~ ~ ~ ~ Camelot, England ~ ~ ~ ~
"I heard that you are the son of Sir Lancelot," said Mordred, entering the small barn where Galahad was feeding Joan, Lancelot's beautiful white horse.
"I heard that I should not trust you, Sir Mordred," said Galahad, with courtesy, not stopping his work. Mordred's mouth twisted in a grimace that ended in a bitter smile.
"You have been here only a few weeks and already you heed the rumours."
"I trust my father and what he says," Galahad replied, stopping and turning, watching Mordred with curiosity. His brown hair, dark eyes and straight nose were identical to Arthur's. He had heard many rumours about Sir Mordred.
"You are a naive, young man," hissed Mordred, without ever losing his smile and knowing well that, after all, Galahad was younger than him by only four years.
"So they tell me."
"I'm sure there's a reason, then. After all, trusting Sir Lancelot is nonsense."
"I trust my father," said Galahad, with grace and simplicity. For a moment it seemed that Mordred would spit on him, but instead he shrugged, while his hand searched for his absent sword. "It is not a sufficient reason. You were conceived by deception." A slight blush on Galahad's cheeks was all Mordred wanted and obtained.
"Your mother was deceived, that's what the rumours said," Mordred continued, "and Lancelot fled after conceiving you, to get back into the queen's bed."
Galahad swallowed a couple of times and sighed. "I've forgiven. They were overwhelmed by passion but I have forgiven."
The other man raised his eyebrows in surprise and let out a short laugh.
"Sir Galahad, the pure," he exclaimed, with an exaggerated bow. Mordred waited for the other to reply.
Generally, at this point, Lancelot would have gladly taken the sword to fight the malicious irony with the force. Dinadan would have laughed. Kai would have retorted acidly with something like 'Sir Mordred, the bastard'. But Sir Galahad was silent, watching.
Mordred waited until the green-eyed gaze of the other began to make him feel uncomfortable.
"It was an honour to meet you, Sir Mordred," finally said the purest of the knights, without any note of irony in his voice.
Mordred bowed awkwardly, uncomfortable, and went out. Galahad was welcomed to Camelot with mixed emotions. Contrary to what everyone believed, Lancelot accepted his son with open arms and seemed honoured to have him in Camelot.
Guinevere, not surprisingly, was polite and cold, probably jealous of the fact that another woman had been able to donate to a son to Lancelot. Galahad was loved amongst younger and older people, even though just as many loved making fun of him for his much famed 'purity'.
"It's only because he was raised in a monastery, he has never met a real woman," would say Mador de la Porte, when he saw him go to the chapel to pray.
"He's a noble man and very close to God," Bors would reply, Lancelot's cousin.
Galahad ignored the comments, preferring to devote himself to his prayers and to his duties as a knight. He and Lancelot were equal in physical strength and ability; the king was proud of them both.
It was after the return of a particularly difficult tournament near Camelot that Galahad reached his rooms and there found Mordred. He and Mordred had not spoken since their first meeting and Galahad had managed to avoid him with courtesy.
"Sir Galahad, forgive the intrusion."
"It's a pleasure to see you, Sir Mordred," said Galahad, taking off the coat of mail.
"You lie with such kindness." The other turned, almost offended.
"I do not lie, Sir Mordred." And for a moment Mordred believed him.
"Well, you are just and noble in every facet, I give you my compliments." Mordred also gave him a quick amused clap.
"May I ask the reason for your visit?"
"The son of the king can go wherever he wants and without grounds." Galahad was about to say something about privacy but quickly closed his mouth. The son of the king. Of course he had heard voices about Mordred's conception; the terrible sin of Arthur.
For a moment, in all his innocence, Galahad wondered if being so physically close to Mordred, born of incest and deceit, was not dangerous, contagious and terrible for his own soul. "Certainly, my lord," said Galahad finally, uncertain. Mordred came closer, faster, and Galahad drew back a step.
"You are afraid of me. I am shorter than you, unarmed, and certainly less clever than you with a sword and you are afraid," Mordred smiled, satisfied. "Oh yes, maybe if I touch you, I would taint you with something terrible. Have you heard of my birth? he continued, whispering and smiling. Galahad was distracted. He had heard of Mordred s birth. He thought that Mordred was a person who smiled a lot and still wasn't able to do it properly.
His smile seemed grim. "I heard something about it."
"Well, well, what about you? You too are born from deceit."
"But they were not brother and sister?" Mordred continued for him. "And that's what makes us different?"
The smile vanished, and Galahad saw a hint of desperate madness in the eyes of the other knight.
