Camelot, a huge kingdom with small cottages surrounding the enormous castle. The houses and shops were pale with wooden support beams. They’re beautiful, that’s what they are. These buildings lead up to the large citadel constructed of elegant white stone. The dirt path curving throughout the town progressing up to it was lined with booths owned by citizens making a living by selling their specialty crafts. There is always a place to look, always a person to meet. The atmosphere is light, and the people are as hospitable as the stories say.
I traveled down the dirt paths that wound through the houses and shops in order to reach the castle at the edge of the township. When I finally reached the looming stone fortress and entered the gates, I was approached by two guards, one with curly brown hair, and the other with dark skin and short, black hair. I could tell by their silver and red armor they wore that they were knights of Camelot. They must know Lancelot, I thought.
“Can we help you?” the shorter one with the black complexion asked. I was shocked by their approach because I had not previously thought of their presence here, only Lancelot’s.
“My name is Eleanora. I’m here to see my friend, Lancelot. He recently informed me that
he has become a Knight of Camelot. Do you know him?” I wondered aloud. They suddenly became silent and their faces fell in shock. “Is something the matter?” I questioned, my hope wavering as I questioned why they appeared worried.
Now the knight with the curly hair and eyes as blue as water spoke. “No,” he assured me. “Lancelot is on a mission with a few others. We will let you speak to the king about when he’ll return.”
“The king?” I responded, so surprised that my voice cracked. “Is that really necessary?” I was most concerned for my friend, but I now started to worry much more. The king… What would I say? What would he say, for dealing with common villagers such as myself certainly is not his interest.
“Yes. This way, please.” The kind men lead me towards an astoundingly tall set of stairs that had a regal, rich wood doorway at the top.
The castle walls were of the most elegant stone, cleaned and polished to incredible amounts. The halls were decorated with long carpets, tapestries, and stained-glass windows that threw endless colors into the air. There was nothing like it in all of Camelot, nothing as pure, perfect, or poised. People dressed in dyed, homespun fabrics moving about with food or buckets in their hands. The look in their eyes was one of determination, as if they were on a mission, but they never hesitated to greet a friend. Guards were in front of most doorways, a line of silver and red against the walls.
Against the busyness, I also felt an incredible anxiety within myself. It started with a twist of my stomach, then moved upwards into my throat so I could hardly open it. I had never seen the king before, but I was aware of his newness to power. I had heard he was just, but false testimony spreads quickly; he could very likely be unwilling to help, or possibly he may not allow Lancelot to see me. It’s been years, and I have no idea what Lancelot has done this whole time. If King Arthur doesn’t let me see my old friend, I will have had a pointless journey that ended with crushed hopes. I have wanted to meet Lancelot again for years, and now there is finally a chance. I cannot control anything of what happens next, and that fact makes me fear the future with passion.
The two men continued to walk as these terrifying thoughts gnawed at my heart. Their confident, solid posture stood out in comparison to the way I carried myself with fear. We wandered, seemingly aimlessly, throughout the maze of halls; finally, after climbing many stairs and traveling past many doorways, the knights stopped walking. My confusion focused not on where we were, but on how they knew where to walk to get to a destination.
“Please wait here. We will speak to the king about your situation. We will return to you shortly,” said the dark-skinned man.
I obeyed as I thanked the men. The time passed lethargically as I was alone in the hallway. I heard muffled voices from within the room, but I dared not listen. The longer I stood, the more detail I noticed within the hall. A tapestry covering a large portion of one wall depicted a ruler watching a magician being burned at the stake, an action he must have commanded. His face had an appearance that was grim, but without regret. The fire burned shades of orange, purple, and white. The magician being led to the burning pile of wood seemed to be crying, crying because of the people he’d be leaving and the life that was ending, not crying because of his choice to be practicing sorcery. I know. I know because I’ve seen that look before. My parents had the same gaze when it happened to them. I still remember my mother’s face that day, as she walked before my father to the mountain of sticks that were ablaze with a heat I could feel from yards away. She, too, was crying, just as the man in the painting. I knew, though, that she would have rather been a mage and died than stop her practices and live. My father and her both knew what the consequences were, but there was a hope in them that caused them to feel they could defy all odds. They couldn’t. Someone from our village reported them to Uther, the cold man that preceded Arthur, even though my parents only used magic to heal people of their illness. I remember him, too, standing on his balcony, his cold eyes staring blankly as my mother screamed and melted under the flames he commanded. He was a fool, and I have little hope his son is any different.
