The Restoration Cycle


Sir Basil

Original poster
520 AD, Britain

A miserable drizzle cloaked the skies of Briton, drenching the rolling green hills, and masking the dark outline of an estate in the distance. The ancient runed stones of the Old Ways were steadily disappearing under a thick layer of moss, and the rich soil was turning to a muddy soup. It had been raining for weeks now without cease or reprieve - though really, the start of the bad weather happened years ago. Years ago, on that horrible day when King Arthur was run through by his own son. That was in the past, and it was now the present, but the bad weather still remained.

Arthur Uther Pendragon - the great king of Briton- had died four years ago at the hands of Mordred. Mordred, in the process, was murdered by his father. The hopeful few said that Arthur would one day return; the practical said that the golden age was over and it would never return. The knights of King Arthur were in the latter camp, for the most part - and the few surviving ones disbanded and scattered across the green hills of Briton, where the lived in shadow and secrecy. The ones that died, left behind children and lovers who knew very little of the Kingdom that had come before. Briton was under the rule of a Saxon once more, and as typical of Saxon kings, the country suffered under his rule in the form of apathy and doubt more than rape and pillaging.

Silhouetted against the gloom was a young man on a horse. His chain-mail gleamed with dampness, his surcoat clung to him like a wet rag, and while his horse sank into the ground, he sank into the dirt. There were no knights in shining armor anymore, merely mud and rain-soaked warriors who played chivalry. He rode slowly towards the fortress, knowing that he had to pass it to continue on his quest. His red hair was matted from the dampness, and he looked profoundly grim.

Despite these setbacks, the knight continued walking in the rain towards the shadowed silhouette of the estate, knowing that beyond it there was a way to restore both the good weather and the good humor of his country to the kingdom that he loved but had never seen.
The ground was slick with mud, even the prettiest of flowers dying in all the mess. People were more careless about the environment outside of what Howel called home. There were torn up sections of grass that could use replanting and many parts of the land were flooded with rainwater. The weather was making life hard for the serfs; there was no sunshine to help the Lord's gardens grow. Unfairly, they took all the blame and punishment. As if the lack of daylight to feed the plants was in their control.

Howel would have no more of the treatment. The poor man was dirtied from head to toe with soot, soil, even blood. There was nothing on his person when he made a dash for the open drawbridge of the kingdom's wall. He was dressed in nothing but rags, with no protection for his feet. His mess of blond hair was in tangles and there was much emotion to be seen in his eyes of sapphire. All he wanted was freedom from this place; all he wanted was a life.

Fortunately, nobody caught him in this pursuit. People were getting careless about their jobs, due to all things depressing that have passed. Serfs before Howel escaped successfully as well, probably enjoying a new home with actual work to be proud of. Since the passing of Arthur, Howel had gotten bitter, especially towards the new ruler. Nothing was quite the same anymore.

Nearly out of breath, he ran as quickly as his legs could carry him. The estate was left behind him, where guardsmen asked each other if they heard something unusual. Howel didn't look back, though. He continued onward, refusing to stop until he knew for certain he was safe. The sprinting was blind; he didn't even notice the armoured man on horseback. All he could see was his oncoming freedom.
Unfortunately for the young serf, the armoured knight did see him. The knight stroked the curve of his horse's neck, and dug his heels into the large brown horse's sides. The horse obeyed his commands and began to pick up the pace, upchucking little pieces of soggy grass and mud into the air as he galloped across the marshes, his feet sinking into the mud with every couple of steps. The Knight circled his horse up the hill, up to intercept the serf's flight away from the estate. It was hardly surprising that the serf was trying to escape - a life of servitude was hard in this post-Arthur world, where Might made Right once again. The grim knight turned his horse into a horizontal line, as the serf came towards him.

