Another month, another Retelling Myths. :)
This time, continuing with the subseries of retellings of Arthurian legends that we have going, we have…
Pellinore and the Duel with Excalibur
"Hah!" I yelled out a battle cry as I slashed the beast once more.
The monster boar let out one last roar, before it slumped to the ground.
Finally, we had slain the beast which had been terrorizing the nearby village.
"Great work, Sir Pellinore!" the young King Arthur said to me, "Your skills were most impressive!"
"Thank you, young king," I said, as I sheathed my sword, "as were yours."
"No, no," he said, "You are a knight with many years of training and experience, and it shows!"
The old man that was watching us coughed, getting our attention.
"Let's leave the compliments for later, my king," the old man said to Arthur, "We should head back to the village before sundown."
"Ah, yes, Merlin. You are right," Arthur said, sheepishly, "My apologies, Sir Pellinore."
I shook my head, "It's no problem at all, young king."
And so, we headed back to the village to report our success.
The next morning, the three of us had decided to set off together, as we would be travelling in the same direction for a little while.
"I did not get to say this before, Sir Pellinore," King Arthur said to me, "but it is an honour to have met you, and to have fought by your side!"
"You honour me with your words, young king," I said, "I am not certain that I deserve them."
"Nonsense!" the young king said, "You are Sir Pellinore, the Questing Knight! You are known throughout the lands for being a chivalrous knight who takes on quests to help people in need!"
"Ah," I said, "that, unfortunately, is an appellation borne of misunderstanding."
"You see," I explained, "I am merely a knight on the hunt for the Questing Beast. It's just that, along the way, I decided to put my skills to good use, wherever I can."
"Plus," I gave the young Arthur a wink, "when such an opportunity arises, I usually get free food and lodgings."
The young king, barely an adult, chuckled, "That, I cannot protest."
"But," Arthur's expression grew concerned, "the Questing Beast? Is this something that I should be concerned about?"
At that, I had to chuckle, though it was mostly for my sake, "Honestly, I'm not sure myself."
Both Arthur and Merlin gave me a quizzical look.
"The Questing Beast," I explained, "is supposedly a terrible beast that one of my ancestors had encountered, centuries ago."
"Unable to defeat it," I said, "my ancestor retreated, and swore that those of his bloodline would continue his quest to slay this evil creature."
"Since then," I continued, "those in my family have trained for the task since birth."
"I, and others before me, have searched these lands high and low for the Questing Beast, but to no avail," I said, sadly, "Many of my family have died on this quest, while many others have simply given up."
"I, myself, have never even seen this beast, nor have I ever met anyone who knows of the beast's whereabouts," I said.
"However, I hope that, one day, I will finally be able to fulfill this ancient oath, and free my family from its bindings," I said, finishing my tale.
Arthur and Merlin gave each other a look, uncertain of what to make of my quest.
"What about you, young king?" I asked, changing the subject, "After I had heard about your ascension to the crown by drawing out the Sword in the Stone, I figured that you would ruling your new kingdom from your throne. Much less finding you out here, taking on quests from villagers, along with the famous wizard, Merlin."
"Ah, well, you see," the young king said, "I, too, am on a journey."
"I may have inherited my father's kingdom when I pulled out the Sword," Arthur explained, "but that doesn't mean that I understand the kingdom and the people that I'm to be ruling."
"And so, at Merlin's suggestion, I decided to journey across the land to learn more about them," he said, "And not just my kingdom, but also throughout the rest of Britain as well."
"The rest of Britain as well?" I asked, repeating what he had said.
"Yes," the young king nodded, "For you see, I wish to unite all of Britain, and bring peace to these troubled lands once more."
I looked at King Arthur - so young, and so full of ideals.
I couldn't help but be impressed, and maybe even a little hopeful.
"A noble goal," I said, "and a noble journey. But, what of your kingdom back home? Surely, you did not leave them without a leader at this time?"
