Chapter 9: Pellinore

Chapter 9 - About PellinoreGatts – from Beserk

The Knights with No Lords
Chapter 9 – About Pellinore…
By Rock Kitaro

In a turbulent world of warring clans and backstabbing knights, death was always looming just over the horizon like a volcano waiting to spew mayhem down on beleaguered villagers. The meek and innocent lamented being born in the Dark Ages. There was no end to the threat of raid and pillaging. There wasn’t a moment’s peace, no hope, no security. Only the strong survived. Only the ruthless felt right at home in the chaos.

And in that regard, one man possessed probably more strength and ruthlessness than any one of his peers or contemporaries. Before he reached the fiery age of twenty-two, his name would be loathed by nearly every clan in Britannia. His name was Pellinore, the dark gristly haired wolf who sank his teeth in and never let go. The man who can’t cry.

Pellinore was born in a small mining village outside the castle of Listenoise. His mother was the homely daughter of a coal worker. But his father was one of the most barbaric knights the world’s ever seen, a cold-blooded ax-murderer named Sir Pellam.

Everyone knew of Sir Pellam’s depravity. They knew he extorted from the miners and bullied visiting nobles but no one could do anything about it because his brother was the King of Listenoise. When Pellam learned he sired a son, he snatched the then four-year-old Pellinore from his mother’s grieving hands, determined to rear him in the art of war.

Pellam was a cruel and relentless father. Before the boy was old enough to string whole sentences together, Pellam had him training and would beat him like a grown man every time the heavy sword fell from his soft tiny hands. The toddler cried every night but only when he knew Pellam had left the castle.

Maids could only mourn from afar with the deepest sympathies. They dared not coddle the child, because they knew Pellam would find out. He made an example out of the first two ladies who tried to care for his son by breaking their legs and leaving them to wander the castle as penniless cripples. When brave knights and duty bound husbands tried to stand up for justice and challenge Pellam to a duel, they were promptly sent to their graves.

It wasn’t long before the child Pellinore was regarded as a leper. No one wanted to touch him. No one wanted to be around him. Everyone saw through the boy without a hint of acknowledgment as if he truly was invisible.

And Pellinore never forgot his mother. His sadness would enrage his father who would launch vitriolic tirades at the boy for possessing such weakness. Sir Pellam thought the boy was weeping from the abuse. In truth, Pellinore couldn’t get the sight of his screaming mother out of his head. Her face. Her voice. Her hair.

He remembered the way the villagers had to restrain her as she fought and clawed her way to the horse Pellinore was slung over. The traumatic image of her despair was a painful painting forever seared into his memory. Every time he closed his eyes, he’d see his mother and the saline would seep. It was like a burning cut that refused to heal. Watching everyone else enjoy the affection he so desperately desired only worsened the affliction.

Then, at the age of nine, the warlord Ambrosius came tearing through Listenoise demanding the king’s head on a spike. The village of Pellinore’s mother was directly in the warpath. Pellinore stood atop the castle ramparts as his mother’s village burned in the night sky. The clamor of clanging metal and pounding trebuchets thundered for hours. The agonizing screams of a mass slaughter funneled to his ears. One scream penetrated and rose above all else. It was a loud coarse shriek that paralyzed him in place.

It was his mother. The same tormenting wail that’s haunted him for years was abruptly silenced once and for all. His fists tightened. His glossy eyes flared red as the flames stripped away at the city below. The orange flickering ashes carried in the wind and sought out the young Pellinore. And as the tears trickled for the last time, a smile surfaced.

Pellinore was reborn.

Since that day, Pellinore embraced his father’s brutal regimen and pushed himself to get stronger. He was consumed by combat, obsessed with it, dreamt of it. Even when Sir Pellam was out in conquest, Pellinore fought with the ferocity of a future king who would one day be called upon, not to protect his people, but to conquer for his people. That day came sooner than expected.

At the age of impressionable age of fourteen, King Cynfarch’s emissaries came begging Listenoise for help. High King Uther was visiting the Kingdom of Rheged when an immense Viking army laid siege, hoping to knock out two birds with one stone. Sir Pellam and a majority of the castle knights were already out fighting the Goths, so Listenoise didn’t have many swords to send.

