The Kings Sword – Part 2
It has been a while…
Between the last time I published here and now, many things have been happening, so please take a moment to read this as it does pertain to how I publish my work and will continue to do so moving forward.
So, with the success of my many ventures, I have created my own personal website where I publish early-access chapters to what I am working on. There, postings are around a month in advance of here, so chapters are published a month before they reach this platform.
To access them, you need simply only join my discord server. The link to this is on the homepage of my website and details for that can be found on my profile here. (It is the first link on my profile page).
The library on my website is password protected and this is changed weekly and released on discord.
In addition to this, the podcast is still going strong and is freely available for everyone, of course, these are announced and released on the discord server also.
For any that do not have a discord profile, it is very simple to set up and you can remain completely anonymous on there. So far, there is close to 2.8k members on my server who I interact with regularly, so do come over and be part of the community.
And that is all for me.
Again, thank you all for continuing to follow and favourite my stories etc. Although I finished this some time ago, I do intend on adding more of these little side adventures, so, enjoy this one and I look forward to speaking to you guys that come to the website and the discord.
It had been a little over a year since he had convened with the man known as 'the Wolf-Kissed' and the figure that claimed to be Odin. Still, it was a surreal experience for Harry who prided himself at not being shocked by the turns of events that life could offer.
He himself had travelled through time further than thought possible, had found a hidden pirate island, and even a world under threat by the living dead. Discovering the blade known as Excalibur wielded by King Arthur himself and the journey it had taken him on was perhaps the strangest thing to befall him yet.
Having found the lake in which the sword was to be returned, he could not help but feel things would only become even stranger.
For the past year, he had held on to the blade, studying the magic within but his efforts yielded few results. The magic was old, not as old as what dwelled within the elder wand, but older than almost anything else he had come across.
Other than that, little had been gleaned about the sword. In truth, he could not even deduce what it was made from.
With little reason to keep it in his possession, he had begun to deduce the lake in which those such as Monmouth and Mallory spoke of within their tales of the once-thought fabled king. Magical interpretations focused much of their attention on Merlin, and it was not the celebrated wizard Harry sought.
As such, he had turned to the muggle stories, and though they sometimes differed with the location of the lake in which the spirit Nimue had appeared, most agreed that the Dozmary Pool was whence she came.
Having arrived here, Harry found himself concurring with this trail of thought. There was magic here. It was subtle, but its presence undeniable.
Knowing he had found the place the tales spoke of, he drew the sword from the scabbard he had created for it and stared at the blade fondly. Not only had it led him on one of his greatest adventures, it had spurred one of the more profitable investments he had made.
In the year between claiming the sword and arriving to return it, Marion's work had begun and was ongoing. Already the quirky woman was making waves in the historical and archaeological communities with her discoveries at the site of Ravensthorpe with many groups now wanting to invest. With Harry's funding, she had turned them away and had undertaken the project herself with the help of those she trusted.
Every few months or so, Harry would stop by and marvel at the progress being made. Although it was unlikely he would see any financial gain from it, he was content to know he was securing the legacy of Eivor and verifying the work of the one woman who had believed in him.
Now, however, he had his own task to undertake, and his focus shifted to this gratifying moment.
Bracing himself, he hurled the blade towards the depths, though the expected splashing sound did not follow. Instead, a feminine arm caught the sword in mid-air by the handle before an ethereal figure emerged and stared longingly at what she now held.
Harry merely watched, almost frozen in place. He had read of this woman; the mother of Merlin, the lady of the lake or Nimue.
"You have completed the task set to Sir Bedivere by the one true king," she spoke, her gaze shifting towards him. "I would have your name."
"It's Harry Potter," Harry replied.
The woman nodded thoughtfully as she walked across the water to meet him, her eyes closing as she took a deep breath.
"You are a warlock, Harry Potter. Like my own son, the essence of what created this world flows through you."
"Some would call it that," she agreed. "Now, for your deed in returning the lost sword of Avalon, I shall take you there so you may present it to the King. He will be most pleased to receive from one such as yourself."
Harry felt himself plagued by a sinking feeling, the smile the woman gave somewhat forced.
"Why should I go?" he asked drawing his wand. "I do not like being misled."
Nimue eyed him amusedly and offered him a bow.
"You are a wise man, Harry Potter," she praised, "and you are right to think that my motive is not as true as it would seem to most others. You see, Avalon has been at war these passed centuries with Arthur unable to defeat the army of the Le Fay. With Excalibur back in his hand, he may yet emerge victorious."
"And where do I come into this?"
"You are a warlock, just as she is a witch. A sword, even one as exceptional as this cannot hope to ensure victory. With my son as her prisoner, Avalon will fall as his protections fail. That must not be allowed to happen."
"Or, let me guess, she will not be content with ruling Avalon but will find her way here?"
The lady of the lake frowned at him.
"You do not strike me as a reader of the stars, Harry Potter."
"I'm not," Harry groaned, "but isn't that what you were going to say?"
"Though my way would have been much more informative, yes, the Le Fay would come here as she did once before."
Harry released a deep breath.
