be, and that he would rejoin them later.

Stripped to his waist he had washed his horse down and given him a good brushing and was studying his animal’s aura to detect what area might be causing him a problem, when a voice startled him. Turning around he found Morgause starring at him with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes, commenting that this was where he hid out when he could be calling on her. He was lost for words again, not knowing what to say, and could only mutter an incoherent reply as she purposely stepped forward, sure in the knowledge that she had him where she wanted him and he would do her bidding without a murmur. She ran her hand seductively across his chest, whispering with a fiery passion that he had a beautiful manly body and it was a shame to waste it. Arthur was totally mesmerised and he appeared frozen to the spot as she brought her body into contact with his. Her thrusting breasts almost spilling out on to his bare chest as she pushed her groin against his, gyrating her hips slowly as she teased him, then gave him a long passionate kiss. She took his hand and placed it on her bosom gently rubbing herself with it. Arthur seemed transfixed as if in another world as all sorts of feelings rushed through his body, nice feelings and total confusion together, but all out of his control. Kissing him passionately again she slipped her hand between his legs and felt his passion rising and throbbing to her touch, sending a thrill of delight right through her body at the realisation of the monster she had released. This really was some man she thought with genuine surprise, as she gently pushed him to the ground and removed his breeches with a gasp of pure pleasure. She was hot for him and Arthur could do nothing, he was so totally mesmerised he seemed unable to move as she quickly removed her skirts, straddled him and impaled herself on his passion with a cry of ecstasy that reverberated right through her body. Morgause rode him like a stallion, hard and fast, until she could hold her passion in check no longer and as she exploded in a sea of immense pleasure again and again Arthur’s thunderbolt hit her insides and she cried out in pure delight. She slowed, but was determined to make the most of the situation whilst Arthur had lost his senses and unhooked her bodice letting her heaving breasts spill out, little rivers of sweat running down the valley and gently on to his body. Taking Arthur’s hands she rubbed herself with them until she felt his passion rise in her again, matching her own swelling desires, and rode him hard again until they both exploded together in pure sexual ecstasy.
Arthur by now had begun to regain control of himself and was thoroughly enjoying his induction to the pleasures of a sexual encounter, but was determined not to let this lady keep control of the situation, he must show her who was in command. As she slowed her gyrations Arthur took her by surprise and rolled her over and began to kiss her passionately and caress her breasts until she started to moan with pleasure, then he mounted her and coupled with her forcing her buttocks into the hard damp earth with each deep thrust of his passion. She moaned and groaned and exploded in pleasure time after time but Arthur still kept on until he could contain himself no longer and his passion exploded like an erupting volcano that caused her whole body to shake and an intense sigh escaped from her lips.


They both rested for a moment and Morgause managed to whisper asking him if he would stop if a lady asked him to and he replied, with a smile on his face that of course he would, and then started to kiss and caress her again and thrust deep into her as his passion returned again. He kept this up for another hour, happy that he had taken control of the situation at last (unbeknown to him, just what his father would have done) until Morgause could take no more and cried out for him to stop, and being a gentleman he did. She wanted to know why he had not stopped before, and his reply was that she only asked if, not a will you please, so he thought she was quite happy to carry on. Morgause realised that Arthur had turned the tables on her, but what a man, she was glad that she had ensnared him even though he had eventually taken control, no man had done that to her before, nor performed like he had, she would certainly remember this encounter for a long while. They dressed swiftly and Morgause determined to get the last word at least, told him that what he had just experienced was his coming of age present, to be seduced by a real woman. Arthur, smiling and not to be outdone told her that now she new what a real man was like, as he turned to his horse to continue looking for the problem that he was in the process of doing before he was so nicely interrupted. Morgause was fuming, knowing that even at the end Arthur had defeated her and she stormed off thinking that one day she would get her revenge and better Arthur, one way or another.