‘If He were King,’ a children’s story extract by Gerry Fruin.


Ben leapt up and thanked the wizard and said that he would have to leave right now and rush back to help King Will and his people.  The old man told him to slow down because he had heard that the leader of the Druiths, The Prince of Darkness called Muchadoom, intended to unsheathe Excalibur on mid-summer’s day and claim all the Kingdoms – indeed the whole world – for himself and become very rich.

            “Take Artur with you: train him as you go.  He is a very quick learner.  You will have to fight your way through the gangs but come the special day, Arthur Pendragon” (he laughed at the name Sir Ben had given him) “will…” (he tapped the side of his nose) “draw Excalibur from the stone.”  Well, Ben had heard lots of rubbish from magicians, wizards and witches in his long years but this was the best.

            “You cannot be serious, man.” he scoffed.  ” The oik can’t speak English: can’t even fight his way out of a paper bag (they didn’t have paper bags in those days but you know what I mean) and you think he can be King.  Get real pal.”  He took a deep breath.  He had had enough nonsense.

            “Did you know that Merlin foresaw this?”

            Well, that stopped Ben cold.  “Merlin saw this joker as King?” he exploded.  “What juice had he been slurping?”  He paused: better not to be too harsh on Merlin.  You never knew what kind of spell the maniac might put on somebody.

            The old man smiled gently.  “Merlin told me this many years ago.  Why do you think I looked after the boy and how did I know you were coming?”  Err…now that was not easy to answer.    

 

            Sir Ben de Ben mounted Thunder and thanked the wizard for the food he had given them.

            “Oi!” shouted Arthur who had been told he was to go with the Black Knight. “Where’s me ‘orse?”

            “Horse!”  Ben laughed.  “Horse.  Listen pal, there’s no horse for you until you can run fifty miles without stopping.”  Just to make it worse he added “In full armour, then practice sword drill before dawn for two hours, then cook breakfast.”  Arthur looked pleadingly at the wizard, who shook his head, and to Arthur’s despair said.

            “That, young Arthur, is only on easy days. It’s tough out there kid.”

            “But why are we setting off now its night time, I need to sleep.”

            “Sleep.  Sleep.  You better get used to living in the real world, young Arthur.  There is no sleep: besides Beedlebumbum thinks you might be a King.”  He laughed mockingly.  “Yes really, and Kings, as you should know, only sleep in Camelot.  Again, he wheeled Thunder round.  “Besides…” he sneered” we have to save the world.” ‘Fat chance,’ he thought, ‘with this hopeless oik’.  He charged into the forest because he was really angry that Merlin had sent him on a task that ruined his Quest to find a King.  Artur looked in total dismay at the wizard, who smiled kindly at him.

            “He is angry just now Artur, but I have faith that you will be the Once and Future King.  Go on young man; show him and the world what you are really made of.  We shall meet again when you have built Camelot”.  With that, Arthur squared his shoulders under the great weight of stuff on his back, waved once to Beedlebumbum and staggered into the forest.  What he thought was ‘what is Camelot?’  That was new to him.  Well, Camelot, as Ben would tell him later, was a fable: a kind of magic story that told the tale of a huge castle where people lived happily and were defended for all time by the truest and best Knights, who sat with the King at a round table so that no-one was better than anyone else.  It was only an ancient fairy story: a good idea, but impossible.  Arthur asked Ben why that should be.  Ben replied that he did not know: “people I guess” shrugged the Knight.  And that was the turning point for Arthur; why couldn’t there be a Camelot?  Now…. if he were King…!

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