The vision of the Grail.

"To look into the depths of the cup was to see the burning Sun in its midday glory, for it was round and its gold was more pure than any fire I have seen. That beauty, nay that wonder, could only have been born among the stars and there plucked and dropped by a jealous goddess whose beauty was outshone by that same holy vessel. But it is upon wishing stars I sought that same treasure, that rare piece of solid astral fire, and perhaps that is why I was scorned on my journey; that same, jealous, plotting goddess cast my efforts to the dirt and laughed a mocking laugh that was heard by all the cosmos but I! For they all had laughed at my search, the "Seeker of Nothing", they called me.

I searched for the Lordaeronian King, however, and I took pride in that badge of office. After many years of insults and threats from the King I eventually found it in some highland glen. It was tucked under nettles and shrouded by thorns that grew to prick, and pricked I was as I reached in to claim the grail from the shaggy entanglement that had ensnared the cup. My hand bled from the deep scratch that the vengeful thorn had prized, but, as I ran my fingers over the sea-deep sapphires and evergreen emeralds and rage-filled rubies, the crimson tears of my flesh were soaked into the cup. That same chalice had drunk from me as the King had done from it. My blood vanished and the opening in my flesh was sown as if by invisible threads. The magic of the cup worked itself upon me.

Indeed it had, for no sooner than I had raised the grail to the air in holy ecstasy, blessing that vessel with teary words of joy, I became enthralled. My two fellow knights clapped and cheered; one spoke of the great reward the King would give them, and I reciprocated with "Hail Thoradin's gold!" No sooner than that did the thought of the king they spoke of, that Lord of Lordaeron, that inflated sack of pus and fat and ale, that conqueror of naught, did I rush for my destrier and ride as fast as I could from those other knights whose names are Sir Hywel and Sir Bedwin - my murderers.

Indeed, they had sought me out. I, with the grail nestled safe in my saddlebag, rushed to Lordaeron, to my family's large estates while they chased, thinking that I had rode to deprive them of their reward from their King. What fools! What pitiful fools! If only they could see the beauty that rivals the fairest maid and clearest lake, the history that defies any wizard and scholar's records and the holiness that touches the Light itself. My horse had been tired, and I weary too, and so I rested by the woods leagues away from my family's estates. My horse found water at a nearby lake, and I sank to a tree.

The two had honour, I would give them that. They woke me from my slumber, and told me to draw my sword for my cowardice and my supposed wicked subterfuge. I drew blades with them that night, the two of them against me - indeed, I fought them. They were brave knights of Lordaeron, sworn to His Majesty's service, but so was I and that night the grail seemed to favour me. I was inspired by its intricately detailed handle, wholesome depths and bejewelled rim, but most of all, the blood of Thoradin burned inside me and seared my veins of any corruption that might there have been before. With quickened blood and even quicker blade I dispatched Sir Hywel quickly:

I blocked his lunge with my shield, pushing his blade up the boss and into the wood, where it stuck for as long as it would take to rid this man of his arm. His outward attack left him positioned with an awkward stretch of the arm, and though a bard may talk of swordsmanship as an artist brushing red onto a canvas, it could not be further from the truth. My sword came from underneath my shield with an uppercut, tearing through the leather underarmour that protected his armpit. The connection was gruesome and, flushed with bloodlust and adrenaline though I was, the sound of splitting flesh and cracking bone and a man's wail for his mother checked me. His arm hung loosely, connected only by some difficult and stubborn sinew.

The dazed and tearful knight looked into my eyes then, and it was only then that I realised a youth. Of years he was my age, perhaps older, yet in his dying moments I could see his infant and pleading nature. It was then that he fouled himself, and then my sword came to strike conviction into his jugular. My sword would not cut through, for my angle was bad, yet his death was certain. Still alive, but out of the fight. It was then that his stunned companion struck my plate and my attention was called to him. An honourable man he was, for he knew the strike would be deflected by my plate, but he followed the code of chivalry, the code that allowed him to only fight me one on one.

As the dying knight lay there, left to gargles, spasms and screeches, we fought. This man was not so brash, and he fought with skill. For many moments we were merely circling each other, and our eyes often wandered to the fallen, dying knight only to snap back on each other for fear one would make a move. I could see the distress in Bedwin's eyes. Hywel and Bedwin had been companions, and I was never sociable. Hywel's death was painfully prolonged, and neither of us would move to finish him for fear that the other would strike. More screams called for his mother, but only the forest would answer him with mockingly cheerful birdsong. He cried and soiled himself, and I reflect, now that I die slowly, that his death of piss and shit and blood and guts was no warrior's death.

Bedwin's eyes gave to tears soon, and his passion surprised me - its suddenness as quick as a cat racing from danger. He pulled off his helmet, and then his coif, to reveal a man of blond hair and handsome brow. He gave in to vengeful anger then, as he threw away his shield, and that could be useful in battle. I would not let him have the first move then, and I crept forward with my centre low and my shield held up to Sir Bedwin.

I came forward and jabbed quickly. A blow easily parried, I knew it, but anger cannot be used in defence. I brought my sword around above my head and he ducked at that ambitious arc, and then, with the mastery of a battle demon, swept over my sword-arm. He was behind me. My death knell rang forth and echoed through my helmet, or so it seemed, and no sooner than that did his expected jab come. It coursed under my breastplate, and its stab managed to penetrate the chainmail and so grant me a shallow - or so I thought - wound to my lower back.

As any knight would, I fought to the death. His injury had checked me, but now I had bled I was lifted to new heights of adrenaline and battle calm. That sweet nectar a warrior tastes only once he has goaded the stings of battle and has felt confidence, sweat and passion course over and through him. Turning, my shield came around first and the attack bludgeoned Sir Bedwin so that he made a hasty and dazed retreat - back into a tree. He could not go further, and he panicked. His eyes widened and then closed quickly, for he had seen, with surprise, my sword's straight and true course.

His head was stuck to the bark with my longsword. How my blade had pierced the thick bone of his forehead to find an exit wound at its back I do not know, but cresting his temple now was the sword I had abandoned. My triumph was bitter as I looked around. The stink of shit and blood wafted in and out of my nostrils, and I walked to where my horse was, by the lake. Luckily the horse had not run in fear of the battle, as it was indeed a warhorse and it had not been too close.

It was then, as I checked for the Grail in my saddlebags, that I fell to the floor. I fell and screamed, and screamed I did for a few birds were shaken from their respite in a few trees across the clearing of the lake. I clutched instinctively for my wound, and there I was washed with brutal emotions and pains. The battle calm had fought off hurt, of ache, but now I realised that my shield arm had been jarred and, more importantly, that "shallow" wound was deeper and wider than Lake Lordamere. Anger rose in my throat and stuck there as if I had swallowed a spiked sea urchin; I spat Bedwin's name, and I cursed him and I cursed his mother and I cursed his sons and daughters. Oh, how that forest echoed my insults unmercifully, and reminded me of my crimes to both Sirs.

They had done their duty to their Kingdom, what they thought was right, and though they were wrong I should not have taken away husbands and deprived children of fathers. Managing to pull the saddlebags off the horse and shoo the beast I away, I sat there like a pathetic ragdoll; plaything of some malicious forest sprite or faery. I searched inside those saddlebags, and there found the Grail and the necessary tools to write this tale down, so that when my body is found it may be told as the Tragedy of the Three Knights of the Grail, and that, in hope and faith, the Grail is delivered not the King's dining room or coffers, but some place of worship or safekeeping.

My slow death now reaches winter, and my pain has reached its solstice. With my kidney punctured and my death assured, I only wish that I am returned to my parents and to the Light.

Blessed are the Three Virtues to which we must obey, Respect, Tenacity and Compassion. With these dying words I commend myself to the Light, with trumpets rasping my ascendency and maggots feasting at my pricked bowels."

by Sir Agricola Tyrbless