Fourteen-year-old Pellinore volunteered.

When Pellinore and Cynfarch’s emissaries arrived on the plains outside the Castle of Rheged, war was already underway. Never before had Pellinore seen such intense bloodshed as far as the eye could see. To most of the infantry, it was a depiction of horror, a hell on Earth. To Pellinore, it was breathtaking, a magnificent sight to behold.

The Vikings had erected siege towers to breach the castle. Ignoring the orders of Cynfarch’s emissaries, Pellinore led a company of 120 men to target these siege towers. His cavalry carved through the Vikings like a stampede of raging bulls. Their speed and valor in the face of zipping arrows and extended spears was reckless. It was amazing. As soon as they reached the siege towers, Pellinore dismounted and pure adrenaline took over.

Pellinore lost himself in a feeding frenzy of violence and carnage. He didn’t know who he was fighting. He didn’t care. Anyone caught in his path was mowed down. His strength was uncanny and even the emissaries felt that they were witnessing a myth in the making. His fearless charge emboldened his company, and when they set the siege towers ablaze, Pellinore’s hearty laughter could be heard across the entire battlefield.

High King Uther took notice. He saw a fearless gleam in Pellinore’s feral gaze. He admired a boy so young who wasn’t afraid to stand on the vanguard and relieve himself for all the enemy to see.

Along with King Cynfarch’s son, Prince Urien, King Uther took Pellinore under his wing and engrained an elitist mentality in him. Urien and Pellinore became good friends. On a number of occasions, Pellinore even saved Prince Urien’s life. It was clear that Pellinore was the more gifted of the two and Pellinore was the favorite.

More than that, King Uther was determined to wipe rival King Ambrosius off the face of the earth. This was a cause that Pellinore was more than willing to get behind. He was instrumental in helping Uther achieve that goal and thus, their bond was cemented.

In whatever castle they lodged, King Uther encouraged Pellinore to indulge in every vice imaginable. Even when he returned to Listenoise, Pellinore watched with seething satisfaction as his own father prostrated himself before King Uther. Pellinore was at the king’s side, standing on the royal dais, staring down at Sir Pellam with an unshakeable grin. It was an amazing feeling, an authority Pellinore became addicted to. To get more, he knew he had to continue to impress the high king, and that he did.

During this time, Pellinore sired Percival. Fearing Percival would grow up to hate him the way he hated Pellam, Pellinore left the child in the care of his mother and only returned when he heard there was a threat to their safety. When he did visit to check on the baby, Pellinore’s heart would wrench at the sound of Percival incessant sobbing. He’d never admit it but the boy reminded him of the way he used to be, back when he was weak and vulnerable. To rid himself of such distressing memories, Pellinore sought out every battle he could join and inevitably seized the day.

Pellinore won tournament after tournament, excelling in swordplay, jousting, and even wrestling. By the age of sixteen, he was a solid six-foot-two, carrying two hundred pounds of lean vascular muscles. He was ruggedly handsome with a short crew cut, jet-black hair, and a stylishly matching goatee. The way his dark eyes would sharpen at a moment’s notice had a paralyzing effect on his opponents. Perhaps the only one it didn’t work on was Tristan because Tristan’s callous blue eyes exuded the same effect.

Then, on one fateful day during a visit to Tintagel, Pellinore goaded a ten-year-old Gawain into fighting him at a tournament. When the boy slashed a four-inch vertical scar over Pellinore’s left eye, everyone reasonably assumed Gawain’s life was about to end. However, Pellinore marveled at Gawain’s courage. He respected Gawain for defending his honor and that of his house. Gawain and Tristan were the only men who could claim that they bested Pellinore. That’s two out of the eighty-five duels.

Having defeated so many reputed adversaries, arrogance made Pellinore unbearable to almost everyone save for King Uther and Prince Urien. Insulted kings and warlords with bruised egos would beg Uther to have Pellinore whipped until every drop of blood was depleted from his flesh, but Uther wouldn’t permit it. There’s a good reason for that. It’s because King Uther secretly had Pellinore murder his rivals within the royal court. Many occurred on the battlefield when everyone assumed the enemy was responsible.

