by Philip-Todd Franklin
Camelot: In Search of the Truth
That was the name of the paper published by an ageing archaeologist under the nom de plume of Roger Pendragon, although the family hadn’t gone by that name in many centuries, and rightly so. To the people at large he was known as the Right Honourable Dr. Roger Knight, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, and he had until then been a very respected member of English society. Of course, for much of that time he had been oblivious to his own true history as well. He had not known that within his veins pumped the blood of a king.
When Roger had first made the discovery of his history in 1969, he was a high-ranking member of Parliament holding an important post in Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s cabinet. He was only able to investigate his family history in his spare time, which he had much less of after friends urged him into successfully challenging Wilson for leadership of the Labour Party after the government’s defeat in 1970 to Edward Heath and the Tories. Spending four years as leader of the opposition, Roger Knight himself became the prime minister with a minority government on March 4, 1974, and he was able to pick up a slight majority in a second election later that year.
Although he increasingly found himself torn between two passions — politics and Arthuriana — Roger Knight was a relatively popular prime minister and even won another election in 1976. Still, despite being the leader of one of the world’s most important nations, Roger continued to spend much of his time confirming or denying his true family lineage. The government didn’t seem to suffer too much for his neglect, but he found himself resenting the time that his duties demanded of him.
On September 5, 1978, the country had expected Roger Knight to call an Autumn election to give his government a greater majority, since Labour was then ahead in the polls. But the nation was shocked when the prime minister instead delivered his resignation speech, appointing James Callaghan as the leader of the Labour Party and thus also the new prime minister. Although he had spent most of his life in leadership, Roger found himself strangely relieved to put politics behind him so that he could truly begin his great archaeological search throughout all known history for the man known as King Arthur or Arthur Pendragon.
By March, 1979, when the Conservatives defeated Callaghan’s new Labour government after the so-called “Winter of Discontent,” Roger Knight had become a virtual recluse, avoiding the media at all costs. In truth, he was overjoyed to finally be able to sort through and fully examine the large collection of papers, books, and other assorted items of the Middle Ages, which were strewn about his country estate as he had gathered them over the last ten years. He also neglected to shave for the first time in decades, growing a smart-looking grey beard that he could never have gotten away with as an active politician. Within a few short months he had managed to physically transform himself from a world leader into a reclusive academic.
When family, friends, and former colleagues began asking him what in the world he was doing to himself, he would proudly state that he was searching for the truth of King Arthur and for the legendary Camelot, never really making a connection between himself and the historical and mythological figure. The British press spent a few weeks mocking the former prime minister for his eccentricities, but his peculiar interests were soon forgotten. Realizing that some discretion was in order, Roger began using the pen name Roger Pendragon whenever writing in literary and archaeological academic circles. Only a few publishers and close friends knew that Pendragon was actually the former prime minister.
Here he was, now seventeen years into his private project, and he hardly felt any closer to the truth than he had when he first began. All he truly had to show for his work was a broken marriage from his wife of thirty years, Elainia, and an estrangement from his two teenage children, his daughter Michael and his son Arthur. Although he had been blinded by a magnificent obsession at the time, he knew now that he had in fact neglected his family for far too many years.
It was in 1984, when his wife had finally left him and taken the kids with her, that people began noticing that Roger’s eccentricities were much more than that, and they now began to question his sanity. By this time he had conducted many an archaeological dig at different sites, each once thought to have been Camelot. But each one had turned out to be a bigger failure than the last. When asked about her husband’s almost-unquenchable quest for Camelot, Elainia had been quoted by reporters as having said, “Though I dearly love Roger with all my heart, I’ve had enough of this mediaeval foolishness. I shall be asking for a divorce.” Her once-sparkling blue eyes, having over the years taken on an aged appearance, showed little happiness in her statement.
Thus it was that the world at large had found out about his family situation at home even before the man himself. During the whole divorce proceedings, Roger showed a great amount of both shock and pain at the destruction of his family and the failure of his marriage, yet he no longer knew how to salvage it, so he quietly allowed it to pass without a fight. That was two years ago now. After the divorce, his true problems began. Slowly the historical and academic circles started to withdraw themselves from him and his quest. Some of them even began to say that they figured the failure of his marriage had made the once-great leader insane.
It was with that one quote reported in most of the regular papers, along with the academic papers, that he found himself on his most recent archaeological site called Tintagel. It was here that the once-great man knew that what had become his life’s goal would most likely die at this, his most recent site. It would die with himself and the only help he could ever get any more — a young archaeological student from London. The only one who had offered to help at the site for nothing but the chance to learn was a youth by the name of Matthew Stone.
Matthew had a trait that Roger admired, and he tried not to abuse the youth’s good-natured offer to help. In addition, he enjoyed the company of one who seemed to have the same burning desire for truth as he did. The young man was just in his late teens and was into his first year of his master’s programme, having graduated at the top of his classes at Greyfriars, a prestigious public school, and finishing college in only two years. He had brown hair and light green eyes, and he wore a rugged pair of jeans and a flannel red shirt.
