Gawain Versus Lancelot - The Tragic Folly of Two Knights
Originally released on October 25, 2020
Upon hearing that his son, Sir Mordred, had used his absence to usurp his throne, King Arthur had decided to abandon his current pursuit - in order to rush back to Britain with his knights.
However, Sir Gawain's fury would not let him abandon their current quest in France.
Understanding Sir Gawain's reasons, King Arthur had left behind a contingent of knights to aid Sir Gawain.
Thus, Sir Gawain continued his siege at the castle of Joyous Gard, in order to force out the other traitor knight - Sir Lancelot.
Numerous days and deaths later, Sir Lancelot is forced to finally accept Sir Gawain's challenge to a duel.
And so, as the morning sun shone on them, the two knights clashed.
Their tragic folly, born of other tragic follies, would prevent them from being at the Battle of Camlann - where the traitor knight Mordred would deal a mortal blow to their beloved King Arthur.
I yelled in fury as I swung my axe at Lancelot, "You traitor!"
Lancelot dodged my swing and withdrew deeper into the forest.
"Enough running!" I yelled - that damn coward had been avoiding a direct exchange of strikes since this entire duel began.
I charged at Lancelot.
With my axe, I did a wide swung.
The coward jumped back again, as the axe that the Green Knight had given me sliced cleanly through several trees.
"You killed my brothers," I yelled, "and now you refuse to properly duel me?!"
Lancelot did not answer.
"Gareth, Gaheris, and Agravain - they were my brothers, and our fellow knights of the Round Table!" I swung my axe again, "And you murdered them!"
And once more, my axe missed its mark.
Finally, the traitor spoke, "My knights and I wouldn't have needed to kill your brothers and the other knights, if your uncle, the great King Arthur, hadn't ordered the execution of his own wife!"
As he spoke, with his voice dripping in sarcasm when he brought up our king, Lancelot thrust his sword at me.
I raised my axe to parry the strike.
But, the strike was a feint, and the coward withdrew once more.
Lancelot continued, "And I would never have allowed Queen Guinevere to be burned at the stake! So, what choice did I have, but to go rescue her and bring her here?"
Angrily, I yelled, "He wouldn't have had to order the execution, if you hadn't escaped and ran away from your punishment!"
"My punishment for what?" Lancelot retorted, "For love?"
"For betraying your king!" I countered, "You betrayed him and our oaths as knights, when you decided to have an affair with the queen!
"Yes, we did betray him," Lancelot said, "but, if he had seen that our love was greater than any love that he and the queen had ever had shared, he could have just let us be!"
"Are you mad?!" I yelled, "What ruler would allow such betrayal with impunity?! What would that say to the rest of the kingdom?! What would that say to our enemies?!"
"It would say that our king understood love, Gawain!" Lancelot said, "It would say that our king loved us enough to allow the love between Guinevere and-"
"Enough!" I angrily yelled, "Don't be naive, Lancelot! Love alone cannot uphold a kingdom!"
A paused hung in the air, as we both breathed heavily from our exchange of words.
"Then, we," Lancelot finally said, "... are at an impasse, Sir Gawain."
"I had refused to be part of the guard for the queen's execution," I said, "I refused to fight against a fellow knight of the Round Table, and I refused to fight against you - you, who I treated as a brother!"
I gripped my axe tightly, "How I regret my choice!"
I charged at Lancelot.
Screaming a battle cry, I swung my axe down upon Lancelot's head.
However, instead of hitting his head, Lancelot used his sword to parry my axe, causing my axe to strike the ground.
I tried to lift my axe back up, only to find it stuck into the ground.
Quickly, I jumped back as Lancelot thrust his sword at me.
I tried to draw my sword, but he was ready for me - striking my hand with his sword, he caused me to drop my sword as well.
Without wasting a moment, Lancelot slammed his sword against the side of my helmet - knocking me aside, and sending me crashing into the ground.
Dazed, I struggled to get up.
But, Lancelot already had his sword pointing at my exposed face.
Lancelot looked down at me, and said, "It has been after noon for quite a while now."
It was then that I realized - I had fallen into his trap.
All along, he had used my anger to tire me out, to distract me from the passage of time - all the while, waiting for noon to come and go.