When King Uther suddenly died of a mysterious illness, a then eighteen-year-old Pellinore knew he was at the top of everyone’s list for revenge. Prince Urien helped him in a number of skirmishes before convincing Pellinore to escape into France.

Life in France was simple, but it didn’t take long for Pellinore to find himself in bed with the wife of a Germanic baron. After killing the baron and three of his six brothers, Pellinore became a hunted fugitive. He had no friends and his striking appearance made it difficult for him to hide in one place for too long.

These were hard times where every day was a mission to find food and warmth in the harsh winter. It got to the point where he had to drink horse blood and sleep in the mud to survive. Finally, with the walls caving in, Pellinore had no choice but to stow away and return to Britannia.

He roamed from village to village. Wherever he went, a band of steadfast marshals came vying for his head. It turned him into a creature of paranoia. Sleep and comfort ceased to exist.

It wasn’t until he came upon a small Christian village near the island of Sarras that Pellinore found some semblance of sanctuary. There, he met an innocent young woman who hadn’t heard of the demon called Pellinore. She was a God-fearing woman who didn’t judge him by his brooding disposition, nor did she flinch at the unyielding darkness emanating from his scarred, battle-hardened image.

She was a nun belonging to an abbey. They fell in love and as much as she wished to be married, the persistent Pellinore persuaded her to break her holy oath. She bore unto him the daughters Dindrane and Elaine. Pellinore cherished his baby girls.

But as much as Pellinore loved his women, he acknowledged how his immorality defiled the nun’s soul and caused a rift between she and her maker. The shame gnawed on her conscience, sinking her in depression. Every night she spent with Pellinore was like bathing in sin. And when she started crying herself to sleep, Pellinore did as he always did, immersed himself in fights. Soon, he was on the road again.

By this point, the high king of Britannia was a conniving warlord named Vortigern. He wasn’t half as diplomatic as Uther or Ambrosius so rival kings were always reneging on their treaties. Turmoil spread like a disease infecting every kingdom and sparking rebellion in the form of new clans and militant factions. With so many brotherhoods springing up, it was only proper for Pellinore to take advantage and create his own.

Reconnecting with his childhood friend Balto, Pellinore enlisted renegade soldiers like Kanish, Barxy, Jeremy, and Dantry to form a band of mercenaries called the “Brood of the Black Bloods”. All of them were exceptional, each able to his own against overwhelming numbers without ever backing down for an inch.

They would’ve amassed a fortune if they didn’t waste their bounties on gambling, drinking, and prostitutes. And if it weren’t for their drunken brawls, any town would’ve been grateful to have them as permanent guests. It didn’t matter. Nomadic life suited Pellinore now that he was running with dependable cutthroats, all young, wild, and free.

Now at the age of twenty-two, Pellinore and the Brood of Black Bloods received a warrant from King Rience of North Wales. Their mission was to put down a group of kidnapping slavers in league with a faction from Hengist and Horsa’s army. In the midst of tracking down these oppressors, the Black Bloods were surprised to find the enemy defeated by a blond savage and two teenage princes.

Still, a contract was a contract. Pellinore wasn’t about to let the particulars keep him from getting that reward. After jostling with Tristan about which route to take on their way back to Tintagel, Pellinore convinced the party to make a “quick” detour west to North Wales.

King Rience laid his eyes on the likes of Tristan, Gawain, Morgan and Isolde for the first time. Aside from their youth and exceptionally good looks, Rience didn’t think there was anything formidable about this lot. He smiled and wowed them with pageantry, and after paying Pellinore the bounty, he sent them on their merry way.

At last, Pellinore was pleased. But as per usual, the peace was astoundingly brief. A cryptically silent Morgan spoke up. In her words, “Anyone could see through that slob’s deception from miles away. It’s his smile that gives him away. It’s about as slimy as a salamander.”

Pellinore checked his purse. The money was there so he ignored Morgan’s baseless accusation. Gawain didn’t. He kept his hawk eyes trained on the grassy ridgeline as they rode through the valley below. The potential of being ambushed was unnerving. Gawain’s concern was contagious and soon Tristan, Gaheris, and Agravain all had hands resting on their choice weapons.

Then just before dusk, under gray painted skies, a chime of sliding metal made Pellinore’s ears perk to attention. He could recognize that sound in his sleep. A sword was just drawn beyond the crest of the high ground to his left.

“HACK! BANDITS!” Pellinore snarled as he drew his sword, reared his horse, and charged up the hill.

The Black Bloods followed their leader while a reluctant Tristan and Gawain weren’t keen on wandering into a trap. They saw Pellinore and his horse disappear over the ridgeline and the clamor of battle commenced.

“Damn it! Gawain, you and your brothers stand guard. Protect the women.” Tristan shouted before he spurred his horse up and over the hill.

Gawain obeyed. He and his brothers circled Isolde and Morgan. They waited with bated breath, their shoulders raised in suspense.

The banging of metal blades lasted for less than two minutes before the brothers spotted a wounded soldier dressed in thick furs running down the hill. He was bleeding around his face and screaming for help. Kanish ran over the ridgeline and shouted for the soldier to halt.

Agravain dropped from his horse and easily brought the soldier down with a flying knee attack. Before Agravain could plunge his dagger, Gawain stopped him and hurried over with questions.

“Please! We’re sorry. We were just following orders?” the soldier said.

“Whose orders? Why are you here?” Gawain asked.

The man was about to answer before he saw an enraged Pellinore marching down the hill, bloody sword in hand. The Brood of Black Bloods and Tristan were right behind him. The wounded soldier stared with wild eyes at Pellinore as if he was the grim reaper himself coming to collect his soul. He scurried closer to Gawain and prostrated himself, begging for mercy.

“These bastards were waiting to ambush us!” Pellinore chuckled with an unearthly snarl.

“Wait. He said he was ordered,” Gawain noted.

“BY WHOM!!!” Pellinore shouted with a fury that echoed over the hills.

“King Rience. Isn’t it obvious?” Morgan uttered, annoyed that they hadn’t figured it out yet.

Isolde smirked, “It is a bit dastardly, isn’t it? To pay a man for his hard work, then send bandits to retrieve the funds he so eagerly dispensed.”

Pellinore’s eyes widened with rage. “He tried to do me in over fifteen bloody pounds?!”

“We don’t know that. This is mere speculation,” Tristan pointed out.

“Gawain! What say you?” Pellinore yelled, spiking a single brow.

Gawain’s uneasy silence was all the confirmation Pellinore needed.

“WE RIDE!” Pellinore yelled.

The Black Bloods immediately stormed off for North Wales and Tristan was relieved to see them go. However, Gawain saw the blinded look in Pellinore’s eyes. The ramifications of regicide were long-lasting and wouldn’t just end in Pellinore’s death, but with a lingering grudge towards everyone Pellinore associated with.

After a debate, Gawain pulled his horse around and rode north after them. Gaheris, Agravain, Isolde, and Morgan followed while a disgruntled Tristan would eventually have to catch up.

The next morning, as dawn brought about a blue mist and foggy gloom, Pellinore happened upon King Rience in the middle of a hunting excursion with thirty of his best knights and two of his princes. The Black Bloods attacked without warning.

An arrow pierced Pellinore in the shoulder. He yanked it out like it was nothing but a thorn. The pain only fueled his wrath and within minutes, Gawain, Agravain, and Gaheris joined the fray.

There was a great confusion. Rience’s knights were also wearing black armor as they weaved through the forests like daredevils running a gauntlet. Gawain was caught in the dense fog and lost sight of his brothers. Sweating from the unknown, he kept on his toes and swiveled erratically as cries and wailing shrieks came from every way.

Determined to control his panic, Gawain crouched between trees and focused. He listened for the voices of his brothers, the cursing of Pellinore, the roars of Tristan.

He heard was the stretch of a bowstring. Gawain instinctively dropped to his back just in time to see the arrow strike the tree. A Welsh knight drew another arrow but Gawain was upon him. Grasping his katana with both hands, Gawain cut down the archer and two more knights that emerged from the fog.