They had been working beside a partly crumbled wall, slowly moving the weeds and dirt away from what at first looked like a long-passed-over doorway. “Do you think this is really the site, Dr. Knight?” he asked as he slowly scooped dirt away from the area.
Looking up from his work, Roger spoke softly, the years having softly robbed his once-rich voice. “I don’t know, Matthew, yet I fear that this excursion may be the end of my life’s dream and goal. The very things I’ve sacrificed all for shall end with me, as I’ve few if any friends left within the academic world, and the rest believe me a ranting lunatic.”
Compassion flowing from the young man, he replied to his friend and mentor, “Don’t fear, Doctor. I don’t feel this site will prove as much a failure as each of the others. Though I agree that your search may end with this site, I don’t believe your true search will die.” A smile slowly formed across his rugged young face as he spoke.
That evening, Roger Pendragon was silent as he and Matthew Stone ate their meagre provisions. He was thinking back on the choices of his life that had led to this lonely part of the British isles and to his excommunication from the academic world. He had decided that the loss of any former titles he had long ago received or rewards for long-ago-performed deeds for his homeland had not mattered half as much as the loss of his family, the one thing that had been his whole world before the beginning of his foolhardy search. A single tear slowly tickled down his weathered, bearded cheek as he looked at the last photo of his family that he carried with him everywhere.
Matthew could tell that something was bothering his friend and mentor. He had long ago decided that he would follow Dr. Knight anywhere, once he had discovered the truth about the man. He felt wrong for not having been completely honest with his mentor about his own past or his real reason for having offered to accompany him on this archaeological dig for no reward. As he sat across the small, cozy fire and ate a little of the meat and soup supplies they had brought with them, he begin to review the items that had been discovered at this last site and what their existence would mean.
The discovery of the brick-built stairway still stood out in his mind. The fact was that the cement holding it together did not fit the same time period as the stones it was holding together. Why would someone take the time to brick up a passageway in the middle of nowhere? he asked himself.
“Don’t forget, lad, that tomorrow we’ll be using some of the dynamite to open the passage,” Roger said, shaking Matthew from his thoughts.
“Don’t worry, Doctor. I’ll be up and ready as always,” Matthew replied, smiling at the thought of the discoveries they would be making in the morning.
With that, Roger rose and made his way to the shabby little tent that he used and retired for the night. He was soon sound asleep. Watching the fire for a little while, Matthew took a stick and slowly stroked the fire before he placed his stick on it. He then arose and headed toward his own tent.
As he approached, the flap to his tent slowly raised to allow him to enter. He put down his dinner bowl, which still held within it some soup.
Sitting down, he watched as two tiny beings with wings on their backs slowly flew and landed down beside his bowl. The first figure, a female, had blond hair and tiny blue eyes. Her ears were pointed, and she wore a forest green dress that came down just to her knees. Her male companion wore what looked like green khakis and a tan muscle shirt. His hair was dark black, and his eyes were grey. The pair slowly began to make short order of the soup left in the bowl, then both turned and made their way over to where Matthew sat.
“We’ve found something. Not sure, completely, truth be known,” Matthew said, looking at the two fairies.
The male nodded, looking at Matthew as the female responded in a voice that was rich in melody, “Then describe the recent discovery, Sir le Gros.” A smile played across her face.
“After the last couple of markers Dr. Knight located the other day, we were able to locate what we have determined to be a bricked-up passage,” he said, trying to keep his voice down as he spoke, not wishing to wake up his mentor. “Could have been a cellar for a building of any type.”
Nodding again, the male of the pair spoke. “Then it may be that you have discovered the main chamber that had once sat beneath the great castle. Many great magicks did Merlin perform within that chamber.”
Matthew continued to look at the tiny fairy as he spoke. “So the search may have at last come to an end for Dr. Knight?” he asked.
“If only it were that easy,” the female said. “For just as the truth of his and your own past have been revealed, there are others whose own are still shrouded in shadows. Some of them would rather ensure that what is to come will never pass.”
“Guess that’s why you were so willing to inform me of my truth at the last site we had visited not so long ago,” Matthew said. It had been there that his own world was both challenged and changed with the truth of his ancestry.
She smiled brightly as she nodded at Matthew. The male said, “Glad are we that you can grasp the truth we are giving you without such disbelief.”
“Well, it’s impossible to deny the truth of my ancestry, what with the proof you were able to give me,” Matthew said. Yeah, he thought. It’s not every day you learn that you’re descended from a knight of the Round Table. Absently, he patted a locked box that sat beside his bedroll. Within it were items that were more precious than anything made of gold or silver, and yet they were also items Matthew had not yet revealed to his mentor.
“Still, you shall need your rest, Sir Knight,” the pair of fairies said. “And we shall scout and keep a wary guard upon this very camp, as was first agreed.”
Stifling a yawn, Matthew responded, “Sounds good to me. Wake me at the first notice of trouble.” He then laid back on his bedroll and closed his eyes.
“Always shall we, friend,” the female replied softly. “One of precious importance to Merlin deserves no less.” And with those words, two tiny points of lights disappeared from within Matthew’s tent.