"Your enchantment," Lancelot said, "the one where you gain strength from morning to noon, has waned by now."
"Perhaps if you had noticed that, as you usually do," Lancelot continued, "this duel would have ended differently - it certainly would have been a long and arduous one."
"Enough," I said - the wound on my head ached with a pain that could kill me, "You've won, put me out of my misery - as you did my brothers!"
Lancelot paused and looked down at me.
"There they are!" a voice called out from the trees.
Suddenly, we were surrounded by knights from both sides.
"Sorry, sir," one of Lancelot's knight said to him, "It took us a while to find you after you and Sir Gawain had dashed into the forest, soon after the duel had started."
Both sides had their weapons drawn, ready to resume the conflict.
"Stand down," Lancelot said.
"All of you, stand down," Lancelot repeated, "I have won our duel."
The knights hesitated.
I spoke up, "Stand down. There is no need for further bloodshed."
Reluctantly, the surrounding knights sheathed their swords.
An eternity passed as Lancelot and I looked at each other, with his sword staring at my face.
Then, Lancelot sheathed his sword.
Angered, I yelled, "Lancelot, you-"
"Sir Gawain!" Lancelot interrupted me.
"Go!" he said, "Go help our king, do not abandon him as I have!"
Taking their chance, two of my knights came and hoisted my arms onto the backs of their necks and shoulders. They lifted me up, helping me to my feet.
"Lancelot," I struggled to say, "Do you think me a fool? What if-"
"I will not attack King Arthur and his forces while they deal with the traitor Mordred," Lancelot replied, "This, I swear to you, Sir Gawain."
I looked at Lancelot in the eyes, trying to figure out what game he was playing.
But nothing came to me, except for more painful pounding from the wound in my head.
Seeing no other choice, I assented, and ordered my forces to withdraw.
And so, we turned around, leaving Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere at the Joyous Gard.
Dear Sir Lancelot,
As I write this to you, we are nearing Camlann.
After fighting through many of the traitor Mordred's forces, we are finally close to reuniting with the king.
However, as we struggle to reach King Arthur in time, I know that the struggle will be in vain for me.
For you see, the wounds from our last duel have deemed it to my last duel.
As death looms near, I am filled with regrets.
Regret that my anger had caused me to abandon my king in his time of need.
Regret that my bitterness had led to our last strife.
And regret that my folly will now prevent me from reaching our king in time.
Sir Lancelot, I beg of you, please forgive my anger and bitterness, and go to the aid of our king.
I have already written to King Arthur, begging him to forgive you and the queen for your transgressions.
I do not know what his response will be, but, nonetheless, I beg of you, Sir Lancelot, to be by the king's side in his hour of need, as I cannot.
~~~I had been too late.
After I had received Sir Gawain's letter, I was reluctant to leave Queen Guinevere at first.
However, it was she who convinced me to go.
"My dear Lancelot," she had said to me, "You must go. It was our affair that gave Mordred the opportunity to wrongly seize the throne. If there is any way to atone for that, then we must take it."
But, by the time my forces and I had reached Camlann, the war was over.
King Arthur was dead.
Although I could not find where the king's body was put to rest, all accounts told the same story - that Arthur had skewered Mordred with his lance, and, in return, Mordred had dealt him a mortal wound.
I had been too late.
***I was, however, able to find Gawain's resting place.
In Gawain's tomb, I asked those with me to leave - to give me a moment with Gawain.
And beside the body of my fellow knight, I wept.
I wept for the deaths of the knights of the Round Table, some of which were by my hands.
I wept for the fall of Camelot, of which I had a part in.
And I wept for the death of Sir Gawain, the brother who I had slain.
***Guinevere had left.
Upon hearing that King Arthur had died, the Guinevere that I had known died as well.
From then on, every time that she saw me, she was awash with guilt.
Our days at the Joyous Gard became joyless, until she could take it no more.
And so, she left.
She left to join a convent and become a nun - hoping to find some sort of atonement.
To this day, her claims that our affair had caused the Round Table to fracture, leading to King Arthur's death and the fall of Camelot - they all still ring in my head.
And now I sit, alone in the Joyous Gard.
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