24 December 2012 @ 10:23 pm
*NaNo Project* Part the Fourth - Section the Fifth - Camelot 953AD  
Even after all these years I can still remember that moment, the moment I arrived in Camelot.

I didn’t get much sleep that last night in the woods and it wasn’t just because of the hard ground and I was so anxious to leave the next morning, Sir Harold remarked on it with no small amount of amusement.

I readily admitted my overexcitement, but all the same I couldn’t calm down! I was almost there.

I did wonder briefly why we had stopped for the night in the first place because it was only another two hours ride until the capital, but I suppose if I was going to reach my destiny, the impact was far greater arriving in the shining light of day.

Bishop Maxim had written that Camelot put Tamworth to shame, but I hadn’t quite believed it, at least not until the castle came into view.

The Castle of Camelot was a shining beacon, constructed of white stone, the purest white stone...I had never seen anything like it in my life, and never saw anything like it in all the years that followed. When I was a child one of my favourite bedtime stories was about a dragon and a castle, which my mother had always described to me as one of impossible beauty, with soaring towers and waving banners and flying buttresses everywhere. It was a castle of imagination, at least I had always thought so, but it seemed that Camelot was that castle.

“Impressed, Monmouth?” Jared asked wryly with a raised eyebrow.

“Does it always look like this?” I asked, somewhat stupidly.

The guards laughed and I blushed, embarrassed. Honestly, as a scholar I really should have been able to come up with something a little more...memorable.

“No,” Jared replied with a straight face. “Sometimes it’s pink when the sun sets.”

I blinked at that, wondering if Jared was mocking me, surely he was...I mean, pink?

I didn’t really consider that too much, I was all ready making plans about what he was going to do once we got through the city gates. I was all but jumping out of my skin.

The guards did not accompany me, they had...some other business to attend to before entering the city. Probably to do with their horses, the one I had used included.

I made sure to thank them for allowing me to accompany them and hoped that I hadn’t slowed them down or proved to be a bother.

Sir Harold accepted my thanks with a jesting smile. “You weren’t too much trouble, Monmouth, if you’re ever in the tavern when we are, I’ll buy you a drink.”

I was quite certain he made that offer purely because he didn’t believe he’d ever see me in such an establishment, but still, it’s the thought that counts.

I was rather glad that I had packed on a few items for my trip, just my books really and they were only enough to fill a large satchel. I hoisted it onto my shoulder and taking a deep breath entered my new home.

Like most capitals, Camelot had both an upper and lower town and I entered the latter first. In general lower towns aren’t all that much to look at, since the lower classes live there there’s very little stonework to be seen and mostly the roads aren’t even paved. However, they’re always a hive of activity and Camelot’s lower town was no exception. There was the sound of merchants hawking their wares, of children laughing and the ringing sound of the blacksmith hard at work at his forge. I wandered down the main road – which incidentally was paved, my eyes wide trying to take everything in. I wondered briefly if I stuck out like a sore thumb, being new to the city, indeed the country, but I couldn’t have been too much, although every now and then I’d receive a curious but still welcoming smile from one of the locals as I passed them.

I passed a bakery and the smells of fresh bread was enough to make my mouth water, we had had breakfast of course, but that seemed like a very long time ago. I briefly considered taking a detour and purchasing a roll, but the draw of castle itself, rising up ahead of me and the possibility of seeing a royal archive kept me moving. I was sure I’d have plenty of time to eat once I introduced myself to Cedas.

The walls of the castle proper loomed before me, dazzling white with red caped guards patrolling the tops, the enormous main gate was open and I noticed with some curiosity that rather than being surrounded by a moat the castle was encircled by a ditch. It was a very deep ditch however and I was more than sure that falling from the drawbridge would result in death or serious injury, in fact it was a far more likely outcome than falling into water. Still I found it rather odd.

As I neared the guard house I wondered if I’d be stopped, I couldn’t imagine that they would just let anyone wander about, but it seemed rather open, people from the lower town and knights were walking past me.

I suppose the city was feeling rather safe because I did indeed pass through those gates without being stopped, although I did notice the eyes of the guards on me, so undoubtedly had I tried anything my days would have been numbered.

Beyond the main gates was the Upper Town, the buildings here were made of stone and supremely graceful and the roads were paved with stone and smooth underfoot.

I was quite frankly gawking unable to take in all the sights and I ended up being so absorbed by it all that I didn’t notice anyone around me until I collided with someone. And this was no simple bump, I almost sent us both toppling to the ground.

I immediately stuttered out apologies, before I even saw who it was I’d ploughed into, just in case it was a knight or a God forbid a courtier or a member of the royal family even!

“No harm done, no harm done,” a cheerful voice assured me, reaching out a hand to pat my shoulder.

“I really must apologise,” I said again, finally getting a good look at the young man before me.

He was about my age, or maybe slightly older, with long brown hair and the one thing that immediately stood out which was that he was quite skinny.

