Somewhere, sometime, someone wrote, legend begins where truth ends. . . . Or is it the other way around? --Caer Tintagel, Southwestern Britannia
’TWAS KNOWN BEFORE the Isle of Britain’s history was put to quill that the bard Grat-Telor was as olden as the hollow tors of the Isle of Might. A crown of moonstone hair framed his cockle features, and though his vision was clouded, his brown eyes sparked with mischief and wisdom.
That dayspring, as always, he sat on an oak stump within view of the ruins of Tintagel, playing a sweet melody on his lyre, his arthritic fingers miraculously never missing a chord. His audience, a gathering of impetuous young lordlings, languished about, waiting for him to speak.
One youth finally urged, "Please, Grat-Telor, amuse us with the legend of King Arthur and Merlin."
Weary, the bard was not impressed with their thirst for diversion, for he did not relate fables, as was the custom of other bards, but truth alone. Setting his lyre aside, he rubbed his weathered palm across the haft of an ancient staff and deliberately scanned their eager faces. Mayhap, one of these lads will be the righteous king. His desire for this to be so caused Grat-Telor to exhale a ragged breath. "And why wish you hearken to the reminiscence of an old singer of tales?"
"By virtue that you recount with such passion, we almost believe it true," replied a fair, freckle-faced stripling who sat separate from the others.
Grat-Telor eyed this particular youth, and then scowled at the lad’s faithlessness. "Almost? Mayhap I need tell it so well that you will believe, aye?"
Eager nods honored Grat-Telor.
His hands embraced the haft of the staff, and thereupon he rested his gray-bearded chin. "Then indeed, lads, I have a tale for you about the legendary Emerald Rose of Avalon, a talisman passed on from the High Steward Merlin to King Arthur, although Arthur Pendragon and Merlin un Hollo Tors are not the innermost characters. First, however, I shall expound about a land called Ayris, from which Arthur’s and Merlin’s forefathers came."
All but the fair cheeked youth looked confused. "I've heard about Ayris, Sire."
"Have you now?" Grat-Telor shifted upright, hearing his backbone creak.
"Aye, 'twas in the Mediterranean Sea and likened to Caledonia's southwest isle of Arran. Some called it, Atlantis. Is that so, Milord?"
The bard shut his eyes and savored old memories. "True, in some regards, but 'twas farther away. Always warm, always balmy. The colors brilliant, especially the birds, dragons, and—"
"Dragons? Were they as evil as folklore proclaims?" a doughy-chinned lordling chirped.
Murmurs erupted as the lads scrambled closer to Grat-Telor's travel-tattered sandals.
"Evil?" the man mused. "Hardly. Least not the ones on Ayris. Just because something looks fierce doesn't mean it's bad. Similar to people, there are good and evil dragons. Highly intelligent creatures, they are. On Ayris, dragons protected the land and guarded the royal family--still do. Why, it is how King Arthur’s surname Pendragon came to be. Alas, the dragons of Ayris are. . ." Grat-Telor felt their wide-eyed stares. He rolled his shoulders back and cleared the tight emotion from his voice. "'Tis another story, that is."
Although openly dismayed, they nodded their acceptance.
"Where was I? Ah, yes. Two vital families dominated Ayris. Merlin's family was a shoot of Ephraim, blessed son of Joseph. King Arthur's lineage rose from the tribe of Judah and house of David."
"But the tribe of Judah never left Israel," the same lad injected.
Impressed, Grat-Telor eyed him. "You have been taught a bit for a lad of your winters. True, but a cluster of Judah’s descendants remained among the ten tribes. The tribes of Israel disobeyed Elohim, and they were punished with defeat in great wars. When the tribes were captured and scattered by the Assyrians, Elohim lead those of Ephraim and Judah who believed the seers to a safe, fertile island, where a soft, steadfast breeze blew from heaven.
"With time, the inhabitants called that isle Ayris, which means 'Air of God.' Clan Ayris became abundantly blessed. They had wealth, engaged in commerce, and sailed the world. Because of their obedience to Elohim, he bequeathed the Merdyn's forefathers and his offspring with gifts of foresight, the Breath of Eden, and other abilities not oft known among the sons of Adam."
"'Twas a special blessing, these inborn memories?" The opinionated youth now stood, as if to draw attention.
Annoyed by the boy's constant interruptions, his peers shot him disparaging remarks and glares.
"I like an inquisitive nature, lad. So do not fear asking questions, any one of you.” Grat-Telor's firmness rebuked the rest. "I will do my best to answer."
Each youth nodded respectfully.
"Aye, one of many gifts the chosen of Ayris inherited. Those of Ephraim's who had righteous hearts became stewards or magi and they held high positions of influence, while from the house of David came great kings like Arthur, who ruled with compassion and wisdom. Furthermore, Elohim endowed them with a unique comprehension of science that even Greece and Rome did not possess."
"Science?" another piped up with a bold smile.
"Aye, the wisdom of Elohim's universe swelled within our magi.” Tipping his head, he squinted at the azure sky and gestured heavenward. "Merlin's great-great-granda foresaw a time when mankind will soar among the clouds and stars like the great eagle."
"You mean we'll grow wings?" one more quipped.
The bard guffawed and gripped his sides in mirth. "Not exactly. We will fly in iron chariots designed with wings."
Excited inflections vibrated the morning air.
Ah, he had their attention.
"You see, for centuries, Ayris flourished and erected libraries of knowledge deep within the caverns of their tors. They taught Elohim's love and were titled 'peacekeepers' among the nations. Merlin’s forefathers served as steward-counsel to the royal families of Ayris and advised the kings on political matters of state.
"But a time came when clan Ayris grew prideful in their gifts and turned from Elohim and took credit for comprehending the science of the stars, wind, sea—the equations of this vast universe. They declared that the anointed gift of foresight was similar to their inherent memories and longevity, as if in their blood. They complimented themselves for their good fortune and spiritual gifts. And some began to worship Zeus and Poseidon. So Elohim ordered the sea and the brume of time to descend upon Ayris and conceal it from mankind's eyes."
"Why did Elohim not destroy Ayris?" ventured one boy.
Grat-Telor pitched an exasperated glance his way. "How Ayris vanished is of slight importance."
"Was King Uther Aurelius' great-great-grandscion?" inquired a different lad, "So King Uther, sire of Arthur Pendragon, was of Ayrisian seed?"
"Aye, but unlike Merlin, Uther had no inherent memories of his proud birthright, nor did Arthur. Elohim divided the gifts so that not a single Ayrisian can possesses them all. Thus, the knowledge Arthur learned came from Merlin’s lineage, mayhap Elohim's way to keep their clansmen dependent upon one.
"Originally, the Ayris clan settled the western shores of Britannia and an isle named Wind’s Haven before Elohim's wrath descended upon Ayris. After sometime, they traveled southeast and settled Cornwall, where Uther became a great warrior and king. Do you all know about Uther’s sinful union with the married Duchess Igraine, who later became his wife?"
Heads bobbed. Voices on the brink of manhood cracked, and then simmered.
"Aye, Twas here at Caer Tintagel that Arthur was conceived and born," one peacock announced. "After Arthur’s birth, King Uther insisted Merlin take Arthur away, safe from those who would have seen him dead. Thus, they went to Caledonia, where Arthur grew into manhood."
"Indeed. And the rest is history." Grat-Telor rubbed his gnarled hands. "Even after he returned to Tintagel and became high king, Arthur was drawn back to those stormy shores that his ancestors once called home. There, he embraced the customs of the Romano-Britons and initiated peace between the Celts, Irish Scotti, and Picts. Arthur’s inborn leadership led him to govern the northern lands of Britannia and Caledonia. His mastery of governing has become an inspiration to all mankind.
"Now bestow me vigilance, young sirs, and I will transport you to the darkest hours after Arthur Pendragon’s death. A time when chivalry scarce endured, but the love of a reluctant enchanter and a most unlikely princess rescued this blessed Isle of Might. Yea, listen to the legend of the Emerald Rose."