Arthur and the Sword in the Stone
Released on January 31, 2021
There I stood, once again, in front of my destiny and my duty.
Once more, I stood in front of the Sword in the Stone.
"Oh, just do it already, Arthur," my older foster brother, Kay, interrupted my thoughts, "Either you don't pull it out again, like the last time, or you pull it out and I start calling you king!"
The wise Merlin raised his hand up, and gestured for Kay to be quiet, "Let the boy gather his courage, Sir Kay."
"Thank you, Merlin," I said, "Sorry, Kay, just... give me a moment."
Kay grumbled and backed off.
I turned my attention back to the sword.
As I gathered my thoughts, I began to think back to my early years.
***For as long as I could remember, the Sword in the Stone was there, waiting for the rightful king to pull it out - the rightful king who would not only ascend to the empty throne of our kingdom, but would also unite all the kingdoms of Britain under their rightful rule.
And, also for as long as I could remember, Merlin was there, intertwined throughout my life - showing up every now and then, to guide me and to give me lessons.
It was during one of these lessons, when I was still quite young, that I had asked Merlin about the Sword, "How did the Sword in the Stone came to be, Merlin?"
"Why, I put it there, my boy," Merlin answered.
"You?" I asked, surprised, "Why?"
"Well, you see," Merlin replied, "when our king, the great Uther Pendragon died, he had died without an heir. With Queen Igraine having died years before, and there being no apparent heir, the throne of our kingdom was left empty."
"The nobles started to fight amongst themselves," Merlin continued, "arguing about who should take the throne."
Walking over to the window, Merlin gazed outside at the sunny day, "If nothing was done, I feared that those squabbling nobles would have dragged this kingdom into a civil war - tearing apart the work that Uther had done."
"And so," Merlin turned back to me, "I had the sword made, and, using my magic, I stabbed the sword into the stone. Then, I sealed the sword with an enhancement, so that only the rightful king could pull it out."
"Thus," Merlin said, finishing up his explanation, "knowing that a rightful king would eventually appear, and lead them to glory by uniting all the kingdoms of Britain together, the nobles rallied together to keep Uther's kingdom together and defend it from outside forces."
Merlin looked at me, with a proud look on his face, as if waiting for me to praise his genius.
"T-That is quite the amazing plan," I obliged.
Merlin chuckled, "Thank you, my boy."
"But," I asked, "why did the nobles trust you?"
"That's because I am a great wizard!" Merlin boasted with a jovial tone, "But also because I was Uther's court mage and personal advisor."
"Wow!" I exclaimed, "You really are an amazing mage, Merlin!"
Merlin chuckled and bowed, "Thank you, my boy, I'm glad to hear it!"
"But..." I wondered, "why are you spending so much time with me then?"
At that, Merlin's face dropped.
"I mean," I panicked, "I am very glad that you're willing to teach me, and I appreciate your lessons a lot, Merlin!"
"But," I continued, "I'm just some boy who was lucky enough to have been taken in by Sir Ector as his foster son."
"Surely," I said, "your wisdom would be better spent on someone like Sir Ector himself, who was one of Uther's greatest knights? Or perhaps even on Kay, Sir Ector's son?"
Merlin looked at me, hesitant to answer.
Then, sheepishly, he said, "I may have said too much..."
"But," Merlin looked at me again, "I suppose that you do deserve an answer."
"You see, young Arthur," Merlin finally answered, "you are the son of Uther Pendragon."
I sat there, stunned, for several moments, before finally replying with, "W-What?"
"Yes," Merlin repeated, "you are the son of Uther Pendragon."
His expression turned quite serious as he continued, "And after having watched you grow up all these years, I do believe that you will become that rightful king - the one who will unite all the kingdoms of Britain together, and bring about a new era of peace and prosperity."
"But," Merlin said, "you are not yet ready to do so."
"So," Merlin's usual jovial tone was all gone now, "heed my warning, my dear boy. Until you are ready, until the time is right - keep your lineage a secret."
Stunned at Merlin's solemnity, I nodded, "Y-Yes sir."
Merlin smiled, and the playfulness returned to his voice, "Good!"
"When will I be ready, though?" I asked.
Merlin chuckled, "Why, when you have learned all your lessons, of course!"
And with that, we went back to the lesson that Merlin had been teaching me.
***After the lesson, Merlin had once again set off to do whatever it is that great wizards like him do with their time.
For the next several days, what Merlin had said dominated my thoughts - I was the son of the great Uther Pendragon!
The more that I thought about it, the more that I was convinced that I would be a great king, right then and there - surely, my newly discovered lineage would guarantee it!
And so, when Kay had playfully teased me, as usual, I declared that I would become king.
I don't remember exactly what was said - it was most likely the usual, playful banter that Kay and I would engage in from time to time.
I probably wasn't even that annoyed by it - rather, my head had been filled to the brim with thoughts and dreams of greatness and glory, just ready to burst.
