Bavaria, September 29th, 1776
Thunder clapped as two men in hoods entered a large dining hall in a lodge, water dripping off of their cloaks as they approached the roaring fire.
"Gentlemen," a young man wearing a thick blacksmith's apron greeted the two hooded figures.
"Brother Spartacus," the first man said, removing his hood to reveal a face marred by twin slash-marks. "How goes the experiment?"
Brother Spartacus shook his head. "Not as well as I would have hoped, Brother Khan. The fourth Homunculus has also failed. What you are asking…What you seek to be done…May not be doable at all Brother Valmont."
The third man removed his hood to reveal a bald-head and an eye-patch.
"And yet we must, Brother Spartacus, we must," Brother Valmont said. "We cannot lose the Grail. It is far, far too important. If we fail, the Society is doomed, and the Society that we are building is doomed too. The Fate of the World is at stake, Brothers. Is there no other solution?"
"There might be one," Brother Spartacus admitted. "Just one solution that…I had been holding in reserve. But…it is not safe. Not as safe as it would be if we could get the Homunculus working properly."
"I believe that we are too far out of options," Brother Khan said. "To continue playing it safe. Not if we want to keep the Grail."
"Then by all means, Brother Spartacus," Brother Valmont said. "Enlighten me."
The Quest for the Holy Grail
December 15th, Liscoo Ireland.
Rory, Molly, and Barghest trudged into the Dugan house, dripping wet and feet covered with mud. Barghest whined and shook herself off, trotting over to a large sheet in the corner next to the fireplace where she often spent the day. She curled up and closed her eyes.
There was a fire roaring in the fireplace.
"Did da light that?" Rory asked.
Molly shrugged, removing her own, as they tossed the muddy boots outside and onto the front porch.
"If it was just a wee bit colder we might at least have some snow," Rory said. "Nothing's more miserable than a December rain."
Molly removed her jacket so that she was dressed in only a tank top and jeans, flopping down on the couch next to the fire. Rory smiled and flopped down next to her, the pair of them basking in the warmth of the fire.
Both of them dozed off, and when Rory opened his eyes again it was bright. Barghest was still in the same pose, but had turned to stone. The rain outside actually had turned to snow. He looked over at Molly as she sleepily blinked awake and stared at him.
"Afternoon, son," Sean Dugan said. "How did the…ah…"
"Leprechaun hunt?" Rory supplied.
"I didn't want to say it," Sean said shrugging.
"They're not really Leprechauns," Rory said. "They were just dressed that way by the guy holding them captive. Thought it was funny or something. Nah, they're Dwarves. I don't know how long they'd been stuck in that factory making shoes, but I do know that they were grateful. It felt good to just…be a hero without any drama."
"I'm proud of you, my boy," Rory's dad said. "And…I'm not the only one. This came in the mail for you yesterday. I didn't open it, but I recognize that seal from our breakfast guest from last year."
Rory cocked an eyebrow as Sean handed him an eggshell white envelope with a wax seal on it. Rory's eyes widened as well as he recognized the seal on it as well. A dragon.
"Pendragon," Rory said. He opened the envelope. A small white card and an emerald pendant slid out.
You and your family are formally invited to the Knight's Spur Estate in London England for Christmas Eve Dinner.
Enclosed within the envelope were three airline tickets. Rory held them up.
"Anyone fancy Christmas at a British Manor?" Rory asked.
December 16th, Knight's Spur
"That's the Round Table?" Kelpie wondered. "it looks like a giant wooden donut."
"Nobody asked you," Merlin snipped. As his Levitation Spell gently set the table down in the middle of a clearing in the woods outside of Knight's Spur.
"It's not a dig," Kelpie said. "Didn't think you'd be so touchy about it."
"He's touchy about everything," Griff commented. "Is this a good spot?"
"Yeah, should be," Kelpie said. "Getting a strong signal from the Estate. And I've still got like over a week to get me equipment set up."