I am suddenly pulled from my torturous memory by the closing of a door and hearing my name get spoken. I’m confused for a moment, but then instantly remember where I am and why.
“Yes?” I ask in response, a wishful tone to my question.
Again, the dark-skinned knight was the one who talked to me. “Arthur is busy right now, but he would like us to show you to a room, and then he would like to see you in his quarters,” he pointed to the room the two just emerged from, “in one hour. If you follow Leon, he will bring you to where you will stay.”
“Thank you,” I sincerely replied. “Thank you for helping me with something so simple.”
“It’s what we’re here for.” The knight with brown hair and brown eyes then nodded to his partner and left us. There was something strange, perhaps not genuine, about how he was acting. I felt strongly that there was something these men were not telling me, which caused my anxiety to rise once again.
Then Leon, the knight with light hair and eyes, said to me, “King Arthur is busy planning an event for later this week. There is a celebration to recognize Camelot’s new queen, Guinevere. It will not interfere much with his helping you.”
“That sounds very nice. I hope she is a gentle queen. I assure you it’s no inconvenience for me.”
“She is fit for the title. She has been in Camelot her whole life, and she knows the people well.” We continued walking the halls, and he continued talking, but I didn’t mind. It kept my mind from worrying about all the things that could happen when I speak to the king. “Did you say your name is Eleanora?” he asked.
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“Very well. I’m Leon. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He came to a halt at another elegant, yet smaller, door. “This will be where you may stay while you visit,” the knight told me as he opened the doorway. “We hope you will be most comfortable, and if you need assistance with anything at all, do not hesitate to ask.” As I took my first steps into the quarters, he held out his hand as a gesture. I gave him mine in return and he pressed his warm lips to the back of my hand as a common sign of kindness.
“Thank you, Leon,” I responded with an attempted smile and a slight curtsey, daring to use the man’s name. He nodded in return and shut the door behind him.
I was alone once more, solely with my thoughts. The hour passed slowly as I willed myself not to think of Lancelot. I did what I could to distract my mind from wandering. I tried cleaning the room, but there was nothing left that was unclean. I sang old songs that my mother taught me, and endeavored to remember the directions that needed to be taken to get back to the king’s quarters.
Finally, I decided it had been long enough for me to make my way back to Arthur’s room. After getting lost and being confused for most of the walk, I found my way to the correct area. I knocked on the door and waited. When no one answered I worried he had forgotten, or perhaps I was a bit early. As I was considering leaving, the heavy door creaked open, and a tall boy with dark hair was standing behind it. His shirt was dark blue, and there was a bright red piece of cloth tied around his neck. There was absolutely no possibility this was the king.
“Can I help you with something?” the boy greeted with a wide grin.
“I was told to meet King Arthur here. I am to speak to him about Lancelot, my friend.”
“Lancelot?” There was a look of despair and shock on his face that instantly made me feel terrified. There was nothing good that could lead to someone speaking like that. “I’m truly sorry. He was a friend to all of us. He did so much for everyone here while he was a knight.”
“Was?” I croaked. Was. I was so familiar with speaking about people in past tense. My best friend, the one I’ve only met a couple times, the one I’ve only spent a few months with, was no longer here. I started shaking my head violently as the burning of tears coming began. I could no longer contain the words as the spilled off my tongue, “He’s dead?”
The man stood frozen. “Come in. Arthur will talk to you,” he rambled nervously.