The Knight’s Last Stand

He digs his hoe into the soft clay scrapping it across the land. As he wipes the sweat with the back of his dirty hand his eyes catch an armored rider speeding to his gate. The solider, dressed in a gold plate stamped with the king’s crest hands him a royal summons and departs. He rereads the parchment knowing his beautiful wife scowls from the house behind him.

That night as she lies beside him, he gazes over her sleeping form as it shimmers in the moonlight. He doesn’t know when he will return but he wants to remember her eternal beauty forever. When the moon reaches its peak in the starry sky he slips from his warm bed. He saddles the anxious horse and starts off on the winding road. By midday he reaches the king’s castle. The ancient towers crumble into the moat and the bridge is rotten with neglect. They trot through the forgotten kingdom unabated. Through creaking wooden doors, a royal escort brings him before the king.

“Sir Lanval,” speaks Arthur from his tarnished throne. “Your appearance overwhelms my spirit. Thank you for your haste. Our brothers either betrayed me or are long dead. Only you and I remain of this ancient world. And I require your assistance.”

“Forgive my harshness Sire, but you are only my king in name. You committed a great disservice towards me those many years ago. When I left your court, I expected to never to return.”

“Yet here you are,” Arthur smiles, his youthful locks now grey and his skin ashen. But his eyes carry the same cunning they did in their youth. “You were once a strong knight; brave and loyal to those you love. I need that knight now. Are you he?”

“Aye, that knight still resides in these bones.”

“I implore you, Lanval, I understand your hatred and I will not pressure you for forgiveness. But I ask you to once again protect this realm.”

“What threat dares to challenge the magic protecting the mighty Bridge to Avalon?”

“Merlin’s magic fades and Shadow threatens the Bridge. The outside world encroaches on ours and if the barrier breaks, if their world bleeds into ours…”

“We will no longer exist.”

“Avalon would no longer be at peace, our peoples will face war, death and disease. Your wife’s beauty will fade, her body age, and we will succumb to death’s plague.”

“Give up an eternity with my beloved to protect you?”

“To protect our country’s future. When I am needed, our people will summon my return. I sense the tugging now, but it is not time. I must wait, I need Avalon to hold.”

The Bridge stood for centuries as the lone connection between land of Faerie and the mortal realm. It can’t fail, Arthur is mistaken. But upon viewing the Bridge, he discovers Shadow creeping at the boundary’s edge. The evil which absorbs the light. It grew unabated in the human heart and now threatens his peace. The barrier at the Bridge’s end shimmers as the magic weakens.

“I know your heart husband,” a sweet-tempered voice invades his ears. She sits poised on her white mare; the wind gathers her fiery locks. “But this man humiliated us. We fled his court to escape his power and now, you relinquish your freedom to be his dog.”

“My love, I do this for you, I would rather die than see your love and beauty vanish from the world which granted me a second chance. Your ancient blood deserves to live on, not smothered by the evil my race caused.”

“An eternity without you is not a life at all, my heart will burn in a living hell if I could not see you.” The air around them shudders and the planks on the Bridge jerk. “Merlin’s barrier, it’s breaking.” She points to the ripped seam in the magic’s sheen. A black mist seems through the gap.

He draws his sword, blood pulsing through his veins, as his body recalls the forgotten thrill of battle. The twisted demon with glowing eyes hovers above the rotting planks. The blade slices through the frail body. But more replace the first and he begins the onslaught. Like the glory days of old, when he fought for truth, justice, and grace, he obliterates the heathens. His muscles ached, sweat dripped over his flesh and his body grew tired. But the army of darkness continued, his effort was useless if the barrier was not intact. 

A sweeping warmth spreads over his body and shimmering arms hug him. Her delicate hands grip his pommel. The legendary Faerie magic flows through his veins causing the sword to pulse with a blinding light. The Shadow rescinds through the gap, retreating to the safety of the other side. Her body melts away and he hears her distant voice call to him.

“I have given you the last of my magic, my love. It courses through your sword and it will protect us. Don’t gaze upon me,” her tired voice is weak, his careful eyes study the horizon, waiting for another attack. “Your attention is what keeps the darkness at bay. I will remain here, on the other side of the bridge where the world’s magic is strongest.  I feel my beauty fades, but I remain at your side for as long as the world allows.”

Sir Lanval, true hearted and steadfast, remained at the edge of Avalon at the cusp of the human world; waiting for Shadow to challenge him again. Behind him his love grows older, but her heart remains pure. In front of him, the world burns and rebuilds itself time and time again. Through the visor, towers extend beyond the horizon, metal birds take flight and millions of his kind converse crowded streets. But he alone remains posted between the past and the present. Steadfast and true, Sir Lanval, a forgotten Knight of the Round Table stands guard until the end of magic itself.