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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 118: Hastings 81
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The next day, with a late start, they were able to pick up their direction. Lauren's direction spell seemed to agree with their previous journeys, so they set forth confidently.
It became clearer than ever that this was vampire territory, however. By mid morning they were locked in battle with a very challenging group of five ghouls and several zombie dogs. Bethany, however, was improving, becoming more confident in her magic and more focused on battle strategies. She also showed a flair for improvisation, inventing new ways to fight and kill her opponents as opportunities arose. When they faced another lone vampire that evening, Bethany had crippled it before Lauren had the chance to draw her weapon, and although Lauren managed to get in one shot and one spell, the battle truly belonged to Bethany. It was as if she was born to this.
As they camped that night, Lauren had a strange feeling, a mix of feelings. There was a familiarity, as if she had been here before. There was a nostalgia, as if she missed something that was once here. But there was another feeling as well, one she could not quite identify.
"Keep an eye on our things, would you?" she said to Bethany. "I just want a look around."
She climbed a rise next to the camp, and came into a bit of a clearing. From here she could see more, and from this she knew where she was. Ahead of her stood the hill on which Camelot was built; there was little that could be seen amidst the trees that grew over it now, but in her mind's eye she could envision exactly how the castle had once stood against the land. The road on which she and Sir Sagrimore had ridden out toward Wandborough once lay in that valley below. From this she should be able at least to get her bearings–which way was Merlin's wood, which way Nimue, where were the major landmarks which might still stand over all these centuries. She started mapping out what she could in her mind.
"It is a wondrous place, and well worth defending," a voice behind her said. It was a man's voice in timbre, and a familiar voice, but also an unearthly voice. For a moment, Lauren did not move.
"It was indeed. Many died defending it, but although it is now gone, their deaths were not in vain."
"Gone? You do not see it, Lady?"
And she knew who it was. Turning toward the voice, she saw even while she did not see, the form of an old friend.
"No, Sagrimore. It is many years since you fought and died on this field. You can do no more for Camelot; you need not stay."
"I have sworn on my honor that I will protect her."
"You did. You, and those with you, protected everything that was important about Camelot. Arthur is gone, of course; you knew he would not live forever. The castle and the city lasted years, but it has now been centuries, and few places survive the ravages of such lengths of time. There is no roundtable. But you did not fail. This time in which I am now alive is the age of chivalry, the time when Camelot is remembered and the stories written down for generations to read. This is the age when knights believe in honor and live and die by it. The rule of law, so precious to Arthur, has survived. Everything that mattered about Camelot matters still; Camelot is remembered. Arthur is remembered. Lancelot, Gueneviere, Tristram, Agravaine, Gawaine, even you, Sir Sagrimore, are all remembered. You are the stuff of stories and songs, myths and legends, and your memory will not die for a thousand years yet, at least. You, in your one brief shining moment, have changed the world forever. You mattered."
"Then it's over?"
"There is a sense in which nothing is ever over. The story continues. God has written a play, and we are his players. We do not know our parts until we play them, nor do we know how the play will unfold until we see it. Your part has ended. You had one of the starring roles in one of the key scenes, or so it appears now. Be at peace."
The image that was and yet was not there smiled faintly. "Thank you, good lady. I am tired." He paused, looking out over the valley. "It is a beautiful and wonderful place, and well worth dying to protect." He stood in silence for several minutes, Lauren looking at him and through him. She thought perhaps that the thing she couldn't quite see was a little less there; still, he spoke again before he was gone. "It was good to see you again."
Then she was alone.
She returned to Bethany.
"Everything all right?" Bethany asked.
"Oh, yes," Lauren said. "I just had to say goodbye to an old friend."
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 #122: Character Partings. 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: