The Tale of King Eveling’s Rath
The Hardknott Pass, through the Keswick Fells, on the old King’s road, goes from Ravenglass to Ambleside. It is a steep and narrow pathway, with many a bend and twist on its way, winding through the deeper vales between the fells.
Overlooking the pass, on a steep and sheer cliff, sits the ruins of an ancient hillfort, from the oldest days known to Albion. Queer in design, unlike the forts built by men, nor by elves or dwarves, the round-fort’s history is one of great mystery.
The local folk of the fells and dells name it the Rath. Writings across the centuries suggest this is the name it has always been known by – similar fortification names can be found all across Britannia. The Rath has an interesting amount of folklore surrounding it.
The Rath was said to be the home of King Eveling, who was Lord of the Court of Forlorn Hope. Tales and legends of King Eveling echo across the history of the Northern parts of Britannia, most painting him to be an untrustworthy and capricious tyrant.
King Eveling had sought to dominate all around him, and had for many years been locked in war with the Iceni, the Fae who guard the land known as Britannia. Many fantastical tales abound of the battles between the two Fae races, which are recorded elsewhere.
By the time of our tale, King Eveling ruled only his Rath and the Fellside, having grown insular and bored of the outside world.
In the years following the death of Uther, Warlord of Albion, after his young son Arthur had pulled sword from stone, the young King and his Court did tour the land. Some nobles and dukes and princes and kings bent the knee and their banners joined his host. Others stood against him, and were soundly defeated. Some were offered clemency, and learnt of Arthur’s great mercy. Others were unrepentant, and their names have faded from history.
Though seemingly inconsequential, the tiny kingdom of King Eveling was visited by the Boy King.
Arthur, in his youth, did visit the Rath, and speak to King Eveling and his Court of the Dream of Albion. He spoke of that which once was, and that which would be. He spoke of the Great Order, and the days to come. He offered King Eveling the chance to join with him, and become part of the Great Dream of Albion.
King Eveling and his ilk, ancient and powerful Fae, observed the Boy King. King Eveling had become so insular and ignorant of the world outside his Rath, that he knew not of the Boy King, nor of Uther. He saw before him yet another petty King whose life and times would be little more than a droplet of rain falling into a mere.
Time and Power and Opulence had blinded King Eveling and his Court to almost all that occurred outside their walls, and so his reply to the Boy King followed suit.
With laughter and scorn King Eveling spoke to the Boy King Arthur, that his dream was foolish, and he was but a boy. He had his kingdom, he told the Boy King Arthur, which he ruled well and his people were provided for. He spoke coldly, that no man could rule so much land and so many people, that his Dream was nothing but a Dream. King Eveling told the Boy King Arthur that he would not join with him, and would still rule here in the Rath long after the Boy King’s own winter came, and his bones had faded to dust.
He chided him for having wasted his time, and having come garbed as a King, for surely he was no King, only a Boy. King Eveling further chastised Arthur for not giving the correct deference and respect owed to one so old and wise and powerful. He would, he told the Boy King, teach him the proper manner of a King that night – he bade Arthur return to the Rath that night, for it was the night of the full moon, and the Court would hold a ball.
The Boy King Arthur smiled with a cold fury, thanked the King Eveling for his time, and wished him well in the days to come.
Arthur’s camp stood at the foot of the Fell, ‘neath the Rath. The Boy King and his retinue retired for the night. Only one of them remained atop the Fell, climbing further to a rocky outcrop above the Rath, and there he stayed.
As the sun dipped below the horizon, and the moon began to glide through the sky, Arthur watched the Fellside and saw lights flickering into life at the Rath. As the moon reached its zenith, Arthur lit a torch, and waved it in a circle over his head, as he looked up at the Rath.
King Eveling and his kin banqueted and began to dance around the Rath, as was their wont. They were gay and merry and their queer music echoed around the Fellside. As they enjoyed their Bacchanale, a great mist rose around the walls of the Rath.
Enveloping the Rath, the great power of Merlin, the Archmage, wove across the Fell, and King Eveling and his court were never heard from again. In the camp below, Arthur, the Boy King, watched as the mists rose and covered the Fell before him.
When the mist faded, the Rath stood silent and empty. As the sun rose, Arthur and his retinue departed for Carlisle. King Eveling’s power and influenced faded from the world.
The tales of King Eveling and his Court persist, however. They say that even now King Eveling holds court here, his kith and kin forever trapped in their dance. Should you climb the fellside and enter the Rath, you will find only the ruins of a long disused fort. But find yourself within the ring of stones ‘neath the full moon’s light, then you may see the King and Court in their eternal dance.
Watch them if you will, but do not join the dance, for you will never again find your way home. Many young men and women of the neighbouring villages have been tempted over time to climb to the Rath and see the dance of the Court – many have come back having seen nothing.
These are the tales that the locals tell – whether there be any truth to them, I know not.