The Retired Knight and I, Jack, his squire, stood on the hill
and looked down upon the city. We had finally reached Camelot. From our vantage
point, Camelot looked impressive, its towers dazzling in the sun, its many
flags and banners flapping in the breeze. But when we descended and went
through the city gates we could see that many of the towers were old and
crumbling. The crowded streets were strewn with refuse. Gangs of young people
roamed about. Two of them approached us but when the Retired Knight put his
hand on his sword Jenny and gave them his cold glare they moved away. Most of
the older people looked pale and malnourished. This is what had happened to
King Arthurs proud capital since his reign had ended and England had
descended into anarchy.
Where are we going? I asked.
To an inn I know of, if its still open. Yes, there
it is, and seemingly guarded, too.
An armed knight blocked the entrance. Where are you
from, he asked. And what is your business in Camelot?
Weve come a long ways across England, and we are
here to find an old friend of mine.
Thats all right. I know this man. Another
knight had ridden up. Hello, Sir Lan---
Landry. Im fine, Sir Gaw---
Gantry. Its been a long time.
Yes, I thought that when the Round Table was disbanded
Id be a retired knight. But events have dictated otherwise. So we have
journeyed to Camelot. This young lad is Jack, my squire.
You could not have found a better master, young Jack. And
Sir, er Landry, you could not have arrived at a better time. Camelot is now
ruled by street gangs who demand they be paid for protection. Innkeepers,
artisans, merchants, anyone who tries to run a legitimate enterprise is at
risk. Most have elected to comply. Edward, the innkeeper here, is one of the
few whos chosen in resist. Hes hired me and my men to keep off the
predators. Weve already fought off several attacks. Thats the
reason for our precaution. The rumor on the street is that a number of the
worst gangs have banded together and will attack us shortly. They want to make
an example of us. They boast they will burn down the inn and kill anyone trying
to defend it.
Your man was right to be suspicious of strangers.
Well have to consider this, and I have other questions, too.
Of course. But you and your squire must be tired from your
And hungry, I put in.
Lets attend to your needs then.
We had stabled our horses, washed off the dust of the road and
eaten. Now the two knights sat at a table in the inns dining hall.
First of all, asked Sir Landry, what has become of the other
knights of the Round Table?
Scattered to the winds. The knights provided law and
order. I believe most of the people still want this, but they are cowed by the
Yes, the same is true for the rest of the country, upstart
barons ruling their own little fiefs. And the Queen, what has become of
There are rumors that she fled to France, but most believe
she is dead.
No, I will never accept that she is dead. And Merlin, what
No one has seen him in ages.
I see. All right, about this imminent attack.
The knights continued their discussion in lowered voices. The
food had made me sleepy and I must have dozed off. I was awakened by Sir
Landry. Come, Jack. You and the stable boys are to fill pails with water
and douse any fires that may be caused.
Then the attack is coming.
This night, we are told.
But I want to fight. Youve told me my swordsmanship
has been getting better.
You may well get your chance. But if the inn is burned
down then we will have lost the fight.
It was after midnight. Outside it was dark, and quiet. Every now
and then an owl hooted, then quiet again. Everyone stood by. Then there was a
wild yelling, the sounds of hoof beats and of men running, with ringing oaths.
The invaders ran through the gate, which had deliberately been left open. Our
men, led by the two knights, attacked them from both sides. I watched as Sir
Landry quickly dispatched several horsemen. Sir Gantry did almost as well. Then
several of the invaders used their torches to set off fires in the yard and in
one corner of the inn. We rushed around like madmen trying to put them out.
When I was able to observe the battle again I could see that the
sheer number of the gang members were overwhelming the defenders. I unsheathed
my sword and ran at the closest invader I could see, a burly ruffian who
sneered at me and said, Come, boy, you will not be getting any
older. But I parried his thrust as Sir Landry had taught me and pierced
his chest with my sword. As he went down, I felt a blow on the side of my head
and another ruffian, a large bearded fellow, stood over me with his a battle
ax. I could not raise my own sword in time ro deflect the ax. I prepared to
meet my death.
There was a loud noise and a bright light, then what looked like
a ball of fire appeared over the inn. Everyone looked up. A man stood in the
center of the ball of fire. He was tall, made to seem even taller by his
conical hat, had a white beard and piercing blue eyes. He wore a dark robe
emblazoned by moons and stars. Begone, villains, he bellowed. I
looked up and saw that the ax raised over my head was melting. I looked around;
the same was true of all the invaders weapons. They stood open-mouthed,
not believing what was happening. Our own men looked ready to move in for the
Hello, Merlin, said Sir Landry, looking at the tall
man who stood unharmed in the ball of fire. I was hoping to see
So I had heard. And I seem to have come in good
Now Sir Landry, with a quick stroke, sent the melting sword of
the foe hed been battling flying into the air. He put his own sword to
the ruffians throat. You heard, Merlin, he said.
Begone. The invaders all turned and ran. The battle was over. The
gangs had been routed.
Later we all assembled in the dining hall to celebrate the
victory, Merlin among us. To my surprise, he now looked like an ordinary man,
but he was still an imposing figure. I dont think even the strongest
knight would have dared cross him. They were talking about what to do now that
the gangs had been defeated. I propose we call a meeting of all the
citizens, said Sir Landry. You said the people want law and order
but were cowed by the gangs. Now that weve defeated the gangs they can
re-establish a government.
The gangs may have been defeated for now, but what if they
try to come back? asked Sir Gantry.
Sir Landry looked at Merlin. Will you stay and appear with
us at the meeting. With your presence there, I doubt if the gangs will dare to
cause any trouble.
I will be there, said Merlin. I will also stay
until a new government has been established.
I will send word throughout the kingdom for all Knights of
the Round Table to return to Camelot, said Sir Gantry. They will
enforce law and order.
And you, Sir, er, Landry, said Merlin. Will
you stay in Camelot?
No, Ive had enough of England. I believe I need a
change of scenery. I think Ill travel to France. He looked at me.
What do you say, young Jack?
Youd be lost without me. Besides, Ive always
wanted to meet a queen.