Just then, another arrow whistled past his ear. Flinching from fright, Gawain’s green eyes sought out and found an archer posted high up in a tree blind. The archer already had another arrow aimed at Gawain’s chest. Before he could shoot, a bright flash of scathing red flames streaked through the forest and engulfed the archer. The entire tree was set ablaze.

“To your left. Duck!” came a penetrating whisper.

Gawain shook his astonishment and ducked just in time to evade a sweeping blade aimed for the back of his neck. A burly bearded knight charged Gawain with a long double-edged sword. Gawain fought back.

This knight was incredibly strong. Each blow Gawain deflected sent shockwaves rattling through his limbs. The knight’s folly was that he was too strong. The bulk of his muscles slowed him down. After three armor piercing blows, Gawain was able to bring the knight to his knees and finish him with a fast diagonal slash.

“Behind you!” The same whisper called out.

Gawain spun around to see another soldier with an ax. As soon as they locked eyes, the soldier threw the ax as hard as he could. Gawain turned sideways with the blade nearly grazing his nose. It went hurling into the bark of the burning tree, causing the massive oak to come crashing down. Before the soldier could draw his sword, Gawain lunged and drove the tip of his katana into the man’s throat.

With the soldier choking to death, Gawain looked past the man’s shoulders to see Morgan approaching with a red ball of fire hovering in her open palm. Her eyes were solid black as she wielded the magic.

Quickly, Gawain sheathed his sword and sprinted for her as fast as he could. He shouted for her to turn around but another explosion erupted in the distance and drowned out his scream.

Sensing the danger, Morgan turned around and saw a horrifying twelve-foot moss covered monster called an Eergrowth towering over her. These tree monsters didn’t fight for any kingdom and they usually remained dormant unless an unwary traveler crossed their path, basically asking to be eaten.

The Eergrowth raised a two-ton boulder that he pulled from the earth and was holding it high above his head. Morgan desperately jutted her ruby jeweled hand, blasting the monster with a beaming stream of scarlet fire. Ashes flew from its horns and tentacles that crackled and withered away but the Eergrowth was still managing to hoist the boulder. With a loud bass-heavy bellow, the Eergrowth slammed it down, aiming to crush poor Morgan.

Gawain tackled her out of the way. They went sprawling down a wet leafy hill and stopped with Gawain’s arms wrapped around her chest. Morgan rolled to her back and looked into his eyes. Each wondered what the other was thinking.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

“Thank you,” she whispered back.

Gawain scanned the area as his mind returned to battle at hand. He saw bodies strewn about but none were the Black Bloods. He rose up and helped Morgan to her feet.

“Where are my brothers? Can you tell?” Gawain asked.

“PELLINORE, WAIT!” shrilled a distant plea.

Gawain and Morgan recognized the voice and gasped in unison, “Gaheris!”

On the western edge of these haunted woods was a murky body of water that opened up to the Hibernian Sea. A puffing Pellinore was trudging towards King Rience with his bloody claymore in hand. The king’s two sons and six of his loyal knights stood diligent prepared to defend their king to the death.

The Brood of Black Bloods were standing on the banks of this inlet. Their armor was dented and Balto bore a dripping cut on his forehead, but there were no casualties on their end. Gaheris and Agravain had just emerged from the woods and were standing between Pellinore and his prey. Meanwhile, Princess Isolde had deserted during the battle and Tristan was currently in the process of fetching her back.

“Don’t do it, Pellinore! Think about it. He’s the King of North Wales. If you do this, all of Britannia will come after you,” Gaheris said.

“Story of my life!” Pellinore hissed with a hint of insanity.

“We can’t let you do it!” Agravain warned.

“OUT OF MY WAY!”

Pellinore charged at the youngsters. Agravain successfully blocked three strikes but the fourth popped one of his Roman broadswords into the water. Agravain froze, stunned and shocked by Pellinore’s strength. He was promptly booted in the chest and sent tumbling in the shallow waters.

Before Gaheris could retaliate, Pellinore covered ten feet in a single dash to close the distance between himself and the fifteen-year-old. The tip of his claymore was inches from Gaheris’s flawless face and Gaheris did not like this, not one bit. It made Pellinore warm and fuzzy inside seeing the flower boy glower like a Minotaur.