So, when Kay had probably said something like, "And how's my little squirt of a brother doing?"
I had probably said, "I'm not a little squirt! I'm going to become king!"
After a few moments of stunned silence, Kay started laughing, "You? King?"
That just made me all the more eager.
"I'll prove it you!" I said.
"And how are you going to do that?" Kay asked, in between his laughter.
"I'll..." I pondered for a moment, "I'll pull out the Sword!"
Kay stopped laughing, "Arthur... What?"
"Let's go!" I said, "I'll pull it out!"
I remember Kay trying to dissuade me, to no avail.
Seeing that I could not be deterred, Kay asked a servant to inform our father of our plans, and the two of us rode to the Sword in the Stone.
After arriving at the Sword, I started to gather a large crowd.
Though I can't recall exactly how I did it, I am ashamed to say that I probably used my status as Sir Ector's foster son to gather a large group of people, including several nobles, to watch me pull out the Sword.
"Arthur," Kay whispered to me, as I prepared to pull out the Sword, "You don't have to do this. Just back down now, and we can play it off as a prank or something."
"Hush, Kay," I replied, "Just watch, I can do this!"
Giving up, Kay backed away, "Alright then, Arthur..."
And so, as the gathered crowd watched, I gripped my hands around the hilt of the Sword in the Stone.
I took a deep breath.
And then I pulled.
The Sword did not move - it didn't even budge a little bit!
Now deeply aware of the crowd that was watching me, I gripped my hands tighter around the hilt, and pulled the Sword once more, with all my might.
Then, someone in the crowd snickered.
And it grew into an uproarious laughter.
Embarrassed and humiliated, I tried again and again.
"Give it up, kid!" someone in the crowd had yelled.
But, I continued trying.
Kay walked up and addressed the crowd with a laugh, "Sorry, everyone. Let my brother have his fun, and then I'll take him back home."
Mercifully, the crowd gave out one last chuckle at my expense, and then it started to disperse.
For a few more minutes, I continued trying to pull out the Sword, as Kay watched.
Finally, I gave up, and slumped down against the Stone.
Kay laughed, and started to tease me.
Despairing, I could only mutter, "I thought that I was ready."
Then, he sat down on the Stone next to me, and placed a hand on my shoulder.
And so, Kay sat next to me, waiting, as I sorted through my despair.
When I was finally ready to go, I said to him, "Thank you, Kay."
"Of course," Kay said, "You may be a little squirt, but you're still my brother."
Then, with a smirk, Kay said, "Though, you know that I'm not going to let you forget this any time soon, right?"
I smiled at my older foster brother, and said, "I figured as much."
We got on our horses, and rode back home.
***The years passed.
I continued to learn from Merlin.
And after Kay had become a knight, I became his squire, learning about knighthood from my brother.
As I journeyed across the land as Kay's squire, Merlin would still show up every now and then to continue teaching me.
Sometimes, Merlin would even take me on a separate journey - to which Kay would always begrudgingly agree to, to his grace.
On my journeys, I learned about the land and its people - about their needs, their hopes, and their wishes.
And finally, after many years, I had reached knighthood.
Soon after, I approached Merlin, "Merlin, I want to try again."
Merlin paused and took a good look at me. Then, he said, "I agree."
Finally, the words that I had been waiting for.
I then asked Kay to join me on my journey to the Sword, once again.
Still unconvinced, and kept in the dark about my lineage, Kay was in disbelief.
Nonetheless, my foster brother decided to humour me.
Thus, the three of us rode, once more, to the Sword in the Sword.
***It was night when we arrived.
Only the three of us were there, as I approached the Sword, under the stars.
This was it.
The moment that my life had been leading up to - everything, from Merlin's lessons to my training as a knight, had led to this.
My father's kingdom was barely being kept together - after all these years, the nobles had grown impatient, and started to question the Sword's legitimacy.
Their infighting grew worse by the day.
Britain was now fracturing at the seams, with war coming soon - from both internal and external sources.
If the situation didn't change soon, Britain would be thrown into chaos, and the people would suffer greatly.
'I need to become the king that the people need,' I thought to myself, 'the rightful king that would unite all the kingdoms of Britain together, and bring about an era of peace and prosperity.'
'I need to become the perfect king.'
And so, once more, I gripped my hands around the Sword's hilt.
Pausing, I took a deep breath.
And then, I drew the Sword out from the Stone.
And so, that ends what I would now like to call the "King Arthur trilogy", the previous two parts being "Mordred at Camlann" and "Gawain Versus Lancelot - The Tragic Folly of Two Knights".
I actually hadn't planned on writing this trilogy at all - initially, I just had the idea for "Mordred at Camlann", and that was it. And I certainly hadn't planned on writing the trilogy in reverse chronological order.
But, this approach seems to have worked out, as we got to explore what Arthur meant to his knights first, before going back to see what drove Arthur to strive to be the 'perfect king' - essentially exploring King Arthur's rise and end with this trilogy.
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