"And what makes you a knight so pure, noble, perfect and untouchable?"
"Sir, I am not as pure as you say."
Mordred grasped blond hair and pulled him down. He kissed him, with strength and anger, and it took a few seconds for Galahad to recover sufficiently from his surprise to push Mordred away.
"What are you doing?"
"At least it is not incest," smiled Mordred.
"You are crazy. You need a confession. A priest-"
"I might need you. To ruin, I mean." Galahad shook his head and walked away from the unpredictable Mordred. There was something he did not understand. For the first time he was facing someone who seemed to act with the sole aim to destroy.
"I hate you, Sir Galahad."
"Because he loves you and not me."
"What do you mean?" But Galahad knew what he meant. Because Lancelot loves you and Arthur does not love me.
"This place makes me sick. All of Camelot," said Mordred, before leaving the room without even looking at Galahad, motionless in the center of it.
Weeks passed before Galahad saw Mordred again.
After their last confrontation Mordred had asked the king, his father, the permission to visit his aunt Morgan, Queen of Gorre. Permission was granted. When the absence of Mordred grew too long, Arthur sent for him, ordering him to return to the palace.
Galahad easily observed that Mordred obeyed because he could not do otherwise. Arthur's son was sour and seemed to hate his father, but when the king spoke the young man followed him like a dog wagging his tail.
This time, again, Galahad found Mordred in his own rooms. That evening he felt ready to tackle anything Mordred could throw at him. He had received a letter from his beloved mother Elaine and had just returned from his prayers. He felt strong, pure and invincible, the Galahad that all his companions recognized.
"Dark as a winter sky beneath the sea," said Mordred, when he saw him.
"Excuse me, my lord?"
"An old nursery rhyme, Sir Galahad. But I'm not here to recite poetry."
"And for what?" Galahad asked, knowing well that he would not receive a clear answer. Probably because even Mordred was not sure of his purpose.
"Did you spend a lovely day? I know you dined with Lady Laurel."
"I had lunch with several ladies."
"Oh, they're all trying to win you," smiled Mordred, dropping onto one of the chairs near the door.
"They are betting on you, on who will be the first that will make you fall."
"I'm afraid to disappoint them, then. I love them all equally."
"A virgin with the heart of a whore," laughed Mordred. Galahad arched an eyebrow at the vulgar word, but said nothing.
"You look like your father," Mordred continued.
"And you like yours." Mordred stiffened and leaned forward, resting his elbow on the armrest of the chair.
"I appreciate some true verbal skirmish."
"I did mean no offence, sir, and I ask forgiveness if I have upset you." The sentence, full of sincerity, seemed to annoy Mordred more of everything they had said before.
"Boring," he replied, getting up from the chair.
He reached Galahad who was sitting at a large desk and was cleaning a helmet. Mordred knelt before him.
"It is not necessary," said Galahad, feeling all his strength drawn into a sea of distress and confusion.
"It is necessary for this," said Mordred, without any meaning. Before Galahad could ask what 'this' was, the knight in front of him took his hand and began to kiss it. On the back, on the palm.
"You're crazy! What are you doing?" growled Galahad.
"I wonder if you're young and pure enough to not understand it," said Mordred, letting go of the hand that Galahad was trying to snatch from his jaws. Mordred decided to concentrate on something else and got up enough to reach Galahad's lips and kiss them. This time Galahad couldn't reject him with ease and had to hit him on the head with his helmet.
"... You're a sodomite!"
"Peccatum contra naturam," recited Mordred, amused.
"I was wondering if you would still have been the pure knight of God after such a thing."
Galahad paused to reflect. Had he become a sinner? He had not done anything, it was Mordred who - "Get out of my rooms."
"The noble Galahad who surrenders to anger."
"It's a just anger."
"Of course," Mordred nodded, with such naturalness that seemed to be completely in agreement with Galahad. He bowed briefly and went out.
This time Galahad really tried to avoid Mordred. Even Lancelot became aware of his behaviour and was ready to destroy the young son of Arthur if he had dared hurt his pure child. Galahad assured him that he was mistaken. That all was fine .
He and Mordred crossed briefly in the following weeks. They had dinner together several times, among the other knights of the court. They had to sit down together at the Round Table, but did not speak.
Often Galahad found Mordred's dark eyes watching him with irony and contempt, and for this reason, he always was on guard. Attentive to every move of the other.
And Mordred still managed surprise him.
"Sir Galahad, the best of us all!" Agravaine cried when he saw him enter the dining room.