Fleur, Arthur, Pog and Liam walked up to the table. Pog walked over to the rim where two inscriptions were etched into the wood in gold lettering.
King Arthur Pendragon
Sir Griff of the London Clan
Pog's beak wrinkled slightly and tears began to trickled down his face.
'Old Pog, are you all right?" Liam asked, suddenly surprised.
"Yes," he said, smiling. "Yes my boy…I just. These aren't sad tears. My rookery son was dead and now he's alive. And one of the Knights of the Round Table. I'm half scared that I'm just dreaming."
"You're not," Liam said. "It's real. And it's just as bloody brilliant wicked cool as you think."
"I have just received word that young Master Dugan and his family will be attending," Arthur said. "And that Miss Canmore will not."
"Good," Griff said, quietly. "I didn't really feel comfortable letting her know where we lived anyway. Even with Yama vouching for her. Will she still…?"
"Yes," Arthur said. "She will still be a part of the Video Conference that Lexington, Staghart, and Kelpie are helping us set up. Though I admit it is a magic beyond my ken. It is without question useful."
"Not Magic Arthur," Merlin said. "Technology. It is…humbling to see what Science hath wrought in the centuries since I slumbered. I always told Per-I always said it was the wave of the future."
"And you weren't wrong," Fleur said. "Though the Renaissance period took forever to get to."
"Then," Arthur breathed. "All of the pieces are in place. This may be the most important thing that we do. I admit to a great deal of Anxiety. Especially after the recent attempt on Sir Griff's life…"
"That's exactly why it must be done," Fleur said. "The greatest atrocities in history are always done 'for the greater good.'"
"Agreed," Merlin said. "If I'd known what he'd planned…"
"You still don't even know the half of it," Fleur said.
"Regardless," Griff said holding his talon out. "We are in this together, and all of us are of one mind."
"Agreed," Merlin said, placing his hand atop Griff's talon. Arthur placed his hand atop Merlin's, and Fleur atop Arthur's.
December 19th, Lexington Corporation HQ, NYC
Amp and Lexington looked at the flow chart.
Lexington—Founder CEO Staghart—CoFounder Director of Marketing
Kelpie—R & D Beta Testing.
"Yeah," Lexington muttered. "It seems a bit…"
"We need more employees," Amp said. "Kelps is in London. Anything she does that can't be emailed ends up taking weeks to actually get here. We need some R & D folks who can actually R & D on site. Or at least follow Kelps instructions over Videophone. And we could definitely use some daytime security."
"Who could we possibly hire that we could trust?" Lex asked. "Because anyone who worked for Xanatos is out by default. Cyberbiotics is…sketchy…at least till Alex takes it over."
"Maybe there's some folks down in the Labyrinth who could help?" Amp suggested. "Many of those folks are definitely looking for jobs, but aren't exactly having any luck. Hiring them would flat out good for them, and good for business."
"You're not wrong," Lex said. "As usual. Speaking of Security, have we done out daily firewall and bug check? Xanatos may be investing, but I don't want him spying. Especially with project Eggnog in four nights."
"Everything's Closed Circuit," Amp said. "He can't hack in from here. And I swept for bugs an hour ago."
"That's a relief," Lex said. "Now… I got an email from Golden Cup today while we were sleeping. It's…interesting. They want to see if we can create another Anti-Viral program based on a Virus that they developed. This one works differently than the first one I tinkered with."
"Oooh," Amp said. "Tricky."
"London sunrise is in two hours," Lex said. "Think we can get R & D on the Vid-Screen so we can put our heads together?"
Both gargoyles failed to notice the small red mechanical scarab beetle that crawled out of the air vent and took a perch directly above the two.
December 21rst, MacDuff Manor, Long Island, NY
Veronica Baird's moped drove up the long driveway towards Macduff Manor. The gates closed behind her as she pulled up in front of the front porch, where Macbeth was standing there waiting. He cocked an eyebrow at the small duffel slung over her shoulder.