"So, I am to accompany you there, kill this Le Fay and free your son?"
The woman gave him a look of irritation.
"You make it sound so dull and unimportant."
"Well, this isn't my first foray into affairs that are no concern of mine. Forgive me if I seem a little fed up or churlish regarding your problems."
"Problems that will become yours in the future.
Harry huffed as he shook his head.
"Fine, I'll help, but my wife is expecting me home in the next few days. It is our anniversary, and if I miss it, I'll spend the next year sleeping on the couch."
He would too.
Bellatrix had grown used to his 'little adventures' as she called them but would not be so forgiving if he missed their anniversary and Harry did not fancy sleeping on the sofa. His wife would make sure it was an uncomfortable experience for him.
"I am grateful for your assistance, as the others will be. Now, take my hand and I will lead the way, Harry Potter."
Once again finding himself thrown in to the throes of something he shouldn't be involved with, he took the proffered limb and found himself pulled into the depths of the lake.
Only a few moments later, the two of them surfaced, but not to where they had just been.
The land here was different, the forest next to the lake thick and lush, with an enormous castle a few miles away towards a hilly landscape.
"This is Avalon?" Harry asked.
The woman nodded as she drew a shawl about her shoulders, concealing her long silver hair.
"It is, but these are dangerous times, Harry Potter," she warned. "If the Le Fay was to learn of your presence before we reach the castle, then are efforts could be for nothing."
"That castle?" Harry questioned, nodding at the only building to be seen.
"Yes, the final place of safety in these lands."
With a frown, Harry took the woman's hand and apparated them to the entrance, her already pale skin paling further as she looked around them in surprise.
"The essence is strong within you," she whispered.
"Not really," Harry denied, "almost everyone I know can do that."
"Then your world has changed much from what it was when the King and my son roamed it."
Harry nodded, but was prevented from responding by a voice sounding from above.
"Who goes there?" a man demanded.
He was dressed in thick armour and surrounded by others with the bows drawn and knocked, ready to rain down arrows on them.
"I have come to see our king," the woman spoke calmly.
"Ah, my lady," the man greeted her, "it has been some time since you graced us with your presence. Our liege will of course be pleased to meet with you, but I must ask, who is your guest?"
"A man that the King will be even more eager to greet than myself," Nimue answered.
The man nodded.
"Only one, and it is already in my possession," the woman explained.
"OPEN THE GATES!" the knight commanded.
At his word, the portcullis began to lift, the chains clinking as the crank systems were worked by unseen men on the other side, and by the time it was raised, the knight who had addressed them from above had descended the battlement to welcome them.
"Have you been keeping well, my lady?" he asked. "Our liege has been most concerned with your insistence to continue leaving outside the walls."
"I am well, Sir Ector," the woman insisted, "please, lead the way."
The dubbed Sir Ector offered the lady a respectful bow and began leading the way through the streets and to the main keep where they were watched by the curious citizens.
"The King opened the gates to all of those that lived outside of the walls when the Le Fay began her attacks. He deemed it the best course of action," the lady of the lake explained.
"And why not you?" Harry pressed.
"They already have my son. I am of no consequence to them."
Harry frowned but said nothing else as they approached the keep, their steps halted by another two men clad in armour.
"Sir Ector," one of them greeted their escort. "You're not one to abandon your post without cause."
"Indeed, I am not," the man agreed, "I have brought the lady to see the king."
The other knight's eyes widened as he and his fellow guard bowed.
"Then she and her guest will be made welcome. I shall inform Lancelot and he will have the King ready to greet them."
The man took his leave and Harry found himself kept in the company of Sir Ector of whom he had seen mentioned in the tales of Arthur, as he had with Lancelot, though in a much less flattering light.
"The castles, do they still stand in your homeland, Harry Potter?" the lady asked.
"They do," he confirmed, "but they are not used as they once were. We no longer have need of hiding behind stone walls. They are all but useless against the weaponry we face now."
The woman gave him a look of confusion, but did not press the matter, turning her attention to her long silver hair that she began to plait.
Here they remained for a considerable time until the knight returned with another in tow, this one's armour intricately decorated and his white cape bright and gleaming.
"My lady," he greeted the woman with a winning smile as he grasped her hand and pressed his lips the back of it.
She remained unmoved by the gesture.
"Your charm wanes, Lancelot," she said dryly.
"My charm never could warm your heart."
"No, but this young man has," she countered, gesturing towards Harry. "He brings the most welcome of tidings."
Lancelot looked irritably towards Harry.
"He is but a man," he commented.
Nimue shook her head.
"He is the man that has returned the King's sword," she corrected. "He is one of my son's kind."
Lancelot's gaze turned sceptical.
"Hmm, that remains to be seen, but if he has indeed returned the sword, Arthur will welcome him. Should he be proven a liar, I will take his head."
"Do you believe that a mortal could fool me?" the lady questioned. "The sword was my gift, I know it better than the king himself who wielded it."
"I merely do not wish to get my hopes up," Lancelot sighed. "There have been many a tryer that has come before this one. Let the king make his judgement, my lady. He will see the truth of the matter."
