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Confronting Sir Robert

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Hag Chapel

A hundred hammers pound Giles' aching brains;
eyes white, unseeing, rolled up in his skull.
Where goes the mind while fits enforce a lull?
Whither the spirit’s path while life remains?
Into a wan and weary world it flies,
where mournful comes the call of hollow men –
the call for them to hurry back again,
and if not heeded, oft the body dies.
While Giles is lying twitching on his side,
in Otherworld drab shadows clutch his mind,
and whisper to his spirit: stay behind!
But patiently calls out to him his bride,
as she would be; Columba calls him clear
with patient words she hopes her Giles can hear.

Many the time King Fool has lapsed here long,
and never yet seen ought to mark his mind;
unformed, amorphous shapes yet undesigned,
nor nothing that would enter into song.
Ever the mem’ry finds no stuff to store
when sat upon the empty shapeless plain
that neither suffers wind nor sun nor rain
to cause a thought to leave that world’s dim door.
Sadly the King of Sunderland sits down,
remembering he’s been here oft before.
Ever anon returns his suffering sore;
these fits have made the king become a clown.
And then, surprised, he sees a huntsman there,
who seems to sit at ease without a care.

“King Giles, live long!
I meet you here in dreams
to speak to you herein
of secret, subtle schemes;
for you must fight
‘God and my right’,
the height of Robert’s sin –
the cause of darkest wrong.”

“Sage though your words, and wise,
how shall I fight the lies?
Only if Robert dies
will he yield power.

Guarded by wave and tree,
safe in this land is he;
Arthur might never see
his wicked walls.”

The huntsman clapped his hands, and long-limbed hounds
came running, barking, howling at his call.
Out of what world of wonder ran they all
King Giles knew not; and now his poor head pounds.
Just as he left the world of sound and sight,
so he begins returning to his realm.
Back to the land through which runs Durrinelm;
and so he sees Columba, framed by light.
She smiles affection deep from loving eyes,
but Giles smiles not; he sees behind her head
a monument erected to the dead.
Hag Chapel is the place in which he lies.
She laughs. What power is wielded by the dead?
She trusts not shades, but living God, instead.

In Robert’s dingy chapel, dark and dull,
they hold a moment only; then they sit
before a high and narrow window slit,
where Sunderland’s vile tyrant keeps the skull
of hated Helga. Seeing late her power,
Sir Robert wished with all his might and main
that he could bring her cackling back again,
and win her help, if ought should dare his tower.
In sorcerers he sought to place his hope;
in alchemists, astrologers and hags,
some shaman who might wear the horns of stags –
shape shifters. Any sages that could cope
with Robert’s fabled rage and wanton will;
for since the hag him cursed, he slept not, still.

“Scroll and quill have I brought you here;
words the weapons you wield, my dear.
Now the voice of the Britons’ King
from your mouth will appear to ring!”

“All in a dream I lay;
never another day
when in a fit away
did this ensue –

‘God and my right’, the key;
what will the wisdom be?
What words shall come to me?
I wish I knew.”

“Ah, there you are! Make haste, and tend your lord!
Wench! Do your service! Set the table now!
We will await the words Sir Mute did vow
that he would hear reply at point of sword!
I see the scroll that Arthur sent, and yet
how comes it that the seal is lost, or rent?
The words for Robert’s ears were clearly meant.
Being the royal reader should not set
you up above the courtesy of bards -
acknowledging the words are for your sire.
If you have sought to twist them, damage dire
be done unto your person by the guards.”

“Far over field and wave
travelled Sir Mute, the brave;
often he fought to save
this scroll from harm.

When Arthur’s words ring clear
then you will know you hear
Merlin, great Logres’ seer –
not otherwise.”

At Merlin’s name, a hiss escaped the Sage,
speaking of hatred utter, long and deep.
Ranulet marched the Fool towards the keep
where, by his way with words, he earned his wage.

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