Concerning the Queen’s Champion
Forgive us, sir. These documents were partially destroyed or missing. We have cobbled together the tale as best we could. Yours, In faith, D.S.
For it was true that the Champion had sworn to the Queen that he should love no other as long as he did live, for she was his Queen, and moreso the wife of his best friend, and thus he did love her truly.
But the Champion, alas, was not truthful to himself, for he did indeed love the Queen, but not in such a chaste way. No woman could turn his eye away from his duty, so they said, because he was so dedicated to the Order of the Round Table. In truth, no woman could turn his eye, because he was so dedicated to Guinevere.
Arthur the King did insist that his Knights marry, that they should share in the happiness he did find in marital bliss, that they should have heirs to teach, who would grow and one day lead the realm as they did. Arthur’s marriage to Guinevere had yet to bear the realm the heir they so desperately desired, yet this fact did never trouble the King, who was ever hopeful that when the time was right, he and his lady wife would be blessed with a child.
Thus Arthur did begin the great task of finding brides for his Knights, and the Realm enjoyed many years of great weddings and feasts and tourneys.
After a time, the Champion did wed the Lady Elaine, of the House Astolat of Shalott. Well known was she, for her beauty, and truly did she love the Queen’s Champion, and bore unto him a son, Galahad. Though whispers at court were oft heard – for her red hair and pale skin did put many in mind of Queen Guinevere herself – for Lady Elaine was a cousin to Guinevere and shared her looks. …
The birth of Galahad was not enough to stay the apparent wanderlust of the Champion, who once more began to roam Albion, righting wrongs, and doing all that the legendary Knights of the Round Table became famed for.
His commitment to his duty was seen as something to aspire to – in truth, the Champion rode away from Camelot for he could not bear to see his beloved Guinevere in another’s arms, and his own Elaine was but a pale shadow of the Queen’s grace and beauty.
It was in these wanderings an questings that the power of chaos, stalking the land, pursued by order and balance, came to find the Champion.
How chaos came to sway the Queen’s Champion, no man can be certain. It is believed that the power of chaos came to rest on the King’s Banner, which the Champion did carry, and it was
through this that the taint came to hold sway.
For all his great honour and commitment to duty, over time the whispers of chaos began to take root in his mind. The strong should rise and rule, and who was stronger than he? The strong must take what they desired, and what did he desire? The spark of chaos breeds creativity, and who was more of an artist than he? For his sword was his brush, and his paint was the red of blood! And in time the roots of chaos became sprouting, and the sprouting flowered, and chaos took control of the Champion.
It’s nefarious power opened the Champion’s mind to the truth, or so he believed, and he saw before him a future where all were free, and all who were strong would lead, and the constraints and shackles and trappings of order were cast away, for chaos reigned supreme in Albion.
The Champion, his mind no longer his own, began to speak out against the Throne, first in a whisper to those who would follow his banner, then in a shout, as more folk flocked to him.
He would use this, he knew, as a great distraction, to confuse the King. The King would ride out from the Vale of Avalon, to face the mysterious uprising head on, as was his way. And when the King left Camelot, then would the Champion return. Then would the years of longing, of stolen glances, of lingering embraces, of whispered confessions, then would they come to full fruition. He would demand of Guinevere that she leave with him, and in his heart of hearts, through the powers of chaos, he knew that she would fall, and she would be his. …
When the uprising was quelled, it became clear that the petty lords had been convinced by means of magic to stand against their King. They were tainted with the hand of chaos, and healed by the hands of the King and the Merlyn.
As the Knights of the Round Table worked to undo the destructive power of chaos, a messenger did arrive, sent by the King’s sister, Lady Morgaine. Bearing grave news, the letter did inform the King that Queen Guinevere had run away in the knight with her Champion, and did request that the King return to Camelot with all haste. Lady Morgaine’s order, the Ravens of the Tower and their Warders, had tracked the Champion to Silverlake, where he had taken a keep.
Arthur and his Knights immediately set forth, forsaking Morgaine’s advice to come to Camelot and marshal more men, instead riding straight for Silverlake.