With his words given, he turned and headed inside.
Sir Ector shook his head.
"You will have to excuse Lancelot. He has little between his ears but is perhaps the most talented swordsman in the king's court. Unfortunately, he lacks little else of worth."
Harry snorted and waved the man off dismissively.
He had met men like Lancelot throughout his years and had taken no little joy in proven them wrong time and time again.
"He is of no concern to me. I accompanied the lady at her request, will return the sword to the king and be on my way."
Sir Ector nodded.
"Then let us not stand on ceremony. Our liege awaits your presence."
Harry followed the knight into the keep, the stone walls thick, sturdy and awash with old magic akin to what he had felt in the cave Excalibur had been put to rest in. The magic here, however, was not as strong, as though something was slowly draining the power away from the castle.
The likelihood that was happening was high given what the lady in the lake had said to him.
With such protections in place, there would be none that could breach these walls, but whomever was seeking to do so, had found a way to nullify the magic here.
It was only a matter of time before they collapsed, and it did not take much thought to deduce just who was behind it.
Draining wards this way was a slow process but one that would yield results if someone had the patience to pursue. Evidently, the Le Fay he had heard spoken of was of such a disposition.
He was pulled from his thoughts as he was led into a large room similar to that of the Great Hall of Hogwarts.
There was, however, no long house tables stretching from near the door to the dais, but a large round table situated in the middle of the room that was half full of people eying him and the lady speculatively.
"My lady, it warms me to see you back within these walls," a bearded man with a crown perched upon his brow spoke.
He carried himself with confidence, his posture straight and shoulders broad. This was no idle king of old that got fat off the lands he ruled. This was a warrior like many other that Harry had made the acquaintance of.
This was undoubtedly the mythical king that many a scholar and storyteller had written of.
"My king," the woman said courteously, "I am pleased to see it once again, and with such good tidings to share."
Arthur nodded, his gaze flickering to Harry.
"Lancelot tells me that you are a warlock, like Myrddin himself."
"I would not compare myself one like him, but yes, I am of his kind."
"Balls!" a gruff voice denied.
The man that spoke was enormous, not quite the size of Hagrid, but much larger than his peers. His arms were thick with muscle, his trimmed neatly and his head bereft of hair.
"Bors!" Arthur chastised.
"Well, look at him. He has no stave nor sword to bear."
"We do not used staves anymore," Harry explained as he drew his wand.
Most of the gathered men laughed uproariously at it, irking him.
"I bet his pecker is thinner than that," Bors guffawed. "What are you going to do with that stick, little man? Scratch my arse?"
The only one that was not amused by the gaff was Arthur, but he said nothing as Lancelot drew his sword.
"I warned you I would take your head."
"Lancelot!" Arthur warned.
His words fell on deaf ears and the man approached, only for the sword to be torn from his grip before he could raise his blade.
He looked around confusedly and then at the levitating sword as the pommel was smashed into the side of his head, sending him sprawling.
With another flick of his wand, there was a groan as the weapon was spent in two and Harry banished it to the side of the room where it clattered to the floor.
None of those gathered around the table were laughing now and even less so as Harry summoned his would-be attacker to him and seized the man by the throat.
"I came here in good faith to return his sword, not be mocked and ridiculed by snivelling, egotistical shits like you," he ground out. "I have done what I came to do, and will take my leave now. If you attempt to stop me, I will not hesitate in killing you."
"Well, there's no denying that he's one of them," Lancelot wheezed.
The men gathered around the table cheered and began banging their fists atop the hard wood approvingly, leaving Harry taken aback.
"You have my apologies, good sir" Arthur called through his mirth. "Not a moon passes without someone arriving and claiming to be one of your kind. Please, release the fool and be welcome."
Harry did so, and Lancelot coughed before retrieving his bent sword and staring at it, evidently surprised by the shape it was in.
"I was fond of this blade," he lamented.
With a shake of his head, Harry returned it to what it was, and the knight gave him an appreciative nod.
"Impressive," he praised before sheathing it and taken a seat next to Arthur.
"And speaking of swords," Arthur interjected. "Is it true that you have, somehow, found my own?"
"He has, my king," the lady answered, "I have it here."
She proceeded to draw the blade from the scabbard Harry had made, and it sung as it always did when wielded, the light emanating from the brilliant finish as blinding as ever.
As it was presented, Arthur stood, a look of disbelief adorning his features. If he was surprised that Harry was indeed a wizard as claimed, the shock he felt now eclipsed that.
Slowly, he approached the lady, his hand tentatively reaching for the pommel of the sword he had wielded so many centuries past.
As his hand grasped it, it shined ever brighter, and the singing became louder as though the sword itself was jubilant to be returned to the one it had been forged for.
Even to Harry, it was undeniable that Excalibur belonged to the King before him, the weapon fitting the man as perfectly as his own wand suited him.
"How?" Arthur asked, awestruck.
"The sword had been sealed away from the world by the druids who took it upon themselves to protect it. Only those touched by the gods could liberate."
"And that was you?"
Harry shook his head.
