- Sep 5, 2013
The door leading to the dusty old library swept open, granting access to the newly inaugurated Count of Perfeddwlad. In fact, he had just come from the foolish ceremony that saw him christened the lord of an insignificant province in the northern part of his liege king's realm. As conceited and pompous as the lavish inauguration had been, it was important nonetheless. It marked a rebirth - a resurgence of a great and noble house. And it was Erwan, Count of Perfeddwlad that would lead that resurgence.
Erwan slowly made his way through the books, running his hands over the dusty tomes. There must have been hundreds of books piled into the cramped room, a result of the painstakingly slow writing of countless monks throughout Europe. Erwan was proud that he knew almost every one by heart, and fancied himself a scholar (and secretly a poet).
He took a seat at a small desk crammed into a corner and lit the candle that hung above the space. The light illuminated a book that was decidedly different than the other worn writings that populated the Count's collection. Rather than the traditional Latin of the monks, the writing within the pages was in the Breton vernacular, and instead of the ordinary paste and tack covers, the book had been carefully bound in beautifully aged leather. Perhaps the most noticeable difference was that it was mostly empty, as if waiting to be written in. Erwan turned it over, and read the cover with loving eyes.
History of the Pendragons.
He opened the book and began to read.
From the beginning, the blood of the Pendragon line was imbued with greatness. The lineage can be traced directly to the Imperator Constantine I the Christian and the divisor of Rome, and then to his son Constantine II. It would not be under the Romans, however, that the Pendragons would rise.
The division of the Roman Empire left Constantine II with only a weakened shell of the once mighty state. Internal strife further loosened his grasp on the Empire, and a failed liberation invasion of the Italian Peninsula ended with the Emperor's premature demise. As civil wars and insurrections raged on the continent, an usurper to Britannia seized the throne, casting the kingdom into darkness.
To protect themselves from the treacherous usurper, Constantine II's twin sons fled to Brittany, where they took refuge among a host of Romano-Briton tribes. The first son's silver tongue earned their allegiance, and as they became of age the second son led an invasion of Britannia, slaying the usurper and claiming their rightful throne. The two sons of Constantine II, who were named Uther and Ambrosius, presided jointly over the region of what would later be known as Wessex, though it is a Saxon name and that barbarous people had not yet begun its assault on the Britons.
The joint reign of Uther and Ambrosius was with difficulty at almost every turn. Raids from the Highland Picts came with unsettling frequency, as did occasional incursions of the Norse. Dealing with these foreign threats strained the relationship between the two brothers, as Ambrosius preferred to diplomatically bribe the attacking tribes, while Uther, with a keen military mind, pressed for a preemptive attack. Finally, Ambrosius relented, and Uther headed north with the kingdom’s finest warriors.
As Uther successfully beat back the Pictish tribes, Ambrosius was killed in his sleep (ostensibly by a Gaelic assassin), leaving Uther the sole King of Briton. In acknowledgement of the final break of Britannia from the Roman Empire, Uther swore off his Roman surname and took the name Pendragon, or Dragon’s Head. Uther Pendragon’s reign was marked by a series of successful campaigns against the Picts and Irish Celts, as well mapping the Isles in their entirety. Uther’s style of rule has been lost to history, but the lack of recorded rebellions and rising prosperity of the Britons lend credence to the theory that he was a wise and just leader.
Uther Pendragon died in old age after some thirty years of rule apparently without an heir. However, his personal notes revealed the existence of a bastard child somewhere in the realm, sparking a kingdom-wide frenzy to locate the boy. He was found living as a squire under the protection of a Sir Ector. Just days later, the boy was crowned king. His name was Arthur Pendragon.
The reign of the Once and Future King Arthur began with a series of revolts by the Romano nobility, who doubted Arthur’s lineage and above all resented being ruled by a king of the native Briton culture. After these rebellions were repressed, Arthur consolidated the Briton military under the command of the Round Knights, the best and brightest warriors of Arthur’s realm. With the Round Knights at his side, Arthur peacefully incorporated the petty kingdoms surrounding Briton and subjugated the Pictish Scots. By the time Arthur reached thirty-five years of age, most of the main island was part of his realm, and frequent invasions of Ireland eliminated any threat they might pose.
A new threat arrived from the west – the Saxons, fleeing the more powerful Frankish tribes and seeking new lands to settle. For nearly a decade and a half, Britannia was engulfed in near-constant warfare between the Britons and the invading Saxons, until finally the frequency of their arrivals slowed, though never truly disappeared.
Erwan read pages upon pages of Arthur’s exploits, from the construction of Camelot to his ideals of chivalry. Of course by now he knew every word by heart, but the story of the boy king never ceased to amaze him. A king that ruled not by his own ambitions or greed but by a code of chivalry, of honor. Of course, Arthur was but human, and that would prove to be his downfall.
An adulterous relationship with his kinswoman Morgause resulted in a bastard like Arthur himself, named Mordred. Upon reaching adulthood, Mordred decided to enforce his claim to the throne by force. He enlisted the help of the Saxons and Picts, promising free access to the island to the Saxons and independence to the Scots. The coalition met the King’s forces at the old Roman fort of Camlann. The coalition was defeated and Mordred slain, but not before the son mortally wounded the father. There he died on the battlefield, the Once and Future King.
Only several remained of the Round Knights, and those that did either went into hiding or joined the rebellion of Mordred’s son Melehan against the new king, Constantine III, who is often described as a tyrant of the worst kind. Though the revolt was put down and Melehan killed (after fleeing and hiding in a church) the Arthurian kingdom soon fell to the Saxons, and the Pendragons faded into legend.
Or did they?
Melehan’s death was presumed by many to be the end of the Pendragon line, but in fact the son of Mordred had secretly married and fathered a child with a Briton baroness. With the Saxon horde enveloping the country, the baroness and her Pendragon child fled to Brittany along with many other Britons. There they stewed in obscurity, where the men served as knights of the most minor capacity. Still, the lineage continued. Arthur’s blood still flowed through his descendants.
The fortunes of the Pendragons changed when the King of Brittany led an incursion into Cornwall, seeking to liberate the Breton people living under the now Anglo-Saxon oppression. The campaign was a dismal failure, but the anonymous Pendragon knight earned the admiration of a Welsh count, who hired him to lead his forces in war. The knight accepted, and House Pendragon moved to Wales. In the Year of Our Lord 978, Arthur’s heirs had returned to Britannia.”
“Erwan!” a voice behind him exclaimed. Erwan jumped and slammed the book shut, mouth opening as he prepared to give an indignant speech on knocking before bursting into an occupied room. He swallowed his words upon recognizing the man whom he addressed.
“K-King Bleddyn!” Erwan stuttered, awkwardly bowing low to his new liege, who laughed good-naturedly.
“Forgive my intrusion, Erwan, but I wanted to personally congratulate you on your new title.”
Erwan smiled. “It is much appreciated, my lord. An awkward silence filled the stuffy room. Erwan’s appointment had not been one of Bleddyn’s choosing – rather Perfeddwlad had nearly revolted against the King’s rule, demanding a direct vassal that could govern the province more efficiently. Bleddyn reluctantly acquiesced, and Erwan, a popular and well-known knight in the city of Denbigh, was nominated.
The King peered over Erwan’s shoulder at the closed book. “Ah, I see you are an educated man! That is good, very good.” He walked over and examined the cover. “Hmm, History of the Pendragons. That would be King Arthur and such, yes?” Erwan said nothing, irked by the intrusion of privacy. “Yes, the Round Table and the stony sword or whatever. Quite the fine tale, I’d say. It’s a shame it’s legend.”
“A shame indeed, my lord.”
The King looked around and shuffled his feet uncomfortably. “Ah, yes, well. I’d best be off then. Congratulations again. I look forward to a long and err, productive relationship. Good day, Erwan.”
“And to you, my king,” Erwan said stiffly. He watched him go, and then glanced at the book. Myth and legend? Hardly. Erwan pulled a drawer open, and withdraw a folded white banner. The fabric was smooth and silky, and it smelled centuries old. Because it was.
“If it is all false, my king, how did I happen upon this?” He led the banner unfold, revealing a shimmering gold symbol in the middle of a white background. The symbol was a chalice. The Chalice. The one that Arthur, his Knights, and countless others in Europe had sought for a thousand years.
The Holy Grail.
The flag had flown over Arthur during all his campaigns, a symbol of victory and conquest. Someday, it would fly again.
Erwan lovingly placed the standard back into the drawer. He reopened the book and pulled a quill from an inkpot at the top of the desk. He took a deep breath, and began to write.
In the year 1066, Erwan Pendragon, descendent and heir to Arthur the Briton, was granted the title Count by…