Merlin chuckled, "Of course not, Sir Pellinore."
"Before we set off, we had left a council of handpicked administrators to run things while our king is away," he explained.
"And, of course, I had left them with a bit of magic to quickly contact us, should the need arise," the wizard said, giving me a wink, and leaving the secrets of his magic untold.
I laughed, "Of course."
We had set up a resting spot by the river, in the mid-afternoon, when the young King Arthur suggested a duel.
"A duel?" I asked, in disbelief.
"Yes, please, Sir Pellinore," the young king replied, with earnestness in his voice.
"You see," he said, as he drew his sword, "This Sword that I had pulled out from the Stone, its name is Excalibur."
"According to Merlin, Excalibur has been enchanted by the Lady of the Lake, a fairy of great renown, to be stronger and easier to wield than normal swords," the young king said, holding his sword in front of him, and staring at it intently, "It carries the blessings of the fairies."
"For as long as it is Arthur's time to rule," Merlin added.
"Right," the young king said. Then, he continued, "However, for all of Excalibur's enchantments, I am still too inexperienced to wield it properly."
"So, please, Sir Pellinore," the young King Arthur looked at me, "duel me, and teach me what you can."
I paused for a moment, considering the request.
"I would accept," I said, "but I don't any blunt swords with me at the moment."
"I believe that I can solve that problem," Merlin said.
"If it's alright with the both of you," he explained, "I can cast temporary enchantments on the both of you, which will grant the two of you a bit of protection - this will allow you to wield your real weapons without fear, allowing your true skills and power to be shown."
"And," he continued, "I will be watching, ready to stop the duel with my magics, should things become too dangerous."
"I won't lie," Merlin said, with a sly grin, "part of the reason why I am suggesting this, is because this will also allow my king to gain more experience with Excalibur itself."
Arthur nodded, "Please, Sir Pellinore."
I looked at the young king - barely an adult, and so eager to learn.
I accepted his request, and drew my sword, "Alright then, young king - show me what you've learned so far."
Arthur smiled, "Thank you, Sir Pellinore!"
Merlin started to cast his magic, and, soon enough, I could feel his enchantment taking hold on me.
It was a strange feeling - it felt like an invisible barrier of some sort had surrounded me, moving as I moved.
After he was finished, Merlin gave us both a nod, and stepped back to witness our duel.
I looked at Arthur, who had gotten into a ready stance.
I, too, readied myself.
"Whenever you're ready, young king," I said.
Yelling out a battle cry, the young King Arthur charged at me with Excalibur.
By the riverside, we duelled.
As we exchanged blows, I could feel the power of the enchantments on Excalibur.
Heavy were the strikes, and quick were the blows.
However, as we duelled, I could feel a weakness in the blade.
It was a tiny weakness, one that had been built up over time by the young king's inexperience with wielding the sword.
But, that was enough.
I dodged out of the way of one of the king's strike.
Readying myself, I took in a deep breath as I guided my sword into position.
Then, as the young king swung his next attack, I struck.
Aiming at the weakness in the blade, I struck Excalibur with all my might.
At first, the blade seemed to resist.
Then, the blade cracked.
And then, suddenly, the blade of Excalibur was broken into two.
As the broken blade flew away, I swung my sword at the stunned king.
Suddenly, a strong gust of wind appeared between us, stopping me from swinging my sword.
"Stop!" Merlin yelled, "The duel is over!"
I stepped back.
It took me a moment, before I could gather myself and sheath my blade.
"My apologies, young king," I said, "I had reacted on instinct."
Arthur looked up from his sword, "No need to apologize, Sir Pellinore. We did ask for you to show us your true skills and power."
"But," the young king looked at his sword again, "I am amazed that you could break Excalibur like this."
I explained the weakness that I had found.
"I see," the young king said, "A weakness that had been building up, because of the way that I had been wielding the sword."