"A Dane by the name of Eivor found Excalibur and wielded it himself until his death. If not you, I can think of no one worthier than him. He used it to protect his people and even Britain from invaders, just as you did."
Arthur nodded appreciatively.
"And how did you happen upon it?"
"I went in search of the sword and found it where Eivor rests. He gave me his blessing to return it to you."
Arthur offered him a smile.
"Do you know what this means, good sir?"
"That Excalibur has returned to where it belongs."
"Not only that, it means that we can finally rid these lands of the Le Fay and her ilk. We can finally return Myrddin to his rightful place."
"Does this mean we ride into battle, my liege?" Bors questioned.
"It does," Arthur confirmed. "Begin the preparations, we ride tomorrow at noon, but first, we celebrate and feast in honour of the man that has given us hope at last."
The cheer that followed the declaration was uproarious, and the men moved immediately to prepare.
Harry, however, did not cheer and could not help but feel that he would somehow be dragged into the coming conflict.
"My lady, there is movement at the castle. The false king feasts with his men."
Morgan stared at the pock-marked man that brought her the news, her nostrils flaring in distaste at his appearance.
"And what reason have they for celebration?" she asked.
"I do not know, but those within have busied themselves."
Morgan nodded, her attention shifting to simmering cauldron to her right. She crushed up a few dry leaves and added them to the elixir, giving the concoction a stir before inhaling the fumes.
"They prepare for battle," she murmured. "They believe they can emerge victorious."
"Fools," the man snorted, eliciting a look of irritation from the woman.
"Arthur maybe many things, but he is no fool. Have the prisoner brought to me. He may be of some use."
With a nod, the man left to fetch the warlock and returned a few moments later with him in tow.
"Your stay is comfortable?" she asked.
The old man looked upon her with disdain.
"I am fed, watered and allowed to read. I expected worse."
"There is still time for that, Myrddin," Morgan warned, "if you help me, however, I may grant you more freedom yet."
"Arthur is plotting. I would know what it is he plans."
"Impossible," Myrddin denied. "Without me, he has no weapon that can defeat you. He would not risk the safety of those within his walls."
"Then why does he make preparations?"
Myrddin frowned curiously.
"I would not pretend to know his mind. It has been decades that I last laid eyes upon him. Perhaps he has gone mad?"
"No, his mind was always strong. I would have you look in on him, and your honesty. Your life could become considerably less pleasant should you not be forthcoming."
Myrddin nodded thoughtfully.
An enchantress she may be, but she was no weakened wench. She was as strong as he had once been, his own power waning in the years he had been without his stave.
"I will look," he conceded.
If there was any hope that he may be free and the woman defeated, he wished to know about it. If Arthur proved to be losing his mind, then he could prepare for the inevitable end.
He accepted the cup of the brew offered to him and drained the contents, grimacing at the unpleasant taste of the herbs and other things mixed into it.
Handing the empty vessel back to the woman, he closed his eyes and waited for the visions to begin. This was a magic the enchantress could not practice, her own essence skewed and spoiled by the acts she had carried out during her years.
Myrddin watched as a man came into view, dark of hair and green of eyes. He did not hold a stave nor cast his essence the way he or Morgan did, but used an odd stick.
He looked on as the feats of this man were played out in front of his eyes; the destruction of a large serpentine, the power of his essence as he repelled the feasters of souls and his victory over another of darkness, a sorcerer of which the gods themselves would balk at. But not this man, he himself was touched by the god most feared.
The reaper that would claim for his own when your mortal life had been lived.
The thought brought a smile to his lips, and then, a humourless laugh.
"What has tickled you so, Warlock?" Morgan asked, pulling him from his vision.
"Nothing so amusing as it is frightening, enchantress. Arthur does indeed prepare for battle, and sups with one of our kind."
"One of our kind?" she whispered dangerously.
"A warlock, much like me, but one with the blessing of those above even us. He has the favour of the reaper of souls."
"You lie," Morgan hissed.
"What am I to gain from such a venture?" Myrddin returned with a shrug. "He has returned Excalibur to the rightful King who comes for you with Death in his wake. It gladdens me to know that your life is forfeit."
Morgan's jaw tightened as the warlock grinned, his shabby robe and unkempt hair only accentuating the decay of his teeth.
"Get him out of here!" she seethed.
The pock-marked man did so, but the laughter of the warlock rung in her hears until the sound of his cell door slamming shut reverberated around the home.
Another warlock could be a dangerous foe, and she would need to prepare accordingly for such.
She would not allow her hard work to go to waste, not when she was so close in seizing control of Avalon for herself.
The hall of Arthur was alive with merriment as the men and women within the castle walls drank, danced and indulged themselves in the feast that had been hastily put together by the kitchens.
A band compiled of men playing loots and other strange instruments struck a jaunty tune for the entertainment of the guests.
Harry found himself seated with Arthur, Lancelot, and another man he had read of, Gawain. His feat with the green knight was perhaps the most celebrated of Arthur's knight besides those of the king himself.
"So, he only gave me a little nick," he finished his tale, showing the scar on the back of his neck.
"Your story is still told today back home," Harry informed him.
"Really?" Gawain asked proudly.
"There are many that still write of your deed."
"Well, it wasn't quite the accomplishment of some of the others," Gawain said sheepishly.
"Nonsense, Gawain," Lancelot countered, "the fact that you lived and kept your cock is quite the achievement. Had I been in the knight's position, you would have left my land with neither."
"That is why we are grateful you have no lands of which to speak," Gawain returned. "Not that any would live there with you. There would be too much perfume and oil wrestling."
Lancelot nodded at the quip appreciatively.
"Whereas yours would be full of horseshit and mediocre ale."
"Too true," Gawain chuckled.
"Are they always like this?" Harry asked Arthur.
"I'm afraid so, but they love one another as though they were brothers. We all do, have been through too much together for it to be any other way," he explained. "What about you, Harry Potter, do you have any brothers?"
Harry shook his head.
"My parents were murdered when I was a baby, but a series of events saw me returned to them, but no, I have no siblings. I do have a wife and children."
Arthur offered him a smile.
"Fatherhood is perhaps the most noble thing you can do in life."
"It is," Harry agreed, grimacing at the bitterness of the ale he was sipping on.
"I would ask a last favour of you, Harry Potter," Arthur sighed.
"Is this where you ask me to go into battle with you?"
Harry released a deep breath.
"I would not ask if the need was not great. I would not have your children grow without you, but the Le Fay, she is a powerful enchantress. She commands the trees themselves and I would need someone to hold her off whilst our army's clash. Could you do that?"
Harry did not know the prowess of Morgan Le Fay. She was as revered as Merlin in some circles, but little was known of the magic she wielded. Some accounts claim that she was excellent with charms and potions, others that she was a master with curses.
Harry was as well-versed in them as any he had met other than potions, and they were not so useful in a fight.
"I can try," he offered.
Arthur gave him a grateful squeeze of the shoulder.
"You will have the gratitude of me and my people, Harry Potter. If we are to ride into battle, then we should rest. I will have my personal handmaiden show you to suitable rooms.
Harry nodded, and placed his cup on the table, pleased to be relieved of drinking the swill these men called ale. It couldn't compare to Rosmerta's mulled mead or even a measure of Ogden's finest, but it had served to loosen him enough to be willing to fight for these people.
How could he turn down the request from King Arthur himself?
Having finally fallen a sleep close to dawn, it was only a few hours later that Harry was gently shaken awake by a beaming Arthur. The man was evidently eager to return his lands to peace and his countenance spoke of his excitement for the impending battle.
"There is some armour that should fit you well," he explained pointing to a rather impressive chest plate, gauntlets and helmet that had been placed in the corner. "I would not see you felled by an arrow."
"No, that doesn't sound fun," Harry agreed.
Arthur smirked, losing himself in his own thoughts for a moment before speaking once more.
"It has been many years that I have felt this way," he explained as he stared out the window, across the fields outside the castle walls. "For too long this conflict has hung over us, and we have been powerless to do anything about it. Without Myrddin, Avalon is not the same."
"Was he captured?" Harry asked curiously, not having been told of what led to his imprisonment.
Arthur shook his head.
"Nothing of the sort. The fool handed himself over to be held captive as part of a truce we knew the Le Fay would never uphold. She did for some years, but her greed for power soon returned. Myrddin's essence has kept her out of these walls, but it is not what it once was. Soon, she will enter the castle and only he would have been able to stop her."
"That's why you need me."
"Only one of your kind can hope to combat her power. I am no reader of the stars, Harry Potter, but I have a good feeling about you, the very same that Myrddin fills me with."
"I will do what I can," Harry assured the man.
Arthur offered him a grateful smile.
"Do you have skill with a blade, Harry Potter?" he asked.
"No. Swordsmanship is not something I have much practice of, but I have all I need."
"Ah, your stick," Arthur teased.
"You saw how useless Lancelot's sword was against me."
"That is true," Arthur conceded. "Myrddin has also proven time and again that the strength of the Earth is superior to any that man can create, but not all of us have been blessed with the ability to use it. You have your weapons, Harry Potter, and us without make do."
"I have met many warriors and would not think so low of any of them to dispute your words."
Arthur gave him another winning smile.
"Myrddin would say that you have achieved great wisdom for one so young. I would not disagree," he said sincerely. "When you have readied yourself, we will wait for you in the courtyard. Today, Harry Potter, Avalon shall be freed of her tyranny," he declared as he took his leave from the room.
Harry could only shake his head.
Over the past couple of years, he had read of the man, had learned of his humble demeanour, his wisdom and kindness. As with other tales of old intended to flatter those of which they speak, Harry had taken them with a pinch of salt, but Arthur was perhaps the truest to the words of those that had written of him.
Pushing those thoughts aside, he cast a few cleaning charms on himself and dressed before heading towards the courtyard.
There, he was greeted to the sight of the amassed army that the king commanded, with the man himself at the head of it, ready to lead them into battle.
"A horse, Harry Potter," Arthur said, offering him the reigns of a dappled courser. "She is a swift rider and will serve you will."
