It is evening and Arthur walks his rounds in his camp, speaking to each man with a friendly jest here, a smile there, comforting one, urging another he can bear up well. Then Arthur, king of the Britons, returns to his fire and warms his hands. His squire gives him a spit of meat. Arthur bites into the meat. It is tasty, roasted as he likes it. As he sits there, he realizes that he is a king without a country.
Soon, maybe tomorrow, he will join his friends and his family in the west where men sit by the hearth and tell their tales of great deeds. Tonight he thinks of what might have been. He thinks of how he failed all those who believed in him. He thinks of his two closest friends, Guinevere and Lancelot du Lake, and how they failed him. They didn’t fail him. Can those you love and those who love you ever fail? He failed them. Thinking upon these things, he drops off to sleep.
It is a night of fitful dreams, tossing and turning. He rises before dawn. He calls his squire, Richard, out of his sleep.
“Yes, sire?” the squire asks.
“It is time to ready for battle this one last time.”
The squire suits up his master and king. As he looks into Arthur’s eyes, he sees loss. When the king is completely suited in his armor and ready for the battle ahead, he turns to his squire.
“Boy,” the king says.
“Majesty?” the squire says.
“Kneel,” the king says.
The boy kneels. The king raises his sword and taps the squire on each of his shoulders.
“I dub thee knight,” King Arthur says, warmth in his voice. “Rise, Sir Richard Bonnesworth.”
The newly knighted rises.
“Today you will ride forth,” his king tells him, “from these battlements and tell the land of the great things you have seen. Never let the dream of Camelot, the dream of Justice and Compassion for all who are Weak, die. That is your charge. Now go.”
Then it is over. Arthur defeats Mordred. Arthur receives a mortal wound.
It was a marvelous dream, Camelot. And now we enter into the dark times. The long shadows at the end of the day are upon us. Who will hold back the night? Camelot and Joyous Gard are in flames. Arthur stands, watching the work of Mordred and his henchmen. Lancelot is dead and Guinevere has gone away to a convent. It is the time of the waning of the west. Arthur’s dream of being a just king has died.
The king is heavy with grief. How did it come to this? Where was Merlin when he needed the wizard most?
We all know how Arthur passed into the West, how he was accompanied by three Queens, how Guinevere returned Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. As Arthur sailed to the healing lands of the West, the evening set into the horizon. Soon there was the long darkness. But dawn would return.
As it has so many times before. With the defeat of Hitler and the Nazis, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the release of Nelson Mandela, with the shaking of the hands of Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin. The sun shall rise in the East and the day shall come again.
As Merlin once told Arthur, you can never determine the outcome of things. But, if you live with a pure heart, the dawn shall always bring in a new sun and the light shall return for a new day. So do not despair.
Arthur sent forth his messenger to bring hope to all those who are dispossessed and might despair. That they know that hope is alive, that the King has not forgotten them. Arthur will return from the West and the days of Camelot shall be upon us again.
As it was written, so it shall be.