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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 25: Hastings 52
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"Why didn't you tell me?" Lauren was quite agitated, and did not hide it as she walked home with Merlin.
"Tell you what?"
"About vampires. About Horta."
"What was there to tell? You knew more than most people; maybe you knew more than I."
"But you didn't tell me they were real."
"You knew quite well that they are real. Why should I tell you what you already know?"
"I didn't know they were real in this world. They aren't real in every world, you know–they weren't real in the world in which I was born."
"Really? That's fascinating. How do you know?"
"How do I know what?"
"How do you know that there aren't any vampires in the world in which you were born?"
"What kind of question is that? I know. There weren't any."
"That's not very logical," the wizard observed. "After all, everything we know about vampires in this world, and in the future world in which you fought them, suggests that they make every effort to keep themselves unknown. And for the vast majority of humanity, they succeed. Were you to ask that innkeeper if there were vampires in his tavern tonight, he'd probably laugh at you. Were you to tell King Uther himself that vampires were threatening his life, I doubt you'd get a more sober response. So how can you be certain that there were no vampires living in, where did you call that? South Jersey? Rather than that they were doing a better job of staying hidden in your world, or that you were just one of the many blissfully unaware of the horror that walked among you all?"
Merlin had her. There really was no way she could prove there had been no vampires; she didn't really have anything she could say was tangible evidence that they didn't exist. For that matter, the world could have been full of leprechauns, elves, sprites, and fairies, completely unknown to her–just as it was filled, she believed, with ministering angels and harassing demons unseen but ever present.
"I'm sorry; you're right," she said. "I think of vampires as the exception rather than the rule, the aberrant reality. But to anyone who lives in a world with vampires, that must be the normal reality."
"Quite right. Now, help me work out this stone and sword idea." Merlin proceeded to go over the familiar legend as Lauren listened.
"Laurelyn," he said, "You're not saying anything."
"Oh–I'm sorry. It's just that I've heard this story. Arthur grows up as Sir Kay's squire, and no one pulls the sword for years, so they have a big tournament to decide who is going to be king. But the young Arthur forgets to bring Kay's sword, and on his way back to the inn to try to retrieve it he sees the sword in the stone and pulls it out. Then he becomes king."
"Ha! So it works!"
"Well, I don't know–most people think it's just a story. But I guess it might work."
"Then lend a hand, and we'll design it." He looked at her, and frowned. "Something's bothering you, Spellsbreath. What is it?"
"Oh, I don't know. It always seemed to me that in the story it was God who placed the sword there so that His ordained choice would be king."
"And so it shall be. Laurelyn Spellsbreath, is it any less the work of God if we who are His servants and His servants' servants perform it on His behalf?"
"No, I guess not." She reflected on this, and smiled. "I hadn't really thought of it that way. Of course it's not. God uses others to do His work all the time, whether it's angels or prophets or pastors or apostles. It could just as easily be wizards. It could as easily be me. In fact, it has been me in other worlds in other times. I've just never done anything which was quite so directly attempting to deliver a message from God." Then another thought occurred to her, and she frowned. "But," she said, "how do we know that He wants Arthur to be king?"
"Why should we think He doesn't?"
"That's not the same thing. We're presuming here to tell the world that Arthur is God's choice to be king of all England. How do we know that?"
Merlin furrowed his brow. "Well, we have a fair amount of evidence to that effect, don't we? First, we know that he is the son of Uther Pendragon, and therefore heir to the throne."
"O.K., that's true; in a lot of places that matters quite a bit. But it's also the basis of the vampires' claim that they should rule the earth, as descendents of Cain."
"Quite. But they are mistaken, because we know that God rejected Cain in favor of Abel. It's an exception to the normal rule. But it's not all the evidence we have. There's also the fact that we know that Arthur will be king. We know it, because you and I have knowledge of the future. Thus if Arthur will be king, it is fair to say that God intends that."
"You're assuming that nothing ever happens that God doesn't intend," Lauren objected, "and I don't think you can lay quite all of that on Him."
"Ah, I see your point. But at least in terms of the major steps in history, wouldn't it be reasonable to accept that God has some influence over the rise and fall of kingdoms?"
"But if that's true, why do we have to do anything at all? This Tubrok can't succeed."
"Does the fact that God is able to bring about His own plan absolve us of responsibility to do right as we are able?"
"No, obviously not. But is this all the evidence we have? Arthur is Uther's son, and we know that he's going to be the king, therefore he is appointed to that by God?"
"To ask whether that is all is to suggest that it is not sufficient. And perhaps were we in supplication for a clear sign regarding who should be king this might be a weak response. But Laurelyn, you and I have a greater responsibility, and therefore a greater authority. We decide that Arthur is chosen to be king because in our wisdom we perceive that only he can truly bring about the peace and unity England needs. We advise God in this matter, not so much because He needs our advice but because He expects us to use our abilities–all of our abilities–wisely and for good. Thus God chooses Arthur to be King in part because we have made that choice, each confirming the other."
"I'll have to think about that," Lauren said. She wasn't at all sure she agreed. Who was she to tell God what to do, or how to do it? For that matter, who was Merlin? But then, she reflected on her battles with the vampires, when she stood in faith and declared the power of God against them. When she called fire down from heaven to destroy evil, when she ordered light to shine in their faces, when she forced open their doors by the power of the Holy Spirit, was she not in each case telling God what she thought He should do? She would not have stated it so; she would have said she was asking, and believing. But in the end she was stating what she wanted, and expecting that it would be done, sometimes putting her life on the line believing that what she said would in fact happen. It seems she told God what to do quite a bit, and even more surprising, He frequently did what she said. Why should it be so different this time?
She didn't resolve all her doubts, but she did become involved in setting up the magic. Merlin had already met Arthur, and had arranged for his care and upbringing. It was a simple matter to design a magic device that would respond to him, such that anyone could place the sword in the stone, but only he could remove it. The rest was special effects, light and sound added to attract attention and make the miracle appear the more miraculous.
"However," Merlin said, "we must not be there. Our involvement cannot be known, or Tubrok will use it against us."
"Surely Tubrok's not stupid. He'll know you were behind this."
"Oh, he'll know, all right. But he won't have any proof. He can make all the accusations he wants. He can't appear in the king's courtyard at noon to present them, though, can he? And as long as he has no evidence, everyone will believe it to be what it is, a miracle identifying Arthur as God's chosen king."
It was a few nights later that Uther died. That same night, the sword and stone magically appeared in the center of town, waiting for Arthur to find it.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #82: Novel Developments. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: