Two beady eyes watch closely from the beams;
the bird’s not worth an arrow, Robert deems.
The renegade then turns his baleful stare
on Trefor, who continues with his dare.
“Vows in the name of God I do not take;
doing so makes me his, and not he mine;
power is thus for those who do decline
ever a pious gesture yet to make.
So, for as long as I refuse an oath,
I will continue ruling as I please;
sorcerors seven fling upon their knees
Arthur and Merlin, if assail me both.
Never shall I lay down my holy Right!
Right do I have by force of arms, for God
surely enabled me to run this rod
Lionel's insides clean through, with all my might!
How do you say it so, that I should rule,
‘gainst me were God? Thus, Arthur is the fool!”
Ranulet the Sage:
“Sire, these are Arthur’s words; I know his tone,
and all the thought be Merlin’s, that's for sure;
do you prefer to run the risks of war,
if you rely upon your guards alone?”
Vergilius the Astrologer:
“How shall e’en Arthur fight against the stars?
By my ability to read their routes
and study every rapid star that shoots,
Robert retains the warlike ways of Mars!”
Jalen the Greek:
“What has Sir Robert paid us for, unless
for our ability to press his cause?
Naught it avails a king, if he adores
his people. Rather, they his fear confess!”
Chiron the Alchemist:
“Potions that render ranks of knights insane
I can array against the Table Round;
let Arthur come, and fail! This is your ground,
on which your faithful servants be his bane.”
Arddhu the Druid:
“Spirits of tree and shore and wave and wind
Arthur have hated, since to God he gave
Britain as sacrifice. The earth shall rave,
angry with Arthur, who against it sinned.”
Blaidd the Shape Shifter:
“Spirits of wolves from forests far and wide
howl at the mad Pendragon’s Christian scum.
Let Arthur’s army, knights, and kingdom come,
then everyone will see, they came, and died!”
Aneurin the Animist:
“Even the rocks and rivers will resist
ones who forgot their sacred right to rule
all of this island, like a glittering jewel
that all the mighty ocean’s waves have kissed!”
“Well then, Sir Mute! You’ve heard our answer out!
What will you say, now you have heard us all?
Show to us how you serve King Arthur’s call –
give to me battle, else ye turn about!”
Sir Trefor knew not what to do or say;
the time had come to speak - to his dismay.
“Quiet defiance yours, in every breath.
Well then, Columba! Tell me, what say you?
While we await the knight, what shall we do?
Since you yet fear me not, I give you death!”
With speed belying years of life at ease,
Sir Robert shot his hand, that held a knife
around her neck; a gauntlet held her life,
and yet she would not fall upon her knees.
She looked Sir Robert firmly in the eye,
though one who knew her might have found a glint
of deep exasperation mixed with flint;
her kingdom found without one man to cry
its cause. Although young Trefor she forgave;
a boy was he, who ne’er should have to try
to act when others failed to do or die.
Living or dying, faced she Robert, brave.
Sir Robert held her neck, but held the eye
of Trefor, who at table’s end did lie.
“Worthless you are to me; you have no fear.
Fear in a woman’s such a precious thing.
Now from your wretched life one joy I wring;
I can deny the Fool what holds he dear.”
Giving the Fairy Knight no chance to stand,
he slits her slender throat with wicked knife.
Red blood on bluest dress, he scorns the life
of her whose heart was greatest in the land.
Although the gushing blood now stains her throat,
she fixes Robert’s face with stony stare.
But in her eye’s sad corner cries despair
that no one e’er would rise to Robert’s gloat.
Sir Trefor, shaking hard in every limb,
not from the fear of death, but holy ire,
rises as quick he can, though plight be dire,
but fast events are overtaking him.
The hidden huntsman loosed the hounds of hell;
and so on Robert’s naked soul they fell.
Leaping with howls that Giles alone could heed,
the hounds bite hard on Robert’s inner self;
they disappear inside him, as the Elf
quickly departs this world, for done his deed.
“Sit down, Sir Mute,” said Robert, strangely stirred;
“I know your purpose. I will give you now
the satisfaction called for by your vow.
So on the morrow shall your case be heard;
heard in the court of combat ‘fore all men,
seated upon your horse, that great grey mare,
and battle there be made, till one despair,
cry craven, or be killed right there and then.”
“Nay no,” said Giles. “I am the king by right.”
He turned the empty scroll in Robert’s spite.
Lying alone and whitening on the floor,
seeing at last her love through dying haze,
Columba’s eyes now glisten as her gaze
rests on the inner man she did adore.
With Giles at last revealed as rightful king,
nothing could be more dear – to see this scene;
her love become the man he should have been,
and thus again with pride his words would ring.
King Fool most foolishly gave up his life
to bring last happiness to her a while,
who never in his arms again would smile,
never could now become his happy wife.
He knows where all Columba’s passions lie;
and so, to soothe her suffering, he will die.
“Now, in death, have I found you out;
meet we soon, for I have no doubt
heaven’s King shall account you mine,
and I forever, your Columbine.”
Then high above, unseen, a mournful dove
departed; birds had lost their dearest love.
Thus died the girl. Sir Trefor wept, alone;
no other dared to show a hint of ruth.
King Giles did not. Inside, he wept, in truth;
for Robert’s sake, he showed a heart of stone.
If, in her death, Columba showed no fear,
somehow he wanted most to show no grief
to this debased and coward regal thief,
who slaughtered thus the one he held most dear.
“So, you are Giles,” Sir Robert said, surprised.
“Hiding away so close I could not see.
Nevertheless, I’ll make an end of thee;
the slowest that could ever be devised.”
The guardsmen by the doorways out now spring,
and capture, unresisting, Giles, their king.
Sir Robert had a manner strangely fraught.
“Come now, Sir Mute; for all the laws require
during the night you rest at your desire,
till on the morrow all our wars be fought.
There on the field of jousting I will wage
‘gainst your defeat, this poor King Fool’s own life -
though as you see, I can’t include his wife.
But, I’ll ensure you find a full-trained page.
Come, I shall show you now a room most fair,
high in a tower whence the sea be seen,
far o’er the deep and sweet enchanted green,
affording views of Robert’s seaward lair.
There in the night, if pray you must, then pray;
sorcerous aid, not gods, win me the day.”
There being little other to be done,
Sir Trefor followed Robert up a stair
within a tower high, white walled, and fair,
by latest light of summer’s failing sun.
And so, at last, with sleep long overdue,
he saw a room laid out to greet a guest.
Ushered inside at Robert’s clear behest,
went Trefor, wond’ring what on earth to do.
Out from the turret high he looked, a while.
Over the land indeed he saw the sea;
a guarded port gave none the chance to flee,
and far behind, the river held the isle.
Behind him, out Sir Robert sudden sprang;
the door closed swift and sudden, with a clang.