As the servant did, the knight spoke - loudly and clearly, with the smallest tinge of the old Scottish accent that had been exemplified by his father, "This is foul weather for a morning run, and I can't see any trace of a message in your hands or mouth," He looked at the bundle of rags and skin and bone. He caught the pale blonde ringlets- so similar to the hair of his Uncle Gareth who was long dead at this point. He saw the glint of blue eyes and realized that beneath the dirt and mud, the young man was quite angelic looking - almost like a cherub. It was surprising to see such finely crafted features in a serf - who usually resembled potatoes, dumpy and lumpy with small eyes. He was rather taken aback, in fact, and finished with less vigor, "So I must assume you are a runaway."

There wasn't enough time to change his direction. A powerful voice spoke out to him, followed by a strong grasp to his grubby blond hair. Howel made an irritated grunt when he was snatched, his legs making no effort to run away. That horse could catch up to him so easily, plus it would hurt his skull to fight against the hold on his hair. There was more than enough pain coursing through his body from being overworked, and pushing himself so hard during the escape.

Howel made a defeated sigh when he heard the word runaway. "P-Please, sir. Don't make me go back. I'll do anything! Just let me go," he practically begged this stranger, doing his best to make eye contact with him. Acting helpless with no ounce of confidence was not acceptable, as it was insulting. He was a man, not some kind of tool, or pet. However, he was desperate. If returned to where he came from, he'd be in for a world of hurt. Or worse...

The knight's features were noted, his hair an appealing red, yet there was a grimness to his image. Perhaps it was because of the weather, but Howel couldn't help but wonder if there was some other reason. Emotion was a fascinating thing to him; it was certainly a common thing back at his 'home'. All he was used to was sadness, anger, pain... Rarely, did he see the other serfs smile.
The knight looked the serf over, noting the young man's apparent helplessness. He let go of his hair, not even noticing that he had grabbed ahold of it. He must have done that, trying to see if the man was real - not just an angel sent by the distant God himself. He wiped his hand on his surcoat, noting that some of the young man's mud had gotten on his hand. He frowned, and looked across the rolling hills. He didn't know much about the Lord who lived in the castle. He probably should take the serf back, but he knew nothing about the Lord, so why send the serf back to a place where he clearly didn't want to go? It seemed counter productive.

The Knight dismounted from his horse. He was a little taller than the serf. That was to be expected - He was a Scotsman gone English, but his height still remained. He smiled gently, and lifted up the serf's chin with a leather gloved hand, forcing him to look up at him. He had very clear dark blue eyes. Intelligent, quite possibly. But he never would have gotten that chance. Not as a serf, "Your name," He commanded, "What is your name?" He got a cocky look in his eyes, playful perhaps, "I could very well take you right now," He said softly, "But between you and me, I'm tired of that sort of love. Always ends badly," in a louder voice, he commanded again, "Your name, Sir Serf, and I will tell you mine."
Just at first glance, Howel could see how important this man was. He suddenly felt ashamed; he was nowhere near presentable. Working so hard gave him a healthy figure, but he was covered with so much dirt! The serf avoided hanging his head or making a run for it, since this man clearly wanted to speak with him.

A light red stretched over his face when his chin was tilted, their gazes meeting inevitably. The colour darkened; he could see that mischief twinkling in his eyes. There was some graciousness for the warmth on his face, though. What he was wearing did a poor job of protecting him from the chilly weather, every passing breeze making him tremble.

"My name is Howel," he answered respectfully. There was no surname to give; not one he was aware of. His entire life, he was only addressed as Howel. For just a moment, reluctantly, his eyes wandered to the knight's armour. He was looking for a coat of arms, or something that might tell him where he came from. Had he not been flustered, he probably would have just asked.

"A pleasure to meet you," he added, truthfully, and anxiously awaited his name.
The knight kept up his smile, his light green eyes got harder and more serious. He let go of the serf's chin, and brushed a piece of the commoners blonde hair out of his face. He was going to take the serf with him he knew - once something was given a name, you automatically developed an affection for it. The rain pushed another lock of his red hair into his face. He caught Howel searching for a coat of arms, a rampant. There was none. At one point, in his youth, he had worn a unicorn - to displease his father who in his youth had killed such a beast. He regretted that now, and had not worn a unicorn on his chest for four years.