Harry had not ridden a horse, but it certainly could not be any harder than flying a broom or even being atop a Thestral or Buckbeak.
When he was settled in the saddle, Arthur gave the gesture for the gates to be opened, and the column of soldiers led by their king left the safety of the castle amongst the cheers of women, children and elderly that were not fit to fight.
She glared balefully at the figure of the king as he approached with his entourage, his armour gleaming in the afternoon son and his flag bearer holding his coat of arms aloft, the fabric rippling in the gentle breeze.
"So, you finally decided to crawl from your hole," she commented as they came to a stop before her and her own chosen representatives.
"I would say that we finally decided to put an end to you, but let us not argue frivolities," Lancelot replied.
"I had hoped that you would be long-dead," Morgan commented, ignoring the smug grin that adorned the man's features. "Now, what other fools do I have the pleasure of greeting. Yes, Gawain, and Tristan, I must be one of import to garner your attention. And you must be the warlock," she added, taking in the appearance of the youngest of the group, his green eyes similar to her own, though his locks were dark and hers red.
"If you like," he replied with a shrug.
"Yet you wear the armour of mortals and carry no stave. What kind of warlock are you?" she pressed, her own weapon of choice grasped in her right hand.
"Where I'm from, our kind has evolved beyond the need of using something so archaic," the man responded. "We have means less cumbersome than what you carry."
Morgan snorted, turning her attention away from him and back to Arthur.
"I suppose there is small chance that you will admit defeat and vanish into the woods like the days of old?" he asked.
"I have your greatest weapon," Morgan pointed out. "The advantage is mine today. Me and mine will meet you in battle."
"Very well. Where is Myrddin?" he questioned, peering over her shoulder.
"Do you think me the fool to bring him here?" Morgan giggled. "He will remain my prisoner."
"Then I will take him back, enchantress," Arthur declared, digging his heels into the side of his destrier and urging it back towards his own lines.
Morgan watched him and his entourage leave, the confidence of the warlock with him admittedly unnerving.
"Prepare," she commanded, "today, we fight."
Harry found himself riding with Arthur to where the soldiers awaited their instructions, his thoughts occupied by the woman he had made the acquaintance of.
She was strange, her long red hair as wild and unkempt as the magic he felt emanating from her. Morgan's eyes were a similar colour to his own but not without a spark of insanity about them.
Despite her calm countenance, she was anything but, her magic an untameable whirlwind waiting to be unleashed.
She would be unpredictable, dangerous, but would also make mistakes and Harry had mastered the art of capitalising on them.
"Has she always been unhinged?" he asked.
Arthur shook his head.
"No. She was once a fine healer of the land but delved into things that ought to be left alone. Myrddin believes the essences she practiced skewed her mind, and what you see now is the result of that."
He had seen what happened to those that delved into magic they did not comprehend. They were the Tom Riddle's of the world, but this Morgan was not him.
She was likely a gifted witch in her own right, but the magic she knew of was old; dangerous enough, but unlikely to cause him many issues.
He was from a time and place where magic had grown and developed beyond what she knew, and in this case, knowledge would truly be the power to call upon.
Her arcane ways would not be enough to see her to victory.
"If you are ready, Harry Potter, I will sound the horn and we will ride into battle," Arthur said, pulling him from his thoughts.
The man was keen to fight, and Harry was keen to be done with it and return home.
"Then allow us the fight we desire and keep your focus on the enchantress. This has been a long time coming."
With his final instruction given, he removed a horn from his belt and gave the signal for his army to charge.
Harry found himself amongst the sounds of clattering armour, the battle cries of the men and the sound of pounding hooves as they charged to engage to opposing, and bigger army.
Bigger it may have been, but they were not so well equipped as the knights of Arthur, and when they came together, there began a symphony of pained screams, clashing steel and whinnying horses.
Harry looked on in morbid curiosity as the men hacked away at one another, slashed with their swords and even bludgeoned their foes with blunt objects.
For any who said that war was a glorious thing, they surely could not have meant this.
At best, it was a desperate fracas for survival, those quickest with their blades and sharpest of wits being those that would survive.
Dragging his gaze from the melee, he sought out the figure of the redheaded woman, but could see her nowhere, and his attention was grabbed by a man charging towards him, swinging a bloody axe above his head.
Flicking his wand into his hand, Harry merely cast a severing curse, removing the man's legs from the knee down.
He roared as he collapsed to the ground with blood pouring from his stumps.
What kind of fool would attack a wizard in such a crude way?
Harry knew not, but without the presence of Morgan Le Fay, he decided he would attempt to lure her out.
When she saw she was losing the battle, she would be unable to continue hiding.
Keeping enough of a distance so that he could not be taken by surprise by any other would-be attackers, he began circling the battle, taking aim and felling those he could get a clear shot at.
"Cheers, Stickman," Bors called as Harry assisted him when he was being slashed at by more than one opponent. "NOW, WHO ELSE WANTS SOME OF BORS?" he challenged.
Harry shook his head, the man was quite unhinged himself, his sword and mail covered liberally in the blood of his enemies.