The Battle at Silverlake was bloody, so much so that the waters of the lake turned red for a time, and the Lady Nimue did weep to see such slaughter. For she had raised the Champion as her own son, teaching him her ways, and had been so proud to see him serve the realm as a symbol of hope and a bastion of honour. She had given him the title “of the Lake” to show her care of him, but he had forsaken her, and all of Albion.
She knew that the taint of chaos lay upon him, and that its power did cloud his mind. But she wept all the more, for she knew that, in truth, all his basest desires were laid bare by chaos, and that he had coveted his friend and king’s wife, over all his protestations of love for his own lady wife. She wept for the pain he had wrought, she wept for the suffering he had caused, and she wept, most of all, for poor, young Galahad, who had watched as his father, his hero, became a villain, and his enemy, and for poor Elaine, who had been cast off and abandoned.
When the King’s men battered down the castle door, they found the keep empty save for servants, who wept in telling the King that the Champion had taken the Queen in the night through a postern gate, to a waiting ship.
The Knights of the Round Table arrived at the dock to see a ship with a silver sail gliding away from the shore, and heading out to sea.
Arthur’s own ship, the Prydwen, was summoned, for no ship yet made was more swift nor more strong than the Prydwen. The Knights stood in grim array as the Prydwen headed into the waves, in the fading wake of the silver sail. The seas roared and roiled as they made their way, but no danger faced the Prydwen, for Sir Tristan the Mariner stood at the helm, calling and chanting to the sea lord, Mananaan, to aid them in hunting one who had harmed Albion.
The seas tossed the silver-sailed ship, and waylaid it’s crossing such that when it landed at Lyonesse, the Prydwen, and the King, were close behind.
Sir Dagonet rode East, to find the nobles of that land, and call them to arms in friendship for what fate had befallen the Knights of the Round Table. Sir Dagonet’s marshalling of the Lords of Lyonesse did ride out, but too late to join the battle.
The Champion knew the land of Lyonesse well, for his childhood had been spent, in part, wandering these lands, ‘ere he came into Nimue’s care. His intention, we learned, was to lead Arthur on a merry chase, across the countryside. Knowing well the ways and paths, he would double-back, collect Guinevere from where he had hid her, and sail on, to lands unknown, where Arthur would not follow.
But the boons of chaos are false, and the masters of the many-spoked-star take as much as they give. The Champion, in his newfound power, did believe himself to hold the upper-hand. He and his band would turn, he decided, and lie in ambush for the King.
The Champion should have known, for all his mind was twisted by chaos, that no matter the cause, no matter the peril, no matter the hardship and the odds, the King would not be alone. The King would never be alone. For the Oaths of the Knights of the Round Table would hold true, even unto the ending of the world itself, and the greatest warriors in all Britannia did ride alongside the King, hunting their false and fallen oath-breaker brother.
The weather did turn as Arthur neared the Champion’s trap, and a chill wind was at his back. The cold fury of the north he had brought with him to the summer lands of Lyonesse, and the leaves began their fall. Magicks, it must have been, from the Merlyn and the Lady Morgaine, to aid their King in his hour of need, for the Champion and his men were now exposed.
Arthur and his Knights dismounted a short way from the Champion’s ambush, and did call them out to face them as the knights they were supposed to be. …
But the magick of Winter’s Chill came hard and fast, and throughout the Land of Lyonesse it stalked. The taint of chaos that hung around the Champion like a miasma had now taken the Queen into it’s sight.
As Arthur stalked the Champion through the land, with his Knights of the Round Table, where Guinevere hid, death came courting.
As Arthur and his Knights fought the Champion in that now barren glade, each blow they struck seemed to resonate through the land. Each swing, each clash, each stab, bit by bit, they weakened the Queen.
For as the Champion did try to kill Arthur, Guinevere’s health declined. The Queen succumbed to the death that day.
Only when a rider caught up to them, announcing the Queen’s death, did the battle pause. For Sir Dagonet had discovered the sad scene as he rode to join Arthur, and bring news that the Lords of Lyonesse were with him. Sir Dagonet, by chance, had stopped at the village were Guinevere had been hidden, and was the first knight to shed a tear for his Queen.