"Sir Igris of Orkney," He said politely, adopting the principle of chivalry that had long been lost from the isles, "And your master." He picked up the serf, and deposited him on the saddle of his horse, before pulling himself up via the stirrups, and sitting behind the serf. He grabbed the reins from around the boy's tiny, lithe body, and dug his heels in, commanding the horse to gallop, and gallop it did - across the green sodden hills of Briton, heading North. The manor and the estate were just a tiny dot behind them when the knight began to speak again, "Howel is a good name. Pagan as it is," he laughed, and shook out his red hair, "Then again, my grandmother was a witch, so who am I to judge?"
Before anything else could be said, Howel was being hoisted onto a saddle. For a moment, he was terrified. Howel never rode a horse before and this was quite a ways up from the ground. Nervously, he held onto the animal's mane, his body backing up to press against Igris' front. Being so close was reassuring; there was less of a chance of him falling. The serf had no clue where he was being taken, but he wasn't going to protest. This was better than getting hopelessly lost, likely to die in the wilderness if he couldn't find anyplace to stay. If anything, running into Igris was a blessing.

"I-I like your name, too, Sir Igris," he replied, making a sheepish smile. With curious eyes, he watched the scenery come and go at a speed he wasn't familiar with. Actually, everything looked different to him. Since he wasn't allowed to leave the castle walls, he didn't get to see the abundant species of plants and animals.

Howel was beginning to feel more comfortable on the ride as they went on, so he adjusted his posture and asked, "Where are we going?"
Igris leaned into the pace of the gallop, clicking his tongue to get the horse to pick up the pace. He watched the trees go by, it was unclear if they were traveling on a road, but it certainly didn't look like it. The underbrush was thick and heavy, with odd twigs and brambles scratching up the legs of the horse. Igris's warm breath flowed on the exposed neck of his newly begotten serf, and the Knight could see the breath despite the thick fog, mist, and rain. He felt odd, thrusting the young man into this situation. But he was a runaway, and this was the best shot he had. Unlike his father, Igris was not the sort to pass judgment where he felt he had no right.

"We are going to the castle of my father's lord and our rightful ruler," Igris replied enigmatically. He rode on, red hair streaming behind him like some berserker from a by-gone age. Brambles and thorns swept past his face in a gust of soggy air, but the knight did not notice or perhaps care. They rode through the forest for some time - the green and brown branches blurring into what looked like a painting of the scene rather than reality. After some time, the knight snapped his reins roughly, and the horse began to slow.

There was nothing in sight, but Igris' horse walked cautiously, and the knight himself looked around the glen, as if expecting something to jump out at him, "We're going to Camelot, Howel," he said in hushed tones, green eyes darting about, "We're close now," He smiled gently, trying to look less jumpy, but it came out appearing false, "Excuse me. Camelot holds many... unpleasant memories for me. I never feel comfortable this close to it."
Many times, Howel flinched during the ride through all the forest. He feared one of the branches would smack him, or one of the sharper, thorny plants would draw his blood. Nothing more than a leaf came in contact with him, though. That was a relief, considering he couldn't see much of the distance. The fog was thick and the cold wind stung his eyes badly enough to make them close.

One eye opened when he noticed the horse slowing down. Igris was also talking more quietly, acting as if they needed to be secretive. Was something dangerous lurking about? Howel felt that he'd be safe in this man's care, but he didn't look forward to any threats his first hour or two away from where he was born. All made sense when Igris admitted to being uncomfortable here.

"I've heard of Camelot," he said in a similar tone of voice. Not being educated as much as he'd like to be, his knowledge of Camelot didn't go beyond the fact that King Arthur hailed from there. He never imagined he'd actually go there! It had to be nicer than where he just was. Then again, he thought that about any place that wasn't home.