Soon, the battle devolved into a disorganised frenzy of violence, with any and all tactics being abandoned. The men had lost themselves in the bloodlust of the moment, and that was when the Le Fay struck.
At first, Harry did not see her observing the fighting on the edge of the trees, but the unmistakable sound of whistling projectiles garnered his attention, and he found himself hard-pressed to divert them, managing to do so at the very last second.
The dozen or so roughly hewn spears veered away from Arthur's knights with a wave of his wand, but the enchantress was not done.
She began rhythmically tapping the end of her staff on the ground, an ominous tremble rumbling through the ground with each pass.
"WATCH HER, HARRY POTTER, SHE'S A TRICKSTER!" Arthur warned.
Unwilling to allow Le Fay to carry out her work unopposed, Harry spurred his horse towards her, his mount struggling to navigate the large fissures that were tearing through the ground between to woman and the fighting men, so much so, he had to abandon the creature to continue towards her.
At first, he tried to apparate, but found that he could not. Morgan must have erected a ward to prevent that, evidently wishing to keep him at a distance.
If what he was seeing was her combat style, it made sense to keep him at bay, though he too could fight like this when needed.
Diverting a large fireball she had sent his way, he whipped his wand upwards, using her own work against her as he sent an enormous wave of displaced dirt and stones towards the woman.
She, however, merely tapped the ground once more, parting the wave and allowing two piles of debris to settle either side of her. With a gesture of the staff she wielded, they careened back towards Harry, interlacing in and out of one another.
Thinking quickly, he transfigured the incoming manipulation into two Thestrals and returned them to Le Fay.
She nodded appreciatively as the creatures dived towards her from the sky and displaced them with a tap of her staff.
"I find myself impressed, warlock," she commented, calling to Harry from twenty or so feet away she had engaged him from, "but let us see how stand against my full might."
"And we will see how you stand against mine," Harry replied, sending a trio of spells that caught the woman off guard.
She managed to dodge them, but the trees behind her groaned in protest under the attack and one of them was cleaved cleanly in two and slammed into the ground.
The Le Fay eyed him warily, her stare questioning.
She spoke no words, but continued with her onslaught, her archaic magic attuned to manipulating the environment and the elements.
Harry of course could not be certain, but he doubted she had studied much magical theory or learnt spells that required incantations. Her magic was purely based on her intent which, when mastered, could be a very powerful tool as she had proven, but it was indeed slow, cumbersome and less effective than other means.
As such, she struggled to match him spell for spell when he began unleashing his repertoire. She fell into a frustrating pattern of only being able to defend herself, proving that magic had come a long way in the last thousand or so years she had been here.
Try as she might, when pressed by Harry, there was little offense she could muster and eventually, she succumbed to his overwhelming attack, her staff being reduced to splinters by a blasting curse she could not block.
Evidently, the battle taking place between Arthur, his knights and the Le Fay's army had also reached its conclusion and the woman nodded her defeat.
"It appears that you have bested me, warlock," she conceded, "but I will not be surrendering myself to you today."
Before Harry could do anything, she dematerialised into a smattering of leaves that were carried away on a sudden breeze.
"Bloody hell," he grumbled.
"Worry not, Harry Potter," Arthur comforted as he reached him. "Victory was ours today and by the time she gathers herself and returns, Avalon will be safe once more."
Harry nodded uncertainly, his wand snapping towards a figure that emerged from the treeline.
He was old, his long white hair as scraggy as the threadbare robes he wore.
"Myrddin," Arthur whispered, all but knocking Harry aside in his haste to greet the shabby man. "Are you well? Are you hurt?"
The old man waved him off with a chuckle.
"I am in need of a wash, but little else," he replied, "now do stop your fussing. I am not so frail."
Arthur had the decency to look sheepish as he escorted the man to his horse and helped him atop.
"Begin the clean-up," he instructed to Lancelot. "I will see him home and we will feast this evening in honour of our victory."
A resounding cheer sounded from those that had fought bravely and Arthur turned his attention to Harry.
"I would have you join us, Harry Potter. Your assistance was invaluable."
Harry nodded as he made his way back to his own horse that was patiently awaiting his return.
Having climbed atop, he rode next to Arthur and Myrddin, watching the older of the two curiously.
He was of wizarding legend, his legacy having survived all that had come after him, his name and deeds spoken of with reverence to this day, and undoubtedly beyond.
If meeting Arthur had been exhilarating, meeting the famed Merlin could only be described as a life-affirming moment, and something that Harry would never forget.
"He came through the old way?" Myrddin questioned.
"He did, and returned Excalibur to me," Arthur replied.
"He is indeed an impressive young man," he murmured. "Finding the sword is one thing, but being granted entry here is another matter entirely, but I don't suppose it will serve to dwell on it. The powers of mine and his kind work in mysterious ways."
"I am going to knight him for his deeds."
"And it would be well-deserved," Myrddin agreed.
"Then let us not delay our celebration any longer," Arthur suggested. "That is if you feel well enough."
Myrddin shot him a chiding look.
"As I have said to you many times already, I am well. Let Avalon see that I have returned to them and that we may once again prosper."