"Ye dinnae pack much?" he asked frowning.
"I don't plan to be wearing much," she said, smirking back at him, and then laughing as he blushed.
"I don't…" Macbeth hesitated.
"Relax, love," she said, jumping into his arms, and planting a kiss on his lips. "I've got what I need for the trip. And I'm not going to embarrass you in front of your childhood hero."
"I have to admit," Macbeth said. "I'm more nervous than I realized. I've encountered Pendragon more a few times since he awoke, as an enemy and as an ally. But those were…circumstantial. This is…"
"Christmas dinner with your childhood hero," Veronica repeated. "I get it. I once donated to a charity for the chance at dinner with Steven Spielberg. I was a nervous wreck. Because it's not the same as working with or for them. It's hanging out. That's a big deal."
"Aye," Macbeth said. "I haven't been this nervous in centuries. Not since…"
Macbeth flushed again.
"Not since my first performance at the Globe Theater," he said abashedly. "Will took a chance on a homeless drunk, but it helped me turn my life around."
"You don't have to be nervous about sharing with me, Love," Veronica said smirking. "I'm dating an immortal Scottish King. That's pretty badass."
"And as for Arthur," she said, leaning in for another kiss. "He obviously respects you a great deal, or he wouldn't have invited you."
"How did I get so lucky?" Macbeth said, smiling at Veronica, and embracing her in the kiss.
December 23rd, London-Heathrow Airport
Rory sat by the gate as a large crate marked "Fragile" slid out of the baggage claim.
Molly placed a hand on Rory's shoulder reassuringly and tapped the crate. It shimmered and vanished, leaving only the Stone form of Barghest, curled up as if sleeping. Rory inspected her carefully.
I may not be able to cast a proper spell, Molly signed. But cushioning her is easy.
"Yeah well," Rory sighed in relief. "I'm an overprotective dad. She should have come on the plane with us."
"She's fine now," Mr. Dugan said walking up to the pair of them, a newspaper tucked under his left arm. "And that's all that matters. What time is sunset any-."
Cracks began appearing on the statue, and a moment later, Barghest was flesh and blood once more, and was happily licking Rory's face.
Mr. Dugan cleared his throat.
"Right," Rory said, fishing the emerald pendant out of his pocket and slipping it around Barghest's neck.
"Nothing happened," Rory said frowning.
Yes it did, Molly signed. Arthur's stupid wizard's glamour is fine. Three of us immune.
Molly waved her hand and Barghest flickered for a moment, revealing an Irish Wolfhound, and then she was normal again.
My glamour is better though, Molly signed.
"Now don't be jealous Molly," Rory said. "We've all got our luggage? Let's find our ride."
A young woman in her early 20s stood near baggage claim holding a sign that read Dugan Family.
"You're uh…" Rory approached her quietly. "Looking for me, I think?"
"Damn," she said, her French accent catching Rory off guard, she looked very surprised. "Arthur said you were Gawain's reincarnation, but…wow. The resemblance is uncanny."
"I ate the magic fish," Rory said. "But I still can't remember anything of Gawain's life at all. So…It's really just Cu Chullain's reincarnation."
Faith in the fish, Molly signed.
"She's right," the woman said. "Wisdom magic tends to…wait for the right moment. Clearly that's still yet to come."
"You speak ISL?" Mr. Dugan said.
"When you're as old as I am," she said. "It's hard to find any language you haven't tried your hand at learning. No pun intended."
"You're one of us then," Rory said. "I mean…one of the…"
"Queen Blanchefleur," she said. "Daughter of Pelles, and former Queen of the Castle Carbonek, at your service, Rory Dugan. Oui. I am one of you."
"I'm afraid I don't quite follow," Sean Dugan said.
"Immortal da," Rory said. "She's one of the immortals."
December 24th, Knight's Spur.