"Why does Camelot make you feel that way?" he asked, looking over his shoulder to the charismatic knight behind him. There was much to see in Howel's eyes: curiosity, concern, fatigue, confusion... "Oh, um. It's not my place to ask, is it? Forgive me," he said quickly, his gaze returning to what was ahead of them.
The knight looked about, dark red hair getting flat and slicked down again by the ever persistent rain. He gave the trees a long hard look, as if he half expected them to come alive. He was miraculously disappointed in that regard, and looked down his long nose to his stolen serf. His face had lost its jovial charisma and had returned to the grim face that he had displayed on the plains. He was not fond of this place - magic still lingered in these parts and magic would never forgive his father for what he had done. Since his father was now long dead, Igris feared magic more than anything in the world - thinking that the Old Ways would know of his family and of his father's taint on him. Igris swallowed hard, not as courageous as a knight should be.

His voice, however, came out steady and calm, "We will be traveling together. You may ask me anything you like, and on my honour I will give you a straight answer." He pulled his horse up the hill side, walking steadily. There were some old rocks from the pre-Arthur era, scrawled with swirls and runes that Igris was certain he could understand if he so chose, rocks that were now covered with moss and ferns. He steered the horse around them, careful not to linger in such a place. He looked at Howel. He could see the curiosity and naivete of a commoner who had never seen Camelot, and had never seen any of the Old Ways. He offered an explanation, of sorts, "My father was a great Knight- one of the Knights of the Round Table. He died at Camelot, close to this very spot. With him, went my uncles. And with that, the Orkney faction was abolished." Irgis forced a smile, "Pardon my caution - I am one of the last Orkneys and have no desire do die like the rest of them.
The brief story Igris told him was dismal, to say the least. Losing a family member to the cold fingers of Death was something he understood. Howel felt sadness pierce his heart when he remembered the passing of his mother. "You have my sympathy," was all he could think of to say. They were earnest words, though.

Howel decided against asking anymore questions, even though he was told he could anyway. He didn't like the idea of challenging the knight's emotions; it was clear that even being near Camelot made him uneasy. Not every piece of history needed to be learned right away, despite his eagerness to learn anything and everything. In time, he could ask more. That was for certain.

Though, he couldn't help but wonder... How did those men die?

"I should thank you, by the way," he started to say, looking over his shoulder again. "For finding me, I guess. I had nowhere to go, but nowhere's better than home."
Igris looked over the trees, inspecting the canopy as if he half expected something to pop out of it. A faerie, or a ghost. He feared both of them. In his heart, however, he knew that he would never see another fey creature again - maybe a sad old druid or a priestess of a distressed goddess - but never another faerie or unicorn. He had seen one, in his childhood. A tree-woman. A dryad, as they would have called them in Greece. He saw her once, but she turned away from him. It was because he was the son of the man who had killed a unicorn, and who had helped kill his own mother.

He shuddered on the horse for a moment, and tightened his grip on the reins, flicking them, and dug his heels into the horse's sides again. The horse responded with a whinney and then began to gallop across the hills, through the forest, starling some birds that had rested on the low hanging branches. Igris looked at his serf, "Nowhere is where we're going. Nowhere," He smiled a little, "But I promise you, that you'll be safe with me. On my honour. " The horse was breathing heavy by the time they reached it.

'It' was a huge ruined palace, filled with marble bricks that still gleamed under the moss and ferns. It was clearly a ruin, but still held the form of a fortress, and in the center of it, laid several chunks of wood that had not quite deteriorated into the grass. It was because the wood was magic, of course, but they were still in separate pieces. It was however evident that they had once been part of a wheel, or the top of a table. Igris dismounted from the horse, and plucked the serf off from the horse. He walked to the shattered wood, and kneeled down before it. He traced the carved names on the table, but lingered his touch on one name in particular - Agravaine.The Knight looked up, and then sad traces of a room, "It was quite beautiful once," he said finally.
The ruins they encountered made Howel uneasy. Not only was the place familiar, but somber. He let the details of their surroundings sink in, his mind conjuring what it could of how this place used to look. Visualizing was useful for him and made it one of the easiest ways for him to understand things. Since he couldn't read, people describing an item to him was always helpful. Especially if that item was something with a title, like a book or bottled medicine.