"Thank you, Sir Pellinore," King Arthur said, bowing to me, "You have taught me a valuable lesson, and have honoured me with a most important duel."
"You are truly talented with the sword, King Arthur," I said, bowing as well, "I, too, have learned from this duel, and it was an honour to have duelled you."
The young king smiled at me, and held out his hand.
I took it, and we shook hands to commemorate the duel and to celebrate a new friendship.
It was time to part.
As we were preparing to separate, the young king asked me, "Sir Pellinore, I know that you are of a different kingdom than mine, but would you considering joining a new order of knights that I wish to create?"
"A new order of knights?" I asked.
"Yes," King Arthur said, "My journey has given me an idea for an order of knights. One that is dedicated to uniting Britain and ensuring that peace reigns throughout all of it. One where every knight is of equal status, regarding of origin."
"Thank you for the honour," I said, "But I am afraid that I must decline."
"Because of the Questing Beast?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm afraid so," I replied.
The young king paused for moment, before saying, "I hope that you'll forgive me for saying this, but..."
"Your talents are being wasted on a quest that seems to have no meaning."
"You have searched for this beast for many years," he said, "and have seen neither hide nor hair of it. As you said, many before you have tried as well, with nary a clue to show for it."
"Maybe the Questing Beast is real, maybe it's not," the young king said, "but, in the meantime, I think that you could really do some good, were you to join me and this new order."
"And if the beast ever does show itself," he said, "we can face it together."
As he finished, the young king's stern face dropped once more to that of a young boy, "A-At least, that's what I think. Please forgive my rudeness, Sir Pellinore."
I could not help, but let out a hearty laugh - the young king was still learning, after all.
"To be honest with you," I said, finally replying, "I, myself, am not even sure that the Questing Beast is real either."
"But, I have been doing this my whole life," I said, "I cannot just walk away from it so easily."
Arthur nodded, "I understand, Sir Pellinore."
"Well," the young king said, with a smile, "the invitation still stands. Should you ever choose to do me the honour of accepting it."
"Thank you, young king," I replied, smiling as well, "You have left me with a lot to consider."
We shook hands one more time.
Then, with fond farewells, I left Arthur and Merlin to their journey, as I continued on my own quest.
Since I mentioned Excalibur breaking in "Bedivere and the End of Excalibur", I decided that I wanted to write about how that happened, as well as show a bit of young Arthur just as he became king.
In a lot of stories, Pellinore is actually the king of his own kingdom. However, I decided to adapt that part out (or just leave it unmentioned), since I didn't want to add in unnecessary complications about who rules what kingdom, how they all relate, etc.
Excalibur is sometimes said to be enchanted, but most versions of it don't show a lot of magical abilities, besides being a very good sword. So, to keep its magical nature that was mentioned in the Bedivere story, but still have it be breakable, I made it so that it was just "slightly enhanced", along with some vague blessings.
As mentioned before in the Bedivere story's commentary, in some versions, the Sword in the Stone is the sword that breaks and gets replaced by Excalibur, while other versions keep the two as the same sword - I've elected for the latter.
The Questing Knight thing is a bit that I made up - I wanted to give Arthur more of a reason to ask Pellinore to join the Knights of the Round Table, other than just because of Pellinore's skills.
The Questing Beast itself has had a lot of different interpretations of what it actually is, and whether or not it's even real. Even when it is treated as real, the stories about it can vary a lot. A lot of versions have a different knight, Sir Palamedes, be the slayer of the Questing Beast, instead of Sir Pellinore.
For now, I decided to leave it ambiguous, while leaning more on the fruitlessness of chasing something without a clue.
The Sun Aegis - Continuing work on Part 7.
Audrey, The Unicorn Girl - I’ve been continue work with @Tobatoons, the artist for this project. The sketches for Chapter 1 have been completed, and we’re now in the inking stages!
Thank you for reading!
As always, please consider:
More Retelling Myths can be found here!
See you all next month!
From E. H. Lau