Gawain and Morgan came running and saw what was going on. As serious as Gaheris was, Gawain’s hawk eyes were ten times more intense. Smirking off the scary glares with a chuckle, Pellinore pulled back and returned to King Rience. The cool and collected Gaheris had finally reached a boiling point. He would have pounced on Pellinore if Gawain hadn’t physically restrained him.

“Don’t try to stop me, Gawain. They’ll call me kingslayer after this,” Pellinore boasted.

“Go ahead!” Morgan shouted with spite. “We came all this way to save you from doing something stupid. To save you from yourself! But now I could care less. You’re still the same pigheaded boar you always were. All you do is think about yourself. You don’t give a damn about the people who follow you or those who believe in you. It’s always about what Pellinore wants!”

“You shut your damn mouth! You know nothing about me or my pain!”

“EVERYONE HAS PAIN, YOU ASSHOLE! When are you gonna grow up and get over it?” Gaheris screamed from the confines of Gawain’s grasps.

Pellinore was taken aback by the words of babes. An uneasy gaze beset him and he turned to examine his Black Bloods who were all still standing at attention on the banks. All of them were watching with impartial eyes. Pellinore couldn’t tell what they were thinking or if they even approved. He never asked them for their advice. He simply said, “ride” and they followed without question.

His head shook, shaking off thoughts of uncertainty and their presumptuous assertions. His glare centered on King Rience and the fear that stretched across the old man’s face.

Just then, Tristan emerged from the woods jerking Isolde along by the arm. As per usual, he looked agitated. “What’s all this, then?” He grunted.

“Please! Forgive me, I implore you. I was wrong to deceive you. I apologize!” King Rience begged on his knees.

“No! That’s not good enough!” Pellinore grumbled.

“Perhaps…” Gawain suggested. “If you paid him another lump sum? Hmm? Say another fifteen pounds for his troubles.”

King Rience trembled at the thought. “But I have no money. It’s all back in the treasury. But wa-wa-wait! We do have some salt and spices to give.”

“Spices can fetch a pretty penny, Pellinore. I say let’s take it and be on our way.” Gawain suggested as he continued to hold his little brother.

“Gimme!” Pellinore barked.

The king’s eldest son threw a brown sack of spices at Pellinore. He threw it a little too hard with a hint of attitude that even Tristan could detect from his position high up on the banks of the woods. Pellinore was about to put the prince in his place before Gawain thanked the king and ushered everyone along.

The group retrieved their horses and were soon on their way for Tintagel, but the good cheer was now sullied. Animosity lingered. Isolde’s wrists were now bound and tethered to a leash held by Tristan. The Brood of Black Bloods mulled over Morgan’s assessment about their leader. They wondered if he truly was as selfish as she claimed. Gaheris couldn’t shake his need to get some payback from Pellinore and Gawain couldn’t stop thinking of Morgan’s beautiful eyes staring up at him as she lay on her back.

After two days of awkward silence, something unexpected happened. Pellinore was riding alone up front when Agravain approached. He gazed up at Pellinore as if he was expecting an answer. Pellinore glowered at the boy as if he was a bee threatening to sting.

“You’re pretty good. Next time, though. Next time your ass is grass!” Agravain said, nodding with a competitive smirk.

It was the strangest thing. In a slow gradual transition, Pellinore’s scowl melted into an amused smile. Finally the two erupted with an obnoxious burst of laughter. The laughter persisted well beyond what was expected. The Black Bloods couldn’t help but join in with the revelry, abandoning the doubts about their fearless leader.

“Should we be concerned?” Tristan asked.

Gawain beamed hopelessly. “It’s been so long. Agravain does seem to enjoy fighting.”

“So what you’re saying is, we should be concerned,” Tristan grumbled.

Gawain chuckled before throwing a glance at the indignant Gaheris. “Forgive him, will you. Being mad at Pellinore for his belligerent ways is about as pointless as cursing every tempest that passes through.”

“Yes. It’s as you say,” Gaheris begrudgingly nodded.

“He will be the death of you all. Surely, you must see it.” Isolde jeered.

“Can we muzzle her now?” Morgan asked.

“Yes, as a matter of fact. We can.” Tristan said as he began stripping off a piece of his shirt.