Once he was helped off of the horse, he followed close behind Igris to a broken shape of wood. With a curious head tilt, he watched the knight trace some symbols he recognized to be letters. The only one he was actually familiar with was the e at the end of the name. Howel only knew how to spell his own name, therefore those five letters were all he had memorized.

"It was quite beautiful once."

The serf nodded in response, letting his eyes wander again while saying, "It must have been. A shame the place fell apart." Howel would have liked to see it in all its beauty. That, and many other places. He hoped that not every place looked like the ruined Camelot, else the adventures beyond this would be disappointing. Life could be cruel, though. He understood that.

"Is that a person's name?" he inquired, pointing to the Agravaine Igirs was inspecting minutes ago.
The knight picked up the piece of wood, looking at the fragments of the word. It had been a name. The name of his father, a man that he was under the impression he loved - but had never gotten to know very well. Agravaine had always been prone to secrets. Secrets and malice. The piece of wood fell apart in his hands. Rotten. Rotten like Briton. Igris stood up, and brushed some of his sodden red hair out of his eyes. He looked at the serf and gave a gentle smile. He didn't assume that the commoner could read. Most people couldn't read. He could, only barely, taught by monks and his mother, "You can't read." He said. It was a statement, not a question. Just a statement, "I will teach you, before our journey ends."

He kicked the last bit of the wood with the start of his boot. "It is. A name, that is." He bit his lip, and looks around the now fallen hallowed halls of Camelot. It was quiet and still, the only sound was a breeze through the trees, and even that was muffled and hushed, "It was the name of my father, Sir Agravaine of Orkney. He is called Agravaine of the Hard Hand or Agravaine the Butcher, depending on what circles you move in." Igris sighed, "But yes, he was my father, and that is his name." The knight began to walk down the ruined expanse of a hall. He kept one hand on his sword. He was ready. Ready for something.
Howel continued to watch with questioning eyes as Igris explained the name, and who it belonged to. The breeze that passed through the ruins pushed his hair back, relieving his sight of the long, shaggy bangs for a moment. He was actually thankful for the light wind; it was refreshing. The poor serf was dirtied from head to toe with an unkempt hairstyle he found to be annoying.

"Must have been a great man," he commented kindly, keeping the conversation as light hearted as possible. Both hands disappeared behind his back, his hands joining together while his eyes followed the knight. Howel rushed to him so he wouldn't be left behind, keeping close by for his own safety. He noticed Igris reaching for his sword, which he couldn't help but wonder about.

Nervously, he looked left and right, hoping they wouldn't confront anything dangerous. Life back at home was harsh, but was at least secure. There was no reason for him to learn brawling or weapon wielding! There was no telling if he was bold or cowardly either, since no real test of his courage was made. 'I guess that was coming to be sooner or later...'
Sir Igris continued to speak, glancing around the halls of Camelot with skittish eyes, "A great man?" He repeated, a question lingering in his voice. He turned, to look down at Howel, "Not a great man. A clever and intelligent man," He sighed, "He schemed often, and lacked both courage and nobility - making him an excellent politician and a terrible knight." The knight looked around. He was looking for something here, a stone, a rock, something that would lead him in the right direction. He was a questing knight after-all, despite the fall of his house and his king, he still had work to do.

Something caught his eye, a glimmer. No, not a glimmer. Something of profound blackness sitting amongst the rubble. A black cauldron, tipped to it's side, untouched by leaves or moss. It seemed to be dry where the world around it was wet. Igris knealt down infront of it, and gave a weak smile, "You know Sir Galahad surely? Like I was the song of Agravaine, Galahad was the son of Lancelot," Igris looked up at Howel, "Surely, you've heard of Lancelot," He continued, "Galahad was sent on a quest to find the most holy of relics - a cup that was thought to bring eternal life or eternal peace. Naturally, the King valued this object and wished to reclaim it for Camelot. So, he sent three knights, Galahad, Percival, Bors to go and find it. Bors was too stupid, Percival, too immature - But Galahad was pure of heart, body and soul, and retrieved the grail, and brought it back here."