Agravaine was a young graceful man, with dark hair and nervous hands always moving. He was one of Morgause's sons, from whom he had taken a certain subtle elegance.
"Sir Agravaine, may God be with you," said Galahad.
"What a pleasure to have you here with us," continued Agravaine ambiguously. Beside him, Galahad saw Gaheris, Agravaine's little brother, and Mordred, his half brother. Mordred was a carving a form in the wood and seemed not to hear the conversation.
"It's a pleasure for me," said Galahad, cautious.
"Finally someone to talk seriously about something."
"Well, since you are the son of Lancelot you surely know if he and the queen are or not enjoying themselves in the pleasure of adultery."
Galahad blushed slightly. He had known of the rumours for years about his father and Guinevere, but he preferred to ignore them. He couldn't bear the idea of the sad face of his mother every time she heard the name of the queen. Elaine had loved Lancelot with all her soul and he had reciprocated with a cold sympathy. Galahad had learned to forgive his father, because his mother had always spoken well of him, but the subject of the queen still troubled him.
"What do you say?" insisted Agravaine.
"No, my father is not an adulterer."
"So is love only a chaste adoration, you say? Sir, you are naive," Agravaine laughed "I daresay you do not know what you're missing. Maybe if you ask nicely, your father will be willing to split his lover with you."
The knights jumped violently when Mordred's knife stuck in the wood of the table just before Agravaine.
"And perhaps you would have asked Lot to divide your mother with you. You would have liked it, wouldn't you?" hissed the bastard of the king.
Agravaine turned very pale and Gaheris seemed to stop breathing. Mordred stood up and, leaving the unfinished piece of art craft, he turned to leave.
Galahad followed him. He followed him because he felt as if the other had protected him and also because he could not bear to stay with Agravaine.
"Why are you following me?"
"Because I wanted to thank you."
"Everything I do I do for myself. Agravaine deserved a reprimand."
After that, Mordred came back to visit Galahad.
He made no attempt, as before, to kiss him or destroy him in his devious ways. He simply teased, mocked him with subtle irony but with much less coarse words then Agravaine's.
And then Arthur decided that Camelot s knights had spent too much time in laziness. Priests and mages, including the witch Nimue, had spoken of a magical cup that was said to be the Holy Grail of Jesus Christ. Already, some of the knights had gone away from the court to search for it, but always without results.
Arthur decided to use the sleeping strength of his men in the search for the Grail. He gave them the span of a year to find the sacred cup.
Agravaine laughed and whispered that Arthur was probably afraid to die and wanted the Grail's powers to become eternal or younger (younger enough to satisfy the queen, at least). Guinevere angrily watched the preparations, tired of being excluded from the world of men and tired to see so many of them leave, with only the return of a few.
"Dark as a winter sky beneath the sea, So to my heart crowd memories Awaking, So dark, O love, my spirit without thee," Mordred was humming, when Galahad entered in his rooms.
"An old rhyme that I learned at Glastonbury."
"You have been to Glastonbury?"
"A long time ago," admitted Mordred, remembering when, still a child, his mother took refuge in Glastonbury to plead Arthur to not take away her sons Gareth and Gaheris.
"Are you going come with us, sir?"
"Where?" Mordred asked, amused.
"In search of the Grail."
"In search of the Grail," repeated Mordred, smiling, "Guess who is refusing your offer."
"Percival and I are going to leave this morning."
"Very sensible. There is nothing more sensible than leave Camelot to start looking for a dishware."
Galahad blushed for the blasphemy and he quickly signed himself. "You should not talk like that."
"Maybe I should not talk at all, then," Mordred said, leaning toward him and taking Galahad's face with his gloved hands. He stood a moment to contemplate Galahad, motionless, waiting.
"Peccatum contra naturam," murmured the king's son. "Will definitely ruin your foolish holy research."
Galahad wondered if his strange, ambiguous, perhaps, proximity to Mordred could make him impure. Maybe that was a sin. Perhaps he was no more worthy than Kai or Agravaine to keep the sacred cup. Mordred did not kiss him as Galahad had feared and believed.
"You fool. You are going to kill yourself."
"I would be happy to die in such a quest."
"Do not go." Galahad wondered if he really heard those words or if he had only played the whisper in the way he more hoped.
"My mother is a witch. She sees things-," said Mordred.
"Your mother is dead," interrupted Galahad. "Dead, yes. You will die too, I know. Or never return to Camelot."
"I will return with the Grail."
"You're a liar, a bastard and an idiot. God, how I hate Camelot. Am I the one going mad or are all of you the ones who are mad? No matter, I hate you all the same."
