“TAKE IT BACK!!” Bedivere screamed from the bottom of his anguished lungs, and with his remaining hand he tossed the sword, end over end singing and gleaming back toward where it had been pulled from. Excalibur, sword of the just, cut the light from the sun that set over the distant hills into blood red ribbons as it arced before plunging toward the surface of the sacred lake. The tall forest trees cast long shadows across the water and Excalibur passed through them like a bird of prey, hungry for a fish below the still water. However, just as it was about to pierce the unrippled surface, its fall was arrested by a hand, that burst from the lake and gripped it by the haft with a smack of wood on water. It hung there, above the surface, in the grip of the hand for a stunned moment, its point to the sky, as if it were threatening God himself.
Bedivere watched breathlessly as the hand, blade in its grip rose from the water followed by the image of a woman, holding the sacred weapon aloft like a triumphant warrior. Her face was so beautiful it was terrifying, with white and golden hair undulating over her head as if it were still suspended in water. She wore a gown of simmering grey, that both flowed like rain over her body and clothed her in reflective majesty. Her black eyes fixed on Bedivere, who realised he had tears in his eyes as he gazed upon the figure, floating over the crystal lake with the sword of the king in her hand. Though she was a good distance away, when she spoke it was as if her booming voice was coming from right over his shoulder. “Where is Arthur?” Bedivere swallowed hard, the words catching in his throat as fear froze his tongue.
“Why do you throw the King’s sword to the water!?” She demanded again, her face contorting in sudden stormy rage. Bedivere suddenly found his courage, and anger brought fire to his words. “The King is dead! You failed him! Your sacred sword was a lie! Behold!” He gestured to the body of his king, the kindly face now stained with blood, lips slightly parted in death, and blue eyes beginning to glaze. The great spirits eyes fixed on the king’s limp form for a long moment. Clouds roiled in the sky as she turned her vicious eyes back to Bedivere.
“Impossible.” The spoke the word so slowly that every syllable seemed to hit Bedivere like a physical force. “I thought the same!” He shouted back, finding his remaining hand gripping the handle of his own sword at his belt. The sky rumbled with thunder, and the Lady’s face was wrath. “If he is dead, it is because you failed him!” She yelled first levelling the sword at him, and then raising it over her head.
Excalibur came sweeping down with an ear splitting, air-carving shriek. The lake parted in the wake of the slash, splitting, revealing the lakebed beneath, great walls of water rising over the height of the treetops framing the water goddess in falling water. The force of the slash struck Bedivere full in the chest like a lance from a charging horse, and he was flung on his back, his armour rent apart as if it were paper. Gasping, the knight hauled himself to his feet as blood oozed from a shallow wound down the side of his chest. He had been cut through his plate, mail, gambeson and undershirt right down to the skin. Had it not been for its superior craftsmanship he would surely have lost his whole arm. “From so far away…” He gasped. An almighty crash sounded through the forest, as the displaced water returned violently to its resting place, showering Bedivere and his dead friend with water. He forced himself to his feet and drew his blade, just in time to meet the swing from glowing edge of Excalibur, as the Lady brought it down with tremendous speed toward Bedivere’s head.
Before he even had time to question how she had crossed the space to be in front of him so soon, he raised his blade and deflected the blow. The force sent a bone cracking shockwave through his entire arm, and he staggered back from the lady who brought Excalibur around faster than he could imagine and sliced clean through his own blade. Now gripping nothing but a cross guard and a stump of metal Bedivere, stood his ground against the towering spirit of the lake. The one who had provided Arthur with salvation in the form of Excalibur, who had bestowed the divine right of rulership of England within the hilt that, until just the previous evening, he had grasped. “You have failed!” She boomed in an ear rending cry, as water flowed underneath her like a liquid carpet, her feet still drifting a foot above the ground. “No,” He replied shakily, “You failed!”
Lightning crashed in the sky, reflecting light of the blade of Excalibur that seemed to lance into Bedivere’s eyes. “What did you say?!” Bedivere pointed his broken sword at the deity before him. His life belonged to his king, and now the king was dead, there was no sense in holding onto it now. “You promised that your blade would protect him! That, it would unite the kingdom and end wars! Well now what?” He tossed his ruined weapon into the dark sand. “What do we do now that your promised blade to the promised king is no more use that this?”