Igris ran his finger over the caludron's rim, "Everybody thought that the grail should be a Golden Chalice. Most people still think it was. But I saw a sliver of it from behind a doorway, and saw that it was blacker than night."
The name Lancelot did ring a bell. Stories of old and new were shared amongst his people. Serfs picked up rumours from authorities and shared them, or listened in on tales of great ones to tell to other serfs. That was one of the things that kept him going during times of hardship. There was really nothing else to look forward to; he was always willing to learn about something or someone.

"I remember the story. About the Holy Grail," he said with a small smile. During his younger days, he dreamed of being some sort of armoured hero going on quests for the King. Nothing interested him except for the adventures, however some wealth wouldn't be so bad. Money could buy him a warm bed, a home, good food...

Snapping back into reality, his eyes went back to Igris, who was inspecting what looked to be a black pot. "I see," Howel whispered, nodding when the information about Galahad and the others was finished with. For now, anyway. He was sure there was more to know about those men responsible for the present being what it is.

"What is... that? Not the grail, is it?" he inquired, giving the cauldron a baffled look. Though, perhaps he didn't fully understand the story. There was much to absorb.
The tall knight laughed at the serf's comments, "No," He said, kicking the cauldron with the tip of his boot, "This is not the grail. This is a black cauldron," The black iron pot fell over with a clatter that echoed through the clearing and the ruins, sounding through the trees and the crumbling towers of Camelot. Igris looked up as the hollow metal sounded, and regretted kicking the pot. He hadn't wanted to make himself so obvious. He ran a hand through his thick red hair, "The grail looked like this, but it disappeared when Arthur left, along with the magic sword Excalibur," Igris smiled down at the serf, "You know what Excalibur is, I'm certain."

Igris looked down at Howel. He looked a lot like Galahad, same long blonde eyelashes and deep blue eyes. If only it weren't for the mud covering his face he would looks just like him. Even the same age, just about. He held Howel's chin in his hand for a moment, using his gloved hand to wipe some of the dirt and grass stains from his face, "Bathing might make you the devil," He joked, "But I'm still fond of it." He grinned, and glanced around Camelot. He was still looking for something, a scrap of paper, something that would lead him to where he needed to go. He, like Galahad was on a quest. He released Howel's chin, and instructed him, "Look around, for a scrap of parchment . Vellum."
The clank of the cauldron made Howel flinch, his hands instantly going to his ears. When he lowered his arms, he managed to pick up some of Igris' statement about Excalibur, which the serf nodded at. He recalled that name belonging to a magical sword that had yet to be found. That had him wondering if magic had something to do with the grail and sword disappearing. If not, then those were some impressive stealth skills.

Howel made a smile that was both shy and grateful when filth was wiped from his face. A bath sounded heavenly, despite he was just told it would make him the devil. He gave the knight a cheeky look before his chin was released, then looked to his left when told to find something. "Alright," he replied simply, moving to a pile of debris not far from him.

Stones and broken pieces of the structure that made Camelot were pushed aside so he could look for this parchment Igris mentioned. He struggled with some of the heavier chunks. Although he was well built from labour, he was nowhere near brutish in strength. Finding nothing in the stack of debris, he moved to a different section, spotting a chair fallen onto its side.

With a soft grunt, he turned the chair onto its four legs and looked down at some dust covering what looked like a piece of paper. When he picked it up, he looked it over, recognizing the material as vellum like Igris asked for. It was sturdy, with something scribbled on it. He assumed it all to be words he just couldn't read. "Is... This it?" he asked, still inspecting it.