Snow was beginning to fall around them, truly setting the Christmas scene.
"Incindium," Merlin said. A giant fire roared to life in the center of the round table, in a bonfire pit that the donut-like table had laid on top of.
"Is everything ready for tomorrow night?" Arthur asked.
"Oh aye," Kelpie said, quietly adjusting several monitors on the side of the table opposite Arthur's seat at the Round Table.
Merlin waved his staff and a tarp on stilts went up and over the monitors, protecting them from the falling snow.
"You look nervous, Wart," Merlin said.
"I am nervous teacher," Arthur said. "The first time this happened, in old Camelot…we didn't do it intentionally, it was a bi-product of my kingdom…But now…"
"Your worries are not unfounded," Merlin said. "It is a fear I share as well. But this is Fleur's plan. She knows more about the Grail than any of us. I think we have a chance."
"And if we don't…" Arthur said.
"Then we try again next year," Merlin said. "A setback is not failure."
"Another year of the Illuminati Society manipulating the world. After the attempt on Sir Griff's life…"
"Sir Griff is a knight true," Merlin said. "As much as we annoy one another…I can say that even Lancelot himself pales in comparison to the gargoyle's honor. Just don't let him know I said that."
"Then you probably shouldn't have allowed Kelpie to record it," Arthur smirked.
Merlin spun around and looked at Kelpie.
"Yes," Kelpie said. "Wizard blackmail!"
Barghest ran back and forth in the snow, playing with the gargoyle hatchlings; who were having a snowball fight.
Rory and Sean were watching them from the Library windows with awe. Sean Dugan sat on an easy chair and both had warm cups of cocoa fresh from the Knight's Spur kitchen.
"Wow," Rory said. "In Cu's day, there were 16 clans in Ireland, but none of them were this big. I can't believe that they were living right outside London."
Molly chuckled from her own seat.
"I haven't seen our host," Sean said, opening the newspaper he bought at the airport.
"Fleur said he had some final preparations to make," Rory said. "I saw another set of human guests earlier, so I know we're not alone, but…This place is huge."
"Oh no…" Sean said. "Old man Ferguson passed away last Thursday."
"Why do I know that name?" Rory asked.
"Duncan Ferguson," Sean said. "Owned the Dalriadia Brewery. His will leaves it to Tara Ferguson. Tara was a classmate of yours, wasn't she?"
"Aye," Rory said. "Maths nerd. Always tried to get me to join the maths club. Sorta…fell in with Molly instead though."
Molly giggled quietly and signed something.
"Oh she did not have a crush on me," Rory said.
"Did she?" Sean asked Molly. Molly grinned and nodded vehemently.
"You're impossible," Rory rolled his eyes and glanced outside. Lunette and Falcor were scratching Barghest's belly, and she looked for all the world like the happiest beast who ever lived.
Barghest leapt up onto a pedestal between Lunette and Old Pog, as Rory, Fleur, Macbeth, Veronica, Sean and Molly watched the dawn break and the gargoyles turn to stone.
"Rest up," Fleur said. "Dinner's at half past sunset in the back."
"Isn't it supposed to still be snowing?" Sean asked.
Fleur gestured towards the wood behind the building and the humans all walked over to the other end of the estate roof. The roaring bonfire in the center of the round table ring could be seen from the roof. Rory squinted and could make out at least two gargoyles who'd turned to stone near the table.
"Enchanted flame," Fleur said. "Courtesy of the Wizard. It'll burn until he puts it out, and it will keep us toasty, I promise."
"Bhors here is our caterer," Fleur said, tapping on the stone boar-like gargoyle next to her. "With some help from his amazing kitchen staff, tonight is a feast you won't soon forget."
"I haven't seen the Pendragon since we arrived," Macbeth said. "It's…rather mysterious."
"I'm afraid that Arthur has been…unavoidably detained," Fleur admitted. "It wasn't uncommon back in Camelot either. Christmas and Easter were the big festival days, where important things happened. Arthur wants to be prepared for such things."