“Sir, I will bite your finger off and gobble it raw.” Isolde warned.

“Let me do it.” Morgan offered to a now reluctant Tristan.

Gawain patted Morgan’s leg to calm her down and again, Morgan aggressively removed it. She was beginning to resent this passive condescending gesture and he knew it. The heat from her scathing glare prompted Gawain to ride ahead and join Pellinore and Agravain at the front.

“Oh look! You scared him off!” Isolde teased.

Morgan didn’t respond. She kept her furrowed eyes forward and concentrated on controlling her temper. Deep breaths helped. Then, oddly enough, she smirked and shook her head. As much as she adored Gawain, it appeared there were still things about him that annoyed her. Just like when they were children. It made her chuckle to think of how maliciously she picked on him for being so pious and naïve back then. She used to think he was so stupid. Deep down, she wondered if his clueless demeanor was genuine or a ruse to appear humble. The mystery was titillating.

Later that afternoon, the group was traveling south along the rocky beach of Kilve in Somerset. As per usual, Pellinore was leading the way when he spotted a group of six armored soldiers carrying a black and gold sigil. The Cornish soldiers were part of a search party sent out to rescue Morgan and the princes of Lothian. Coming upon the Black Bloods, the Cornish soldiers slowed to an innocuous pace to greet them on this scenic beach of round stones and jade colored waves.

The leader of the search party was none other than the bearded sixteen-year-old Constantine, son of Sir Cador. As well as Tristan’s best friend Bruno. Pellinore pulled down on his red scarf and grinned that menacing grin Constantine was never too fond of. The search party had been bouncing from kingdom to kingdom in search of the royal runaways. To find them in the company of the vagrant, Pellinore, it was an unpleasant surprise.

“Good morrow, Pellinore. Pleasure as always,” Constantine greeted as politely as he could.

“Tristan!” Bruno said as he rode to Tristan’s side. “Are you alright? Why are you with this lot? And is this who I think it is?”

“The Princess of Hibernia. At your service,” Isolde said, introducing herself.

“Where’s Morgan?” Constantine declared. “I know this is all her doing! I swear when we get back, I’m going to have her locked away till Easter!”

“Easy. We’re the Brood of Black Bloods, you fool,” Barxy said with pride.

“Yes, I’m aware,” Constantine replied sharply.

“Then calm yourself. Everyone’s fine,” Agravain chuckled.

“I’m not fine! I’m not fine, Agravain! We’ve been out here searching for God knows how long! I’m broke! We were robbed! We barely have enough food and water to last another day! So don’t tell me everything is fine! We are not fine! AND your mother’s come. She’s back in Tintagel. Did you know that?” Constantine vented.

“Morgaus?” Agravain gasped.

“How many mothers do you have, Agravain!? Yes, Morgaus. And King Lot! He’s brought a small fucking army with him. This is all headache and turmoil thanks to you!” Constantine shouted.

Pellinore was initially insulted but now he and his cohorts were thoroughly entertained by Constantine’s animated expressions. They were impressed. He always assumed Constantine was just a lapdog of the court, always obedient and submissive to his chamberlain father. But to see him now when he was at his wit’s end, it showed he had some stones on him.

Constantine continued with, “This is completely irresponsible. Gaheris! I expected this from Agravain, but you? I had thought you possessed greater sense, but now, now I see. Running amuck on a fool’s stupid vision. What if you ran into goblins, or slavers, or the bloody Picts! Then what? What am I supposed to tell Gawain? Whoops! They slipped through the cracks? I swear I’m about ready to jump into that bloody ocean and keep swimming till the ocean takes me. TAKE ME NOW! Cause this, this I cannot stand!”

“Constantine! Constantine!” Gawain beseeched. “Relax. It’s as Agravain said. Everyone is fine.”

“YOU! Don’t you… Don’t you tell… Don’t… Don’t tell me. You…”

Everyone started from a low rumbling chuckle as Gawain put a hand on the now befuddled Constantine. He was staring at Gawain as if he was Christ resurrected. “I don’t believe it.” Constantine gawked.

“YEAH! You’re welcome, you fucking idiot!” Morgan said, booming through the laughter.

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