Chapter 41

May 14, 2009
By Andrew Manalo BRONZE, Mission Hills, Kansas
Andrew Manalo BRONZE, Mission Hills, Kansas
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Ten years later.
King Arthur is on his death bed. He is dressed in a gallant red cloak with a yellow crest. He is coughing up blood, and is looking pale. He was in a battle to defend the kingdom from raiders, when he was stabbed in the chest. He is bleeding internally and knows he only has moments left to live. But he also knows that there has to be one thing done before he passes away: he must find a new king for Britain.

Merlinnus is there, with Arthur, in the king’s chambers. The old magician is dressed in his usual grey cloak. Arthur and Merlinnus discuss what must be done with the kingdom.
“Who is the next, rightful king?” Arthur asks.
“There is Philip of Cornippus,” the old mage suggests. Philip is a new knight from the nearby little village of Cornippus. He is considered by many people to be a “perfect” knight. He is tall and strong. Philip has sandy blond hair and blue eyes. He knows many different languages, and speaks each fluently. He is very smart and knows how to fight with his mind, as well his with a sword. Merlinnus likes Philip, because of his courageous actions in the recent battles to defend the kingdom.
However, Arthur disagrees. “Philip!” Arthur bellows. “Philip would never make a good king! He is too risky! Somehow, I just know he will be the end of the kingdom.” In his mind, Arthur recalled once when Philip charged in an attack, instead of retreating, risking a small defeat for a chance to advance.
“Maybe I can have a child.” Arthur suggests, out of desperation. It was an unlikely idea. Arthur and Gwen were not able to have any children.
“You? Have a child? You do realize that you are dying, correct?” Merlinnus retorted.
“Well, maybe Gwen can run the kingdom by herself,” Arthur said, trying to think of any other alternative to having Philip as the next king.
“You heard her the first time,” the old wizard answered. “She said she wouldn’t be able to handle it all by herself.”
Arthur sighed. “I guess we’ll have to decide on someone eventually.” Then, an idea struck Arthur. “Merlinnus, maybe we can use the sword to find our next king.”
Merlinnus frowned. The sword was not stuck in the stone anymore. In fact, King Arthur frequently used it in battle. “But you have already pulled the sword from the stone! Your people would not believe a second sword in a stone exists.”
“You are right. A second sword would only confuse my people. My eligibility as king would have been questioned.” Arthur felt deflated. There were no other options in his mind. “Merlinnus, don’t let Philip be king. It is a mistake. If you let Philip become king, it will mean the end of the kingdom. Merlinnus, promise me you won’t let Philip be king. Promise me that.”

But only silence followed. Merlinnus did not answer the dying king’s pleas. In the silence, he noticed Arthur’s breathing. It was a troubled breathing.
Then, quite unexpectedly, Arthur breathed no more, and his head fell back. Finally, the King of Britain had fallen. He had died from the loss of blood.
Merlinnus closed his eyes, and bowed his head, in an act of respect for his fallen companion. But soon thereafter, he raised his head and opened his eyes. The decision for the next king hadn’t been decided.
His attention then turned to the door. Just outside the king’s chambers were Gwen and Philip. They, too, had been discussing who might be the next king. Neither had any clue that Philip had been discussed as the next possible king.
“Can we come in?” Philip asks. He was quiet and solemn.
“Yes, you may come in,” Merlinnus sighed. “But Arthur has died.”
This announcement took Gwen and Philip both by surprise. They both had hoped to speak with Arthur before his death. Philip had only wanted to comfort the king, and to give him strength. Gwen, as a good wife, had wanted to give Merlinnus privacy to talk to Arthur, but she too wanted to spend Arthur’s last minutes together. With the knowledge of Arthur’s death, they both pushed through the door and fell to their knees alongside the fallen king, weeping. They both looked at him in sorrow.
“Wow, I can’t believe he is dead.” Gwen said.
Merlinnus turned to Philip and asked, “Would you be willing to take the throne, and rule all of Britain?”
Philip retreated from the old wizard’s request. He was surprised at the question and didn’t know how to answer at first. “I… I don’t know if I could fill Arthur’s shoes as High King,” the young man answered. Merlinnus continued to urge Philip to become king, but Philip declined. He didn’t want to be king.
Gwen, in silence, listened to Merlinnus and Philip talk, while she still lay next to her dead husband. Gwen agrees that Philip might make a good king, but she is hesitant. Would she still be queen? Would she have to marry Philip? She didn’t love Philip. She liked him as a knight, but saw him really still as a boy. She could not imagine him as king, along with her as queen.
“I need to speak to someone else about this matter,” Philip surmised. He needed advice. He realized he was young and inexperienced, and would need help in thinking through the situation if he were to become king. And he knew exactly whom he could speak with.
Philip raced out of the King’s chambers, and toward the knights’ chambers where he found Lancelot. Lancelot and Philip had been friends since Philip first became a knight. Philip had just arrived at Cadbury for knight training when he first met Lancelot. Lancelot had taken Philip under his wing and taught him swordsmanship. Philip was also brought to Merlinnus where he learned many different skills.
On the way to the knights’ chambers, Philip had come up with an idea that might fix the vacancy of the high king position. When he got to the chambers, he found Lancelot training with his sword.
“Hello Sir Lancelot,” Philip said.
“Sir Philip,” Lancelot returned, while he twirled his sword.
“Sir Lancelot, I have an announcement. King Arthur has just passed away.”
Lancelot stopped his practice, and dropped his arm holding his sword. He had been expecting Arthur’s death. He knew that the chest stabbing had been a fatal one. Lancelot was sad for Gwen and for the rest of the kingdom.
“And Merlinnus has asked for me to become High King of all Britain,” Philip explained.
“Arthur is gone, and Merlinnus wants you to become the High King?” Lancelot said. His head was turned away from Philip. He was shocked. Philip was just a young, unproven knight. He was popular, true, but untested in ruling matters of the throne. Merlinnus’ choice made no sense to Lancelot.
“Yes,” Philip continued. “But I was thinking… I only wish to serve the king.”
Lancelot looked at Philip in amazement. Somewhere long ago Lancelot recalled these same words as his own.
“You should be the High King instead of me.” Philip stated. “You were Arthur’s right hand. Now you should be king.”
Lancelot hung his head. He remembered the time when King Arthur had asked him to try to pull the sword from the stone. At that time, he could not. Could he now take on the responsibility of High King of Britain? He is unsure.
At that moment, Gwen and Merlinnus walked into the room. They both knew whom Philip had gone to see. It was obvious, because Lancelot was such an important figure in Philip’s life.
“Lancelot,” Merlinnus started. “Do you accept the position as the next High King of Britain?”
Lancelot looked over to Gwen, who said nothing, but nodded in agreement with Merlinnus’ question. Then Lancelot looked over to Philip, who smiled and stood in salutatory manner to Lancelot. He knew of no other knight worthy enough, who could take control over Britain.
Lancelot took a deep breath and straightened. He turned to Merlinnus, and his eyes narrowed. His voice took on a different tone and depth.
“I accept.”
Thus began a new era in the history of Britain.

The author's comments:
This is the next chapter in the book, The Sword of the Rightful King by Jane Yolen.

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