Prince Uther had not been lying when he'd said dawn was close, I had barely fallen asleep it seemed before I heard his voice telling me to rise and shine.

I groaned, rubbed my eyes and sat up, wondering not for the first, and certainly not for the last, time how I had got into all this. All I wanted was to be an archivist and instead I'd ended up as a tutor and courier.

Still, one had to accept what they were given and at the very least I was getting used to riding a horse. I won't bore you with the details of the rest of our trip, except to say that to my utter relief the prince was right about inns. After that first night we were able to find one and I was able to sleep in a bed and not worry about vicious bandits or crawling insects.

It took three days to cross the kingdom of Camelot, as we neared the border of Cornwall the land seemed to become almost uninhabited. There were wide tracts of land without a single house or farm to be seen and the whole area seemed almost to be another world.

Just a few mikes from the border, I noticed something curious, in the distance there was a tower, just the one rising into the air. It was the first sign of civilisation I'd seen for a while and I couldn't help asking. "What's that over there?"

Prince Uther turned his head to where I was pointing.

"That's the City of the Blessed," he answered.

"Where the preistesses live?"

Prince Uther gave a nod.

As the lone tower slowly disappeared out of sight as we rode on, I wondered what it might be like there. Was everything done by magic? And did only women and girls live there?

My curiosity would have to wait, the prince and I continued on, crossing the border just before stopping for the night. How did I know this? Not because of my excellent cartography skills, but because of the accent of the owner of the inn we stopped at.

I was rather surprised the change was so sudden, but the Prince seemed not to notice, which I thought odd. After all the accents of the people of Camelot, Caerleon and the parts of Mercia I had visited weren't so noticible. There was a difference of course, one that most people would pick up on eventually, but this was quite obvious.

I tried to recall if the Duke and his son had spoke with such accents, but I couldn't recall, so I had to assume not, or if they did they were nowhere near as noticible.

I had hoped once we had passed into the duchy of Cornwall we wouldn't have far to go, but of course, nothing is that easy. The Duke's home, a castle called Tintangel was almost clear in the other side of the duchy, so I had another two maybe three days of riding to look forward to yet.

By this point in the piece most of my muscles were beyond the point of aching and a somewhat worrying numbness had set into my rear end. Whilst it was certainly a relief not to feel so much pain, I wondered if I'd ever get the feeling back once this was all over.

We continued on, every so often Prince Uther would make a remark about how much he wanted the Duke of Cornwall to accept him as a novice and how nice the countryside was. He also went hunting for rabbits, despite the rather pertinent fact that neither of us were very good cooks. I for one could barely get a fire started, so in the end it was rather a waste, although I suppose the scavengers would be grateful. And sometimes if we were close enough he'd bring the kill to the inn we spent the night in where in return we received a slight discount or a free round of drinks for our, or rather Prince Uther's troubles.

Finally a week after setting out the castle of Tintangel came into sight. It was quite a sight, a well-built elegant construction that was perched on the edge of a cliff and seemed to soar out over the sea.

"Wow," I heard the prince breathe, which was quite a compliment from him. I had to agree with his assessment, the place was magnificant.

Fortunately, I recalled the proper manner I was required to present myself with and hurriedly set about pulling out the scroll and the small Pendragon standard I had been equipped with.

Prince Uther waited patiently, obviously he knew all about the traditions that were required for this sort of thing.

"Right...I've got everything right, don't I?"

Prince Uther inspected me closely, then finally declared me fit.

Now that the moment was here I was more than a little nervous, I'd never yearned to be the centre of attention and now here I was having to make a speech and everything.

The prince and I continued up a well-trodden path to the drawbridge and imposing castle gates.

A loud voice rang through the air, and I almost dropped my scroll and the standard.

"Who goes there?" The booming voice demanded.

I craned my neck and saw a very large guard standing on top of the castle walls, just above the gate. He held a spear in hand and peered down at us in a rather imperious manner indeed.

I coughed nervously and cleared me throat before answering, even then it still came out a bit squeakily.

"I am Geoffrey, tutor to Prince Uther Pendragon of Camelot, I come to seek an audience with his Grace, Diodantes, Duke of Cornwall to make a request on behalf of my charge."

The guard looked down at me for a moment then turned to speak to someone we couldn't see from our position. He turned back after a few moments and then spoke again.

"Who is the boy?"

I looked over at Prince Uther, not sure what to say... I had a feeling that him accompanying me was definately not part of the ceremony.

"I am Prince Uther," the Prince spoke with confident authourity looking up at the guard as if daring him to make an issue of it.

The guard turned away again for quire a while longer this time and I started to wonder if we would be admitted at all.

Finally though there was the sound of gears and cogs working and slowly the great gates opened and four guards marched out.

I scrambled to dismount my horse to assure them I wasn't any sort of threat and when they came to a stop before me I held up the scroll. "I bring the Pen dragon seal as proof of my claim."

The head guard, peered closely at the seal then finally nodded. "You and the prince," he gave Prince Uther a rather suspicious look, "may enter. Lord Diodantes will see you within the hour. In the meantime we will attend to your horses and serve you a meal."

Well, they certainly were a hospitable people, my stomach was empty and there was nothing I was looking forward to more than a nice meal.

