I started writing this as a response to one of Chuck Wendig’s challenges; a genre mash-up. I rolled a “caper” and “Arthurian legend”. I had fun with this piece until I got stuck with the ending. I think I finally came up with a reasonably acceptable ending (can you tell I am still not 100% happy with it?). Here it is with all its flaws. A just-for-fun piece of flash fiction. I hope you enjoy it at least a little bit.
Sir Lancelot was livid. How could such worthy Knights of the Round Table be so dumb? Glancing over the line of disheveled men in various stages of dishabille, Lancelot dropped his arms alongside his body and sighed deeply. Then, he closed his eyes as if he had a headache and remained quiet for a few seconds longer.
The Knights shifted their weight from one leg to another in anxiety as they exchanged worried looks. “Does anyone care to explain to me what the hell went wrong?” Lancelot’s fine modulated voice was heard. The Knights all stood at attention trying to avoid the famous Knight’s eyes.
Sir Erec stepped forward hesitantly. “Well, we did what you asked us to do…” A couple of the other men were waving their heads in warning.
Lancelot closed the distance between them in a wink of a eye and with his face right next to Sir Erec’s face yelled, “What I told you to do? Really??? I don’t remember telling you to botch the whole mission.”
“Things just went seriously wrong, Sir Lancelot” the other knight whimpered. “It wasn’t our fault.”
“Now, you are going to whine like a little baby and blame your failure on something else?” Lancelot yelled, spittle flying from his mouth. “What kind of knight are you?”
Palamedes’ dark figure stepped forward. “Sir Knight, there is a perfectly good explanation for what happened, I assure you.”
Eyes like daggers, Lancelot turned his attention to the tall Saracen. “I can’t wait to hear it,” he growled. “Tell me!”
There was no getting around the fact that things had gone terribly wrong. It had started with a silly idea and gone downhill from there. Sir Lancelot had dreamed that the magic sword, Excalibur, had been brought back from the depths of the lake to him. Arthur himself had appeared to him in this dream and told him he was destined to follow in his footsteps and be the one saving Camelot from total ruin. That’s when he decided to send his fellow knights to retrieve the fabled sword. In retrospect, it had been a bad idea from the get-go. What had made any of them think stealing Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake was a good idea?
Several of the Knights of the Round Table gathered by Sir Lancelot’s house in armor and carrying their most trusted swords that very day. The famous group of valiant warriors left at a gallop leaving a trail of dust behind them. Their banners flapped in the wind and their beautiful regal horses seemed to fly rather than trot through the forest that stood between them and their destination. They hadn’t been on a quest in a long while. In fact, after King Arthur passed their adventures had dwindled to practically nothing and they missed the rush of the battle and the pins-and-needles of the unknown. This new quest was a heaven-sent. Or so they thought in the beginning.
Once they arrived to the bank of the lake, one thing became immediately apparent; how in heaven’s name were they to accomplish their mission? The sword was well-guarded under the waters. Protected by magic, Excalibur would not be easy to retrieve even under the best conditions. Underwater even worse.
“One of us has to dive in,” Palamedes suggested glancing at his companions. “I can’t swim.”
The only knight who could at least stay afloat was Erec. In spite of his reluctance, he was therefore voted to be the one diving head-first into the murky waters of the magic lake. Unfortunately, neither the knight in question nor the others thought the action through and Erec jumped in the lake fully armored. Chaos ensued as the poor knight, heavy with metal, started immediately to sink. Sir Palamedes realizing that if nothing was done, his companion would perish under those waters, stripped all his metal wear and jumped in to help the unfortunate warrior struggling to keep his nose out of the water.
“Hey, I thought you said you couldn’t swim!” One knight exclaimed in surprise.
“I just didn’t want to go into this freezing water,” Sir Palamedes confessed paddling himself closed to the troubled knight and grabbing hold of his breastplate, pulled him as hard as he could toward the bank. The two knights cold and out of breath pulled themselves into solid ground and laid there exhausted.
What could they do now? They realized they had no real plan and thus, they must come up with something on the fly. One knight suggested to fill the lake with stones until it was so full, the sword would most likely surface. This idea was quickly discarded. Another knight thought that maybe they should call to the Lady of the Lake and when she surfaced, grab the sword and run. Someone else pointed out that considering the Lady was a powerful magical being, this may not be the wisest thing to do.
They stood by the lake for a few hours mostly scratching their heads and trying to make sense of a situation that seemed hopeless. Until one of them exclaimed, “Merlin!”
They all stared at the knight who had uttered those words and silence descended upon them for a few moments. Then, Sir Percival threw his arms up in the air and exclaimed, “That is pure genius! Of course, why didn’t we think of this before? Merlin is all-powerful. He can easily get Excalibur for us.”
The whole forest was abuzz with excitement. They would call for Merlin, the powerful wizard who had been the King’s friend and advisor all those years ago. He would certainly see the value of Lancelot’s vision (because surely that dream was not a mere fancy of the sleeping mind) and help them retrieve the magic sword.
Two of the knights left shortly after to seek the mage while the others put up camp close to the lake and prepared to stay the night. They waited for a whole week and then another. The knights never returned. Despondent and desperate, the knights decided to do the unthinkable; call for the Lady and demand she give them the sword.
The awesome Lady of the Lake surfaced with a great splash of waters, creating waves and rivulets. She looked around her with eyes full of annoyance and found the disgruntled band of knights. “How dare you, lowly knaves to disturb my winter nap?” she boomed.
Shaken by her sudden and no-so-happy appearance, the knights stood shaking in their armor not quite sure of what to do next. Sir Erec took a step forward and said, “Forgive us O great Lady of the Lake. We came to besiege you to hand us Excalibur to take to Sir Lancelot.”
The magic woman had no reaction at first but a few moments later she roared with laughter. “Give you Excalibur? Why would I ever do that?”
“Sir Lancelot had a vision, milady,” the Saracen ventured in turn, “King Arthur spoke to him and told him to take the sword and put Camelot together again.”
The laughter ceased but the look on her face spoke volumes of her obvious amusement. “Vision you say? Or wishful dream?” she said in a dangerously low voice. “King Arthur is dead and dead men do not speak. He entrusted me with Excalibur and no-one will take it from me.”
“But…” Sir Erec began but never finished. The Lady waved her hand above her head and produced a huge wave that swiftly rolled toward the knights’ like a bowling bowl toward the pins.
“Begone!” she yelled in a booming voice before diving into the deep waters of the lake and right before the wave exploded above the knights’ heads leaving them soaked and shivering.
Thus, the bedraggled knights in not-so-shinning armor returned to their master to deliver the news of their doomed mission. A low rumbling laughter echoed through the air reaching and following the disgraced knights all the way home, their dreams of glory crushed and their egos humiliated.
Now, faced with an enraged and disappointed master they felt their shame burrow into their chests like a sharp dagger. Heads hanging down, hands clumsily clutched behind their backs, feet shifting nervously under the weight of their rusted armor the knight weathered the noble knight’s rage and flying spittle. A prolonged silence embolden them enough for a quick peek; Sir Lancelot’s anger seemed to be finally sated as he stood before them. “Why are you looking so distressed?” he asked them. “Nothing happened that won’t be fixed by a night of drinking and wenching. So what are you waiting for men? Let’s go!”
With those words, Sir Lancelot’s prophetic vision joined ranks with all of the other misconstrued dreams of the world’s great men and was forever forgotten both by the great knight himself and the rest of humanity.