It was not right, thought Galahad, when he saw flames of insanity in Mordred's eyes; it was not fair for the always secure Mordred to speak in this way. So Galahad hugged him.
He hugged Mordred, so that his words and his injuries were suffocated in his own neck. He hugged him, hearing him, sensing him shivering. I m only doing this to not listen to his blasphemies, thought Galahad, holding Mordred and closing his eyes.
That was the last time they met in Camelot. The pure son of Lancelot left the next morning and never returned. After a year, knights began to return to Camelot speaking of extraordinary adventures and follies. Emaciated, sick, drunk, wounded, ecstatic. More than half of them never returned and none of them returned with the Grail.
~ ~ ~ ~ Glastonbury, England 1999 ~ ~ ~ ~
The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey put awe in the people who saw it. They were huge and seemed endless, despite their status clearly demonstrated the opposite.
Ancient, huge and familiar.
The sun managed to give off a weak light that gave the lawn around the abbey a desolate and chilly atmosphere.
Gale paused to observe a sign for tourists with endless explanations about the founder of the abbey.
A foreign woman, perhaps French started talking loudly about something, on the phone.
"Quel temps fait-il l -bas? Pleut-il ces jours-ci? Huh? Il fait tr s froid aujourd'hui."
The voice was lost in the group of people. The cathedral was pretty crowded that day. Maybe because it was coming up to Christmas.
Gale visited Glastonbury every year.
It was hard for him to accept not being crazy, but what he remembered was so vivid that those memories could not be false.
He remembered dying once when he was called Galahad. He had been ill but had found what he had searched for a long time: the Grail. And the Grail killed him.
"It is said that this was the famous Avalon," said an Irish lady.
Glastonbury was, indeed, called Avalon, the island of apples. But there were a lot of other things about Avalon and Glanstobury that these people didn't even imagine.
He kept walking, following the path and feeling at peace and nostalgic. It had been so many years.
Once again, he wondered if being born again was his reward for having found the Grail. A new life for the old one.
The cold wind began to hit him in the face without mercy. Gale wrapped himself in the scarf and continued his journey.
He spent the morning at the abbey, admiring it without haste.
Leaving the abbey he went to the small souvenir shop. He was not a lover of souvenirs but his boss had asked him for a book or a shirt for her daughter, and Gale did not want to disappoint her.
He wandered in the shop. There were multitudes of delightful nonsense, including a ridiculous cutter in the shape of Excalibur.
Gale found himself smiling and went to the books' shelves.
A man was leafing through a copy of Le Morte d'Arthur. And then the man looked up at him. Gale felt breathless.
The stranger evidently felt the same thing because he quickly put down the book and hurried to the exit. But if he wanted to leave he would have to pass next to Gale who blocked him.
Being trapped, the stranger smiled bitterly. "It seems that all these books end up the same way."
"Forget the books," murmured Gale, swallowing noisily. The stranger, who was not a stranger at all, was different from what had been almost fifteen hundred years earlier, but was still a little shorter than him, had the same short brown hair and smile.
"I must go."
"Wait-" Gale stopped him, gripping him by the arm, "-wait a bit."
"We do not even know each other," smiled the old Mordred.
"We do. We know each other."
"We used to. I don't know you and you don't know me now."
"Then tell me about yourself. Tell me everything."
"My name is Moray, now," said Moray, uncomfortable.
"Moray, it is a pleasure to meet you," Gale smiled, feeling on the verge of a liberating laughter, "I am Gale."
"You lie in the same cheeky manner."
"Let's go eat something?" Gale wanted to keep talking with Moray, anything to keep him close.
Moray smiled. "I already ate."
"So- a cup of coffee?" suggested Gale and quickly followed him outside the store.
"I do not drink coffee," said Moray, lighting a cigarette and walking faster.
"You know what I mean. I do not really want to drink coffee."
"Okay, then we will meet later today at three."
Gale was almost ready to accept but thought better. "No, I'd prefer now."
Moray stopped and finally turned toward him. "We are not alone. There are not only the two of us, there's not just me. If you want I can give you the address of someone else. There's Bors, he's alive too if you want."
"I do not want to go have coffee with Bors."
"Because there are things that I should tell you."
Moray threw the cigarette on the g round and smiled. "Then you should have told them before."
"Just a coffee. We ll sit in a warm and nice place and we ll talk. Please. Do I have to kneel?"
The smile of the other turned into a grin. "It is not necessary," he said finally.
"Wonderful," said Gale, "My treat