Prince Uther had other things on his mind, however and addressed the guard. "Is Lord Gorlois here?"

The guard looked at him, still skeptical, claiming to be a prince when one wasn't was such a dangerous offense one would have to be particularly foolhardy to try it, but it must happen sometimes.

"He is training, I will tell him of your arrival however."

Prince Uther looked less than impressed by this offer, but fortunately decided to hold his tongue and I thanked God for this small miracle.

We were lead across the courtyard of the castle which at this time of the morning was full of activity. Every so often someone would look up in our direction, looking quite curious, but apparently too busy with their tasks to approach us.

The castle itself was as airy and well lit as Camelot, and the view from the windows had to be seen to be believed, the guard lead us to a rather spacious hall and told us to sit and food would be brought to us shortly.

Prince Uther was impatient pacing back and forth, not bothering to take in the spectacular view, nor did he even look up when a servant brought in our food, steaming bowls of porridge with plenty of fruit.

“Have you seen Lord Gorlois today?” Prince Uther demanded of the servant.

“No, sir, I have not,” she shook her head. “I’m sorry.”

She set the bowls on the table and then with a little bow hurried from the room.

Prince Uther heaved an annoyed sigh, but he came over and joined me at the table, which was a relief because I wasn’t too sure if I would be allowed to eat if the Prince wasn’t.

We were barely half way through our meal when another guard entered the room and announced that Duke Diotantes would recieve us. I gave my remaining porridge a rather dispairing look, but there wasn’t much that could be done, you don’t leave a duke waiting.

We were lead from our small hall through a corridor with stained glass windows that allowed filtered light in, turning it a range of pinks, blues, purples and greens.

The Duke awaited us in...well...it wasn’t a throne room, so I suppose I wuld call it a meeting hall. It was almost as big as the one in Camelot and I found myself wondering just how much power the Duke of Cornwall held and why he was not a king in his own right.

I would have to wait to find out the answer to that, because first I had to make the request I had come all this way for.

“Prince Uther, Geoffrey of Monmouth,” the Duke greeted us, his voice was rich and commanding with a hint of the accent I’d been hearing since arriving in the Duchy. “I understand a mission of great import brings you here.”

“Yes, Your Grace,” I bowed low, my hands clutching the scroll. “I am here on behalf of my student, Prince Uther.” It seemed a bit odd to say that when Prince Uther was standing right next to me, but I didn’t think it was a good idea to change the way the speech went.

Duke Diodantes had risen to greet Prince Uther but now he was seated on his chair, listening to my petittion.

“Prince Uther has been a squire for some seven years now and is has proven his worth to enter the the final stages of his training.” I continued on, trying not to shift nervously from foot to foot and thus ruin the solemnity of the moment. “It is for this reason I have come here today, to ask for you to do the Prince the great honour of accepting him as your novice.”

I took a deep breath and bowed again, holding out the scroll for the Duke or his attendant to take.

Since the Duke didn’t have an attendant with him, he got to his feet and came over to take the scroll, unrolling it.

I’m not entirely sure what was written on the scroll, it had been given to me rolled up and I certainly wasn’t going to open it. It probably said everything that I had just said.

The Duke looked up, somewhat wry and maybe a little bemused. “What, exactly, am I to make of the fact that Prince Uther has accompanyed you? Do you assume my consent?”

This was exactly what I feared would happen, I had no idea what to say, I gave Prince Uther a wift look, but he seemed completely unconcerned by the Duke’s question.

“We...I...er...we do not assume anything, only that you consider our request. Prince Uther came with me for...umm....the adventure, an excursion if you will.”

I don’t think the Duke believed me, but by then a smile was tugging the corners of his mouth. “I see.” He turned to the Prince. “And what say you, Your Highness?”

Prince Uther had been looking distractedly out the windows, but now he turned his whole attention to Duke Diodantes. He actaully bowed to him and spoke in a voice of deep respect.

“Your Grace, nothing would please me more than to be allowed to have the opportunity to train under you. Your abilities as a knight are well known and stories are often told of your battles and duels.”

“Is that so?” The Duke walked down the two steps and stood in front of Prince Uther. “Well, I’m not the only one, Sire, word has reached us here in far off Tintangel of your recent exploits. Apparently you almost beat your cousin, fancied to be the best knight of his generation.”

Prince Uther blushed, actually blushed at this comment, he ducked his head. “Your Grace is too kind.”

“Nonsense,” the Duke declared, much to my surprise and then he shocked me further by placing a fatherly hand upon the prince’s shoulder. “It would be my great honour and my priviledge to train you and I am sure you will make me proud and prove yourself a dedicated and talented novice.”

Prince Uther looked up, one of his rarer smiles on his face, in fact he looked ready to hug the Duke, but refrained from doing so. Instead he did something else that was just as unexpected, at least as far as I was concerned, he dropped to one knee as if he was being knighted officially.

This all seemed to be part of the ceremony however, because rather than looked stunned that a prince of the blood was kneeling to him, Duke Diodantes place a hand on his shoulder and said some words that I didn’t hear from where I was standing.

The Prince got to his feet and turned to me with look of complete and utter relief on his face, then said the words I’d never expected to hear from him.

“Thank you.”
 
 
Current Mood: relieved
 
 
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