Well, that and the fact he was wearing a long tunic, one would almost say it was robe. I can’t say I’d ever seen anyone wearing a robe outside of church and I wondered for a moment if I’d managed to all but knock down a priest.

“Really, it’s all right.” The fellow was quite earnest and I allowed myself to be reassured that I hadn’t caused some sort of incident by running into him.

As I had looked him over in curiosity, so he was doing the same to me, finally saying. “You must be new to the city, I’ve never seen you before.” The fellow stuck out his hand for me to shake. “I’m Gaius.”

“Geoffrey.” I answered, then added. “Of Monmouth.” I hoped that would make my slack-jawed behaviour more understandable.

“Monmouth? In Caerleon?” Gaius raised an eyebrow. “You’ve come quite a long way, haven’t you? What brings you to Camelot?”

“I’ve come to see Cedas, the Royal Archivist-” I began before been interrupted by Gaius’s laughter.

It was a somewhat infectious sound and I found myself smiling, but I was also rather concerned. “Is that a problem?”

“Well, maybe not if you care for books,” Gaius replied, “although it’s still a tough thing.”

My face fell. “Is he really that awful then?”

“No-one would ever accuse old Cedas of being particulary...easy going. One could call him cantankerous and that’s being polite.” Gaius spoke rather quickly, the smile never leaving his face.

“I see...” He wasn’t really filling me with a lot of confidence here. It was one thing to read about a man’s off-putting manner, it was quite another to actually encounter someone who would speak about it out loud. Cedas must be really bad.

Gaius seemed to realise, belatedly, that he was causing me some distress and quickly changed tack. “But it’s well worth it, Camelot’s archive and library is the best in Albion, if I do say so myself. I’ve been there a few times, in the course of my own duties.”

“And what are those?” I asked, happy for a chance to talk about something else.

“I’m an apprentice to the Court Physician, I hope to take up the post myself one day.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” I said, then amended. “With the Royal Archivist, I mean, I have a letter of introduction...to be his apprentice.”

Gaius laughed yet again. “So old Cedas has had to look right outside the kingdom to find someone to put up with him then?”

“Er...no, I asked.” I was rather hoping that the less Cedas’s reputation the less likely it would be true.

Gaius seemed to sense my nervousness and gave me a pat on the shoulder. “I guess you want to know the way the library then?”

“If you could,” I gave a wry smile. “I might as well walk into the lion’s den.”

“That’s the spirit!” Gaius laughed, giving me another pat on the back. “Follow me.”

He lead me through the Upper Town to the gates of the castle proper, and these gates were guarded, and the guardsmen in question were huge and more than a little intimidating. Gaius seemed to know them well, giving a cheerful hello and wave.

“This is Geoffrey, here to see Cedas.” He introduced me.

The two guards exchanged a look and shook their heads.

“Brave man,” one of them said.

I may have gulped, unbelievable, Cedas could even intimidate those two! It was almost...well inspiring.

Although I wasn’t feeling all that inspired as we continued on our way across a large courtyard the main entrance to the castle was an enormously wide sweeping staircase with stone dogs flanking either side. We did not go up those stairs however, I supposed they were for special guests, other royalty and dignitaries rather than young men from Caerleon.

Gaius lead me into the castle through a far smaller, almost non-descript door, inside the castle was cool and calm. Tapestries, most of them red with a gold dragon in the centre, lined many corridors. Others were watched over by long rows of polished armour. Large decorative windows were interspaced here and there allowing wide shafts of light to brighten foyers and corridors.

There was definitely a civil, almost Roman air to the place, much more so than the Castle of Caerleon or any of the Bishop’s Palaces I had been to. There was a strange sense in the air, a sort of reverence, not just for the royalty, but for the castle itself, it really was something special.

And massive, although that could just be the fact that while I had stayed at the Castle of Caerleon I hadn’t actually wandered around it. I had seen the throne room and the Grand Dining Room there and that was all. This time I was almost getting the grand tour! Indeed Gaius kept up a steady stream of conversation, he was indeed the most talkative chap.

“Old Linus made me polish this entire area of tile once,” he gestured about as we walked through a, relatively, small foyer. “For sassing him. I hardly thought the punishment fit the crime, rather oversensitive if you ask me.”

I nodded giving him a sympathetic look, but inside I was wondering if the Court Physician dished out those sorts of punishments and it went unremarked by guardsmen, what exactly did Cedas do? I thought of the gleaming white exterior of Camelot and decided I most certainly didn’t care to find out.

Finally after what seemed like an hour of walking we reached a large chamber and ahead of us was a set of grand doors. For the briefest second I thought that Gaius had taken me to meet the King and I almost turned tail! But then I realised while grand the doors didn’t really say ‘throne room’ or ‘council chamber’. Plus there was no-one guarding them.

This was it then.

I took a deep breath, a very deep breath. It was time...

Time to meet my destiny.
 
 
Current Mood: jubilant