"For the time being," Arthur sighed. "She will try again."
"But that day is not today."
"No, it isn't," Arthur replied with a smile.
Once again, Harry found himself in the hall of the keep, seated at the table with a gathering of Arthur's knights. To his right, Lancelot sat, nursing a goblet of wine as he hummed along to the music being played. On his left was Bors who was recounting his own skirmishes during the battle to a serving girl who was fawning over the behemoth.
"You're a strange one, stickman," he slurred. "We've seen the old man and the wench do what you do, but you're different."
"Well, a thousand or more years have passed since you were in my world. It is a very different place to what you would remember. Nothing like Avalon."
Bors nodded thoughtfully and drained his cup.
"I won't even pretend to know what you mean," he mumbled. "This is the life we know here, and none of us would change it for anything. We fight, we eat, and the wenches are plenty. We don't care much for change."
Harry found himself taken aback by the considered words of the man, and he could not fault what he had heard.
Wizarding Britain was far removed from what it had once been, something that had only been to his benefit on this day.
"Watch out, here comes the old one," Bors murmured. "He'll fill your ears with nonsense. It's best not to overthink anything he says, it will only make your head pound."
Lancelot snorted and nodded his agreement as Myrddin and Arthur reached them, the latter taking his as the former stood and stared at Harry.
"I imagine there is much we could learn from each other," he mused aloud.
"I don't doubt that," Harry replied.
"But we are both already far into our journeys of discovery. I fear that each of our words would be lost on the other. That is not a bad thing, young man. You have your ways and I have mine."
Harry looked towards Bors who shook his head confusedly.
"Then perhaps we should take this moment for what it is and merely appreciate the other for what we are?" Harry offered.
"A keen mind," he praised, "and a sentiment I wholeheartedly support. Now, I believe the king wishes to address you."
At his words, Arthur stood, and the music stopped playing as he held up his hands.
"Harry Potter, please, come forward," he requested.
Harry did so, leaving his seat to the sounds of whispering and gazes of respect. What had happened between him and Morgan Le Fay had spread to the masses quickly and they had been grateful for his intervention, his actions having saved many lives.
"You came to us only yesterday, have returned Excalibur to me and helped save my people from an impending threat. Not only that, you returned one of our most revered to us, and for that, you have our gratitude."
The gathered citizens cheered and gave him a round of applause before falling silent once more.
"I know that you are eager to return home to your own family, and I shall not keep you any longer, but would express my own gratitude through a gesture that may mean little to you but is the highest honour in Avalon. Please, take a knee," he instructed as he drew his blade from its scabbard.
Harry did as he was asked and felt the weight of the sword as it was brought to rest on his shoulder.
"For your deeds here in Avalon, I grant you a chair at my table amongst me and mine, and when you rise, you will do so as a knight of Avalon, a protector whose name will be spoken with the highest regard. So, rise, Harry Potter, a Knight of my court."
"I am honoured," Harry replied as he stood, the experience only becoming more surreal than he could have imagined.
He had expected to simply return the sword to the lake, and yet, here he was having go into battle with the fabled king and now being rewarded.
Arthur offered him a nod.
"Then feel free to leave, Harry Potter, with my thanks and an open invitation to return whenever you wish. We would be glad with your company."
"I will take him," the lady of the lake volunteered. "He will need my assistance to pass through."
"Then I will accompany you also," Myrddin insisted.
Bidding farewell to those he had come to know in the short time he was here, Harry followed the duo from the room and out of the castle where they proceeded towards the lake.
"He likes you," Myrddin commented. "Arthur," he clarified. "He is not one to trust easily but you left an impression on him, and he will not forget you. No one here will."
"You make it sound as though he will not return, my son," the lady commented.
"He will not," Myrddin said confidently. "Harry Potter is not a man of this world. He has his own and this was but a brief encounter for him as he walks his path. Perhaps he will return when his journey comes to an end, but not before then."
"Then this is a fond farewell?" the lady asked.
"It is, and I would gift you one more thing," Myrddin said, turning his attention to Harry.
He opened his palm and produced a single white feather.
"What is it?" Harry asked.
"My boy, it is whatever you wish it to be," the aged man offered cryptically, "but if nothing else, it is a piece of Avalon that you can carry with you."
Harry chuckled as he accepted the feather, the old man reminding him much of Dumbledore and his own irritatingly mysterious ways.
"Then I will treasure it," he vowed.
"As we will you," Myrddin assured him. "Goodbye, Harry Potter."
Harry offered the man and woman a bow before the feeling of being submerged overwhelmed him and he found himself sopping wet on the edge of the lake he had arrived at the day before.
Now, there was no lady, there was no castle in the distance and no sounds of merriment to be heard. Wizarding Britain may have forgotten what this place once was, but Harry would not, and he stared at the gifted feather for a moment before pocketing it.
With a snort, he pondered just how he would explain what happened here to his wife. Even Bellatrix would struggle to believe the tale he had to tell, but more than anything, she would be relieved that this two-year journey was finally at an end.
Not Harry, however. He would simply consult his book in search of the next.