Conversations with the young King
My back is aching and I can feel my age after having kept guard during most of the day. Some of the younger knights take turns relieving each other but that is not for me. Being in charge has its downsides. I have seen two kings fall while serving them. Both fell to treachery rather than on the battlefield. That is what I keep reminding myself of every time my body start to protest over it’s treatment. Yet I remain vigilant. Nothing else will do. As I hear the tolling of bells in the church-tower of St Pauls Cathedral, Sir Cador and the knights who are about to replace me and my subordinates arrives. The transition goes smoothly. We have established a quick and solid routine despite the chaos of the new king’s short reign. We are many who have place our last hopes and beliefs in the boy king.
Just as I am about to leave, a voice calls out my name. It is Sir Ector, the King’s father. He says that the king wishes to speak with me. When I enter the comparably small hall, I find it almost empty except for the King, his brother and his father. Highly unusual. The King is almost always surrounded by advisors, guards, lackeys, servants and sycophants hoping to gain something from his inexperience. The King asks me to sit down at his own table opposite to him. He has the vigour of youth about him and despite having toiled with the ruling of the kingdom since before dawn he does not look tired. I am handed a goblet of good wine and my legs are glad for the rest, not that I would ever admit it. Something about the situation tells me that this is a highly informal occasion, if such a thing could ever be said about a meeting with a king. The King tells me to eat and drink and feel at ease. He tells me that he has asked me here because he wants to hear about some of my many deeds. Are they all true, he inquires eagerly. He has all the exuberance of youth about the deeds of great men and he is one of the few I have met who seems to have almost all the facts straight as to my colourful life. I can’t help but feel flattered that the King, young man or not, takes such an active interest in me.
When recounting some of my adventures, he almost finishes some of them for me and at other times he sits still holding his breath when the most exciting parts are told. While quite a few of the memories makes me smile with recollection, most dampen my mood when I remember all the dear friends and family have lost. Both the happiest and the saddest memories relates to Brangwen. The king asks me both about what I did to convince my lord to be allowed to marry a commoner of no means and stature and what made me do so. I tell him in as much detail about her beauty, her bravery and her quiet certitude that made me lose my heart to her. He looks spellbound and when I am done he says with conviction that he wishes to find a woman like her to make his queen. Someone that he can love above all others. I smile to hear it and replies that if he does indeed find a woman like her, he should never let her go, no matter what it takes.
Suddenly the king asks me what has made me great? Being caught off guard by the sudden change in topic I fall back on an oft repeated platitude. I tell him that the foes I have defeated and the monsters I have slain is what has made me great in the eyes of men. The King seems almost annoyed by the answer and replies that that is not what makes me great in his eyes. He firmly states that the fact that I have fought for what I believe in against all odds and despite the opinions of others, that is what has made me a great man in his eyes. That in a time of turmoil when many other men have only seen towards their own enrichment and wellbeing, in such a time I have remained Just and dedicated. He queries if not all knights should be as just and I can only agree. But then he starts talking about how the oath we swear as knights should be just as important as any other matter of giving your word or of honour. He talks himself almost into a verbal frenzy, grasping for unformed thoughts that for the first time gets voiced in front of others. He states that we all have forgotten what knighthood truly is meant to be. We are not supposed to just be the best man among a thousand when it comes to what we accomplish on the battlefield, but also the rest of our lives should be lived the same way, we should be an example to each other and to the rest of the people.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the Kings fierce and powerful words, I can feel in my very soul that the young King truly believes in everything he says, and moreover even a tiny voice inside of me starts to agree with him, even if an older and more cynical part of me tries to supress it. When the King asks me what I think about his ideas, I can only answer that if he truly believes what he says, then he should give everything to realise this vision, no matter what I or anyone else think. I tell him to give it his all. I can do no less for that is the way I have lived my life, even if my goals have been different than the young Kings.
Truly, this is a King to live and die for!