The chamber was dimly lit, a lone smoldering candle in the middle of the table the sole source of light. Darker than the room was the expression on Cardinal Erasatz’s face as he stood up to address his fellow priests.
“The times are indeed dark, Brothers. All that we have feared have come to pass.”
He was greeted by a pall like silence.
“The evil Morgana and the demon spawn Mordred have declared us criminals. Can you imagine the audacity? That whelp Mordred has issued a royal decree declaring the church illegal and sent out the royal guard to arrest all the members of the clergy.”
“Really, Holy Father? Have things taken such a grave turn? This was unexpected even from the likes of them.”
“Nothing is impossible where agents of the devil are concerned. Our kingdom is now under the reign of the fallen angel himself and these are but regents of the Father of Lies.”
“So what do we do, his Holiness?”
“Not all is lost, Brothers. We have made our plans. The church shall stand firm against this abomination. As will the faithful.”
“May I intercede, Cardinal?”
“You have leave to speak, Brother Benford.”
The large man rose from his seat. “Aren’t we men of the Lord? Isn’t our realm the kingdom of heaven? Is it right for us to stain our hands in the evil realm of the earth?”
“Brother, Benford – I understand you. This is as painful to me as it is to you. How I wish I would spend my days in contemplation of our Lord’s glory. But then that is not to be. This is all a trial by Him to test our faith. We need to do what needs to be done however painful we may find it to be. “
They were interrupted by a knock on the door. It was a gentle knock but it reverberated in the silence of the chamber.
“Open the door, Brother Gregory. I believe it must be the Lord’s own Sword and his Holy Companions.”
A fierce man with flaming red hair entered followed by seven more. Brother Benford knew them all – they had all been Knights of the Round Table.
Godric bowed to the Cardinal. “Greetings, your holiness. We are at your command.”
“Tell us, Sir Godic how things go at the palace?”
“As you know Mordred now sits on the throne, his evil mother by his side. The Knights of the Round Table refused to countenance this travesty of the kingdom’s established order. So they have dissolved the Round Table and we have been declared enemies of the state. We were all individually approached by agents of Morgana with offerings of gold and power. Few of us defected to their side. But as you see the eight of us have stood firm and here we are before you. Many of the lesser knights are also disturbed by interdict and are eager to win back the favor of the church.”
The Cardinal nodded. “Any news of little Geraint?”
“It seems as a last act of magic, Merlin somehow managed to spirit him away?”
Brother Benford scowled at the mention of Merlin. The evil serpent. The one who was the root cause of all the evil that being wrought upon this kingdom.
“I think we should direct all our efforts towards locating Geraint. Once we find him, we shall march upon Camelot. Do you think we are well prepared?”
“We have the strength in numbers, his Grace. The Knights of the Round Table stand with us. As do most of the lesser knights. The commoners are also huddling in the fear of the Lord since the interdict has been declared. The church has to but call out to them and they shall come in hordes to stand with the church to receive His Almighty’s blessings. But…”
“Is there a problem, Sir Godric?”
“What about the wizards? The church has differences with Merlin. But surely he does not stand with this evil realm.”
“Merlin they say has gone into an unnatural trance. He sits like a statue shut inside his castle. They say he does not move nor speak. A living vegetable he has become they say.”
“So in the absence of leadership, all the wizards of the kingdom have gone over?”
“Yes, my Lord. We don’t know what manner of evil magic they can summon. We are not afraid to face anything. As you know we will gladly lay down our lives for our God and the true king - the representative of God on earth. But as a leader of men I can’t use lightly the lives of men who trust me. So I have to think about the dangers.”
“I fully understand and appreciate, Godric. Even God does not suffer fools lightly. God wants you to win glory in his name, not lay down your lives in defeat for him. We should plan how we shall counter the magic. Your sword has the power to deflect magic. So magic can’t hurt you.”
Godric’s stony face winced slightly at the mention of the sword. A heavy price indeed he had had to pay to gain it. Benford still was not sure if whatever happened was really the way of the God. But Cardinal Erasatz was his superior. He probably knew the mind of God better than him.
The Cardinal continued. “I was planning to provide similar weapons for our army. But the goblins still need time to forge the weapons. And the events have moved too fast and we did not have time to fully prepare. So we need to take temporary measures.”
“Yes, His Holiness. We need to do something to counter the magic of the wizards. Or our brave men will die in vain.”
“Repugnant though it is to me, I wonder if we need to forge a temporary alliance with some of the wizards.”
“That is Good thinking, Cardinal. But the wizards know of the church’s antipathy towards them. None would side with us. Maybe if Merlin had his powers…..”
“I know. Though we detest all forms of use of magic, King Arthur’s alliance with Merlin did serve its purpose. Maybe we also need to compromise with evil for the time being for the greater good.”
Brother Benford rose abruptly from his seat. ”Holy Cardinal. Do you suggest we consort with the acolytes of Satan? I have been going along with your unconventional approaches. But working with wizards goes against all our doctrines. I would rather give myself up to Morgana and rot to death in prison defending my faith.”
“Brother Benford! Brother Benford! How could you think this of your Cardinal? Would your Cardinal ever lead you away from the path of the Lord?”
“That is what I always believed, your holiness. But your suggestion of forging an unholy alliance of the sort Arthur had forged has me doubting you.”
“My dear Benford, you are right in the limited vision that has been revealed to you. But to me, the Great Lord has revealed greater portion of his plan. The way I see it, you cut a diamond with a diamond. You remove a thorn with a thorn. You need to use sin to root out sin and then discard it. The very human birth is a wage of sin. We can’t stay free of sin while we live in this world. As long as we keep the greater good in mind and do the will of God, the sin won’t taint us.”
Benford was not fully convinced. But the Cardinal did sound sincere.
“So my dear Godric – do we know of any wizards who would fight on the side of righteousness?”
“None of the wizards of our kingdom would go against Morgana unless they had a leader like Merlin.”
“Can one such as Merlin be found?”
“There are rumors of Merlin’s bastard son. He is known to be a powerful wizard and Morgana is said to have sent assassins to end his life. I am not sure if he still lives.”
“If Morgana wants him dead, he surely would be a good ally to have. It pains me to have any manner of dealings with wizards. But maybe that is God’s will. Maybe God’s grace will fall on him and cleanse him of his sins as well. We shall have time to deal with this wizard whichever way he goes after we have defended the kingdom from this evil sorceress and her whelp.”
Brother Benford could read a tinge of sorrow in Cardinal’s voice. He seemed to be doing this out of the necessity of the time only. He felt ashamed for having ever doubted him.
“So do you want us to find this wizard, his Holiness?”
“Yes. Find him and bring him to me! He will serve us well till the holy weapons are forged. Once we have the weapons, we shall have no need for magic.”
“We shall leave no stone unturned to find him, my Grace.”
“We also need to find Geraint. Send out your men to look for him as well. Unless we find Geraint, we shall have no cause. Bastard though he is and born of incest, Mordred will be the true heir to the kingdom if Geraint does not live. So it is essential to find him.”
“I shall, Cardinal.”
“Our enemies would also be looking for the two of them. But I know you are bravest and most resourceful men in the kingdom. And you have God’s blessings. You shall wade your way through the darkest hour and emerge victorious.”
The cardinal then bade all the others to raise and they chanted in unison. “Go forth, Holy knights of God and bring glory to the name of the Lord.”
The knights departed.
Click for other Chapters: Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8