Now, the Knights, who loved their Queen well, did grieve, and Arthur, the King, who even then still loved Guinevere with all his being, did cry out in anguish.
At once, the Champion’s cause, to flee the realm, his love at his side, and take her far away to be his own, was over. As the power of chaos did start to slip away from him, he stood, still, silent, shining, and yet like a ghost.
All the Knights of the King did stand aside, for they knew now this was no longer a rescue, but a war of vengeance.
With all the rage and ferocity of his name, Arthur the King, the Chief of Dragons did battle with the Traitor Knight. From dusk until dawn did they duel, the Champion’s battle-fame well deserved as he held off the attacks of the High King. But blow by blow did Arthur succeed, and as the sun rose on the exhausted men, all the knights assembled did see that the once proud vanity of the Champion’s burnished silver armour was chipped and smote and tarnished by the King’s Sword.
The Champion, the paragon of battle and honour, stood there, in battered armour, bedraggled, exhausted, and breathing hard. The King was exhausted also, but within him roared a torrent of anguish, heart-break, and rage. Rage against this man who had stolen his Queen, heartbreak for knowing she had loved her Champion more than her husband, rage against this man whose flight had caused her death, heartbreak for knowing his beloved Queen had died, rage against this man who had robbed the Realm of its mother, heartbreak for knowing he would never look upon Guinevere’s smile again. For even then, after all that had passed between them, Arthur loved her still.
As the sun rose over the rolling plains of Lyonesse, and the chill of the winter’s night began to thaw, the King’s sword flashed like the lightning from which it was forged, and the Champion fell. The power of chaos deserted him, and he fell to his King’s sword. The flower of Albione knighthood was no more, as the King wrenched his blood-stained blade free of the traitors broken breastplate.
No words did Arthur say. No words did the Knights of the Round Table need, for the were all aggrieved. They had lost their greatest brother, they had lost their Queen, and they had lost their smiling, jovial King. The man who led them now looked so much more like his father, the Great Uther. For there was a storm across his brow, and a cold silence in his wake. It seemed over night
that their great king, who had been the boy who had pulled sword from stone, had aged, and was now an older, grim man, in the winter of his life.
The Order of the Round Table marched in silence back to the shore, and took ship to their home realm of Albion.
A Note from Arthurus Magnus, High King of Albion –
We have since learned that nuns from a nearby convent did take the Queen’s body, and secrete away her place of rest, that no pilgrimages could be made to disturb her eternal sleep.
Where the Champion’s body lies, no man nor beast knows.
On his return to Albion, Arthur did summon the Merlyn and the Lady Morgaine, and instruct them in great and terrible ritual, to burn the name of the Champion from all history and all memory. To use such powerful magicks to take something away, the magicks must balance and leave something in its stead – though the chaos tainted Champion’s name was erased from time, history, thought, and word, the magicks and the taint of chaos did fill the nearest vessel, and out of that circle walked the King’s Sister, the Lady Morgaine, bearing in her womb her own ruin, and the ruin of the realm.
That story is written elsewhere. What happened here, however, is not the end of the Champion’s Tale.
In the Summer of 1112 a contingent of archaeologists from the lands of Lyonesse did visit the encampment of the Harts warband, requesting aid. They had unearthed a tomb, in which did lie the remains of a lady. Some fell magic was around the body, for all who unearthed her were wracked by nightmares – a lady sad and forlorn, desperately wishing to return home. The Harts did take ownership of the lady’s remains, and did come to the realisation that they were those of the Queen Guinevere. The Queen was taken to the Lady’s Garden in the City of Winchester, wherein she was reinterred and laid to rest, once more in the bosom of her Albion.
I was present at the reinterring. It was conducted with such reverence and grace that I believe Guinevere was finally let to lie in peace.
The restless shade of the Champion did come seeking Guinevere’s remains, and was fought by the Harts. I stood on the shield-wall against it, with my brothers and sisters in arms, and by the force of our will, the Champion was defeated. The shade slunk away once more into the shadows. It has not been seen since.