My fingers brush across the mystical forests, the quaint cottages, the rustic farms – all so different to the gentle leisureliness of the chambers in the castle, the drawing rooms. Everything was sharper, clearer, the key lines of narrative fate spread before me – my eyes wide open….
A woman sits listlessly at a window over-looking the kingdom; a crown nestled in her burnish red hair cascading down her bare white shoulders. She would do well in a Peter Alexander’s sleepwear catalogue, were there such a thing in this time and age.
“Did you know that Guinevere is the origin for the modern name ‘Jenny’?” She asks.
Guinevere, Queen of Camelot, sat demurely next to the symbolically claustrophobic window, gazing into the kingdom below that belonged, and yet did not belong to her.
“Don’t be so formal,” she sighs, flicking her hair back. “I think we know each other well enough.”
Jenny, the de-facto ruler of an anachronistic Christian Kingdom, is sitting at a window, looking out towards the property owned solely by her husband.
“That’s better.” She smiles, “So why are you here?”
Le Queste du Graal- Livre XI
Arthur Pendragon: the supposed “King” of Camelot who gives the illusion who inhibits the pleasant disguise of illusion of a hero but unsuited to his agile mind. His characterisation must be carefully constructed, as he lacks the kind of heroism, and though this makes him unwittingly coward-like at times, there is tenderness in his character.
Gweniere: A delicate, beautiful woman in her life, blossoming and continues to live vitality in Arthur’s presence.
The story begins on the eve of Pentecost in the medieval era in the city of Camelot.
Author [Heroic, masculine voice] “Hear ye, lords of the Round Table who have sworn to enter upon the Quest of the Holy Grail! Tis not a quest for earthly riches, but tis to be the quest for Our Lord and Saviour, the holiest of holist God. He has bestowed us a queste for the grace of Christ’s own flesh and blood. For Camelot!
The Knights of the Round Table cheer to the King’s toast and draw their respective swords, some sharper than others, others yielding more steel than his neighbor. They touch the tips of their sword, pointing at the grand tapestries that draped the royal castle. King Arthur looks slightly uncomfortable with his overlarge, unwieldy Excalibur that was poorly weighted for combat (although it did look very impressive) and aped his companions.
“For Camelot!” They roared in unison.
“Thou art my sometimes queen, sometimes mother…” Pendragon murmured, leaning his porcelain face into Jenny’s milk white arms, one cheek pressed against her bosom, listening to the soft flutter of her heartbeat. “They say that I must make haste to Avalon, for the infidel doth ride hard for the Grail.”
Arthur considers the good reasons as to why he should not go. Geopolitically, it is simply not feasible for him to ride down to the Middle East, assemble a crusade, and STILL have enough men left to defend Camelot.
“It’s suicide m’lady…a fool’s errand.”
“Why are you going then?” Jenny asked, “Who can make the great Pendragon do anything?”
Arthur lifted his coarse voice, with a cat in his throat. “B-but… ‘tis my foresworn duty to the Lord and for my people… (Am I a man?) For no man of honour ought to refuse to undertake this Quest neither for fear of death nor love of life. He that rides the fate of fates in heaven hath the steerage of my course, I must follow the wind and currents, without recourse.”
Jenny reassured him. “Then you mustn’t worry, sire. Stick your courage to the sticking place and tell the men what a wild goose chase it would be.”
Arthur leans his head on Jenny’s shoulder, one last time before he drags himself to the dressing room.
Lancelot knocked on the door. “Sire, when shall we set foot?” Arthur hesitates, a little unsure, his growing unease turning awry the pit and momentum of his army.
At this junction, the flaw of Arthur was clear to even me. How was this possible? Had I not given him the grand entry of someone “no nobler a knight”? The grim reminder of my own promise to uphold his honour rang in my years, and I felt less enthused about continuing the story. My finger hovers over the keyboard, as I consider my next move.
Beep. An email appeared on my computer screen:
From: Merlin & Merlin Editors, Avalon Publishing:
What the hell is Arthur doing?! Where was the dominating hero of the grand Arthurian legend you promised me? Bring me the hero to challenge my sorcery. I am fighting a bloody deadline here, I need his carcass @ Avalon by midnight!
I press the Reply button.
Morgana, I am trying my best to create a masculine hero that can be marketed by your firm. However, please acknowledge that there are artistic principals in narrative compositions which are beyond the control of even the author. The language has a will of its own. All I can do is sit in front of the laptop and bleed all over the keyboard.
P.S. I know it’s tight, but I will have the next chapter for you by tomorrow night.
Yours in fictional harmony,
The fraying scents of sleepless nights spell through the claustrophobic, unaired apartment.
After endless ruminations to correct my Arthurian legend, I brim with frustration, as I run my fingers frantically through the feral strands of my neglected hair, only to result in dismal failure as nothing comes to mind. The story was mechanically twisted, without regard. The hum of the air conditioner echoed the room as I shrink in a foetal position, staring desperately in the blinding white neon of my computer screen.
The blip of the cursor winked at me sardonically. The paragraph cuts to a halt, paralyzed by indecision.
“Are you going to send him?” Jenny asked pitifully, her slender hand gently resting on my shoulder.
I put on my assertive voice. “Listen, Jenny, I know it’s hard…but Arthur must go on his quest for the Holy Grail. He is a man of distinguished courage and nobility, take that away and what do you have left? Some foolish pomp? He must fulfil his conventional narrative obligation status as a Hero. It is expected by history, by the audience, by me. My career is on the line here.”
“But… what you have written is so sublime… please…. No author had written me and Arthur’s romance of nearer perfection. Would you let all that beautiful prose crumble to ashes in the dog like death of dogma? The Arthurian writer before you, that bastard Geoffrey concentrated entirely on how much I cheated on Arthur with Lancelot, twisting history into a dark pile of lies by portraying me as a lustful femme fatale!”
I was in awe of the bewitching flattery, contemplating on my next plot twist. However, I was well hit with the pressing reality to meet contextual demands.
I’m sorry, Jenny.
Jenny’s voice seemed pensive and her emotions seem to run out of energy.
She is silent for a spell where we both simmer softly.
“Say, when did you last back up?”
Why do you ask?
“Well, it would be a shame if you had written all this, only to run out of battery.”
I move the cursor over the side tab, and the dock tabs opens with an agonizing yawn. A dozen messages, previously ignored, all flow to life. The words start to ink together, followed by a fierce clutter of syntax, antonyms, word diction, pronouns and dialogue. ‘You are at 15%… 10%… 5%… your machine will shut down…”
The interior is dark. The stage is dimly lit. The room slightly cheery music changes to a solemn sonata that has a minor, low key and somewhat ominous tone.
The Author scrambles around his room frantically, with a flood light centered on the prop of the Author’s room as he searches for his charger. The edges fade to darkness, and we see the author stumble and in and out of the limelight. Adjacent to the centre stage is a small pool of light where Jenny (Guinevere) is seated in a delicate ivory chair at the small claw foot table, wearing a soft, violet dress. She is speaking to the Author. The Author seems to be speaking to himself.
As the computer dies, the audience perceives the light in the centre of the room fade. When the author boots the computer, he will be laminated solely by the light of his screen, a bright white light.
Jen [rises, her voice, wistfully] “I wouldn’t stress too much about it, you never liked the contract anyway. “We may part for now, but I, Guinevere, Queen of Camelot, will always live on blissfully in your head.”
Author. [Stamping, incredously] “Come on! Come on!”
A shaft of very clear light is thrown onto Jen’s face against the faded tapestry of the curtains. Her eyes lift, her face glows, her voice becomes rich and elegiac.
“All good stories must come to an end, we do our dues in life… and then we simply… fade out.”
The light on Jenny fades and disappears. There is only the author staring at a blank screen. He looks exhausted, holding back a shuddering sob. The author looks towards the audience.
The screen finally, turns black and,
The scene dissolves.