“You’re a fool to speak to me this way.” She hefted the blade and angled it at his heart. “You have breathed your last insult.”
Quicker than a blink, The Lady of the lake plunged Excalibur through the metal wreathed breast of Sir Bedivere, warrior of Camelot and most loyal knight to King Arthur. He gasped as it passed through his chest and pierced his back but, he felt no pain. He looked down at where the hilt brushed against is breastplate the blade moving through him as if he were mist.
“Odd, that the one who forged the sword of the Just, should be unaware that it cannot kill a good man, nor be wielded in anger.”
Both Sir Bedivere and The Lady of the lake turned to face the sorceress, who stood over the body of the dead king. Her hair was an unnaturally smooth black curtain, that fell about her scalp, body and arms like ink and shrouded her pale face like a veil. There was a crown of thin, golden light that drifted above her head. She wore a gown of greens and whites like Spring itself, that floated above the twigs and brambles leaving her unhindered in her travels. Not that anything had the power to stop Morgan le Fey.
“Sister…” The Lady of the Lake hissed, with a sound like whispering snow. Morgan le Fey’s eyes were onyx black as she fixed them on her. “Nimue. Remove Excalibur from this good knight. You could never kill him with that weapon. He has felt enough pain this day.” Noiselessly, the blade of Excalibur slid free of Sir Bedivere and he fell to his knees gasping, reaching to where there should be a gaping hole in his chest but instead finding smooth, polished metal. The lady of the lake, Nimue, twitched the sword irritably in her grip and watched as Morgan le Fey, turned her gaze down to the dead King. “So,” Morgan began, he voice like a distant choir, “The king is dead. Killed in battle, such is the way of all brave but foolish kings.” She knelt by him and stroked his cheek affectionately, her fingers brushing against his greying beard. “But this man was no fool.”
“He was the best of us.” Bedivere hissed between his teeth, beginning to crawl toward his king’s body. “None could have asked for a wiser, fairer, kinder more…kingly king.”
He too knelt by the Arthur and Morgan loomed over both of them like a fond, venerable mother. “And I failed him.” He admitted, brushing the king’s long hair from his face and closing his eyes.
“Do not judge yourself too harshly. It was not you who took up arms against this man.” The sorceress’ words were spoken with such compassion and power that Bedivere began to weep uncontrollably. “I just don’t know what to do now.” He sobbed. “What was it all for? Camelot? The Knights? All of it. What do we do now?”
A sound like heavy rain sounded over Bedivere’s shoulder, as Nimue drew up behind him, Excalibur still in her grip. “We will never see their like again sister.” She said solemnly.
“I know.” Said Morgan le Fey, who raised a hand toward the lake and made a beckoning motion. “And that is why we shall rebuild.” Nimue raised her clear eyebrows.
“Is it time sister?”
“It is time.” Bedivere looked between the two spirits, confused and a little frightened. Then he saw the lake. A dragon, black and fierce with a wide slatted belly glided through the water toward them. Its teeth were splinters of burnt oak, and its skin was gnarled bark. The boat, that sailed with no wind, glided gently to the shore and up the beech, drawing alongside the dead king. Nimue gestured and Arthur was lifted on a bed of water into the air, where she gently laid Excalibur on his breast and allowed him to drift into the boat, where he was laid on a bier by the central mast.
“Where is he going?” Bedivere asked as Morgan climbed into the boat, without taking more than a single stride. “Where are you taking him?”
“To Avalon.” Nimue replied simply, pushing the boat away from the shore with a single hand then walking along side it as if she were guiding a horse. “To Avalon, to rebuild the great city and a new future for England.”
“Well take me with you!” Bedivere shouted, running toward the water. “If Camelot is to be rebuilt then surely…”
“We will come for you Bedivere.” Morgan said calmly but firmly, the forest going quiet as if to listen. “You will see your king again. When your life draws to a close, you will see your king and Camelot restored. Live a good life. Be the honest man you are, and I can promise you nothing but the greatest rewards.” A mist closed around the boat and before Bedivere could say any more, the boat was gone. He did not follow any further. Some how he knew what Morgan said to be true. He stepped away from the water, wiped his tears away and then, kicking his broken sword into the lake, made for the nearest monastery.