"Aye," Macbeth stroked his beard. "If I recall, the Grail Quest began on a Christmas Eve feast."
"Isn't that an interesting coincidence," Fleur said, smiling as she went down the steps into the inside of the manor.
December 24th, Sunset, Knight's Spur.
Arthur exited Griff's personal quarters, where he slept, dressed in full armor and cloak from when he went to sleep on Avalon. The Mantle of Arthur draped over his shoulders, it's invisibility enchantment only active when the hood was drawn.
He glanced over at Leo and Una's quarters, where Fleur spent her days, when she wasn't in her London flat.
None of the gargoyle hosts required beds, nor used their quarters during the day for obvious reasons, and so had loaned them out to Arthur and Fleur for their own sleep needs. New beds had been purchased for the other guests staying at Knight's Spur, and Liam had given up his quarters for Rory, Lunette and Nix had given up theirs for Molly, and Old Pog had given up his for Macbeth and Veronica.
Leo and Una's Quarters doors opened and Arthur's breath hitched for a moment. Fleur was dressed in a magnificent strapless silver gown. She wore her hair down, not in the usual braid, and on her head was a silver tiara with sapphires embedded into it.
"A vision of Loveliness, Queen Blanchefleur," Arthur said, composing himself.
Fleur flushed for a moment. "Thank you, your majesty. This is the very first dress I made for Sangral Fashions. It's…quite sentimental."
"It suits you well, Queen," Arthur replied. He offered her the crook of his left arm, and she took it, as they approached the stairwell.
"Pendragon," Macbeth said as he approached them from the opposite hall. "I was afraid I might not see you during this visit."
"Macbeth," Arthur bowed his head acknowledging the Scottish King. Macbeth returned the bowed head.
"I would introduce my companion, Miss Veronica Baird," Macbeth said.
"An honor milady," Arthur said, taking the hand of the red-haired woman on Macbeth's arm and kissing it. Fleur appraisingly looked at the slinky black dress that Veronica wore.
"A Sangral Dress," Fleur said. "Circa 1992. You have excellent taste dear."
"Thank you," Veronica admitted. "It's probably the most expensive thing I own. I bought for a dinner with…a very special occasion. I'm glad you approve. Yours is a Sangral dress too, right…one of the old designs. 1920s? And I saw that Tiara in their catalogue this year…and you're definitely wearing their perfume. I'm guessing you're also a fan."
"Mmm," Fleur said. "Sort of. I own the company."
"Ooookay," Veronica replied. "You mentioned the royalty, love. You did not mention the fashion royalty."
The two couples descended down the stairs where Rory, Molly, Barghest, and Sean stood waiting in the foyer.
"Well now I feel underdressed," Rory said. "I didn't realize that this was a black tie affair."
"It is a formal occasion," Arthur said. "Too be sure. In Camelot, the Christmas feast was a truly Holy day. Something always happened. The Green Knight. The Questing Beast."
"I didn't exactly pack," Rory started to say, when Molly snapped her fingers and she and the two Dugans were suddenly dressed in their suits, and Molly wore a stunning emerald green dress.
"Ah…Thanks Mol," Rory blushed. Molly simply looked at him smugly, and then took his arm in the same fashion that Fleur held Arthur's, and Veronica held Macbeth's. They exited the back of Knight's Spur following a path lit up by braziers leading out to a clearing in the woods.
The moment that they entered the clearing, warm air brushed up against them, coming from the fire at the center of the round table. Macbeth noticed that the clearing was about 50 paces from the river, and that there was a skiff tied up in the water.
Griff stood at attention beside the table and bowed as Arthur approached. Arthur released Fleur from his arm and pulled her seat out for her. Macbeth and Rory immediately did the same, noticing place cards resting on the table with their names on them.
Griff seated himself last, and the moment he was seated, Bhors, Liam, and several other kitchen gargoyles immediately began placing a variety of dishes on the table in front of them.
Veronica elbowed Macbeth and leaned over and whispered in his ear; "We're eating dinner at the Round table."
Macbeth almost chocked on his wine.
Arthur placed his fork beside his plate, and glanced over at Griff.
"It's time," he said.
Griff nodded and pointed at Kelpie, who was tinkering with the monitors on the far end of the table. She clicked several buttons on her LexPhone and the monitors lit up, revealing Goliath, Elisa, and Brooklyn on one, Lexington, Amp, and Matt Bluestone on another, and Robyn Canmore on the third.
"We're live," Kelpie said.
Arthur took a very deep breath.
"Thank you my friends, for those of you who have come to dine with me in person, and those who could not make it, but agreed to this meeting," Arthur said, nodding to the monitors.
"As some of you may have guessed, I did not merely request your presences for fellowship, though it was welcome," Arthur continued. "I believe that most of you have had encounters with the group known as…The Illuminati Society."
Matt gasped, but Goliath, Brooklyn, Elisa, and Robyn simply scowled.
"Heard of them," Macbeth said. "They approached me a few centuries back."
"I got nothing," Rory admitted.
"For those of you not in the know," Arthur said. "They are a cabal of Immortals who are attempting to control the world, from the shadows. They use unscrupulous means to achieve their goals and their numbers include assassins, thieves, and murderers. They are a fowl stench upon this world."
Arthur glanced at Fleur, who placed a hand on his reassuringly.
"They are also run, in secret, by Sir Peredur, the steward of Castle Carbonek and keeper of the Holy Grail. My former Knight."
"Holy crap," Matt whispered. "The…the rejuvenation drugs."
"Yes," Fleur confirmed. "I know you're a low tier member, Bluestone. The rejuvenation drugs are made from diluted Grail Water. There's a price for that sort of thing though. Using the Grail for unholy ends, means that there's a punishment inflicted. The Grail is Sapient. It's aware, and it punishes those who misuse it. In Duval's case…"
"Duval?" Brooklyn said. "As in…Valmont Duval? As in Brother Valmont?"
'He really does like that name," Fleur admitted. "But he's also gone by Valiant, Valerus, Duvar, Devon, Percidal…You get the idea."
"Son of a bitch!" Brooklyn swore. "Brother Valmont is Percival."
Goliath looked at his Second in surprise from the harsh language.
"The Dance right after Duval did this to me," Brooklyn said, tapping his eyepatch. "Sir Percival helped me recover from the fight, and even saved Katana, Fu-dog, and my lives from…something very nasty that tried to kill us. I never even realized that they were the same man…"
"They may as well not have been the same man," Fleur said bitterly. Arthur placed a comforting hand on Fleur's shoulder.
"The Holy Grail is the basis of the Illuminati Society's power," Arthur said. "It allows their senior members the benefit of Centuries."
"Tenzin Chung," Matt said. "AKA Genghis Khan."
"Among others," Fleur said. "You wouldn't like to see the full roster, Bluestone. It might make you sick to your stomach."
"I take it then," Robyn said. "That you have a plan?"
"I do," Arthur said. "I intend to take the Grail from them."
"How?" Macbeth said. "The legends say that Carbonek is a moving target, directed by the will of the Fisher King."
"That's not entirely accurate," Fleur said. "The Castle can be directed by the king, but…It goes where it's needed first and foremost. And it's drawn to acts of heroism and valor."
"Which brings us to all of you," Arthur said. "You are all heroes, guardians, protectors in your own rights. Your natural acts of Valor will draw the Castle towards you. I have asked you here, both to reaffirm your mission of valor, but also to share with you it's imperative nature. We must free the Holy Grail from the clutches of these evil men. We must break their stranglehold upon the world. This night I pledge to seek the Holy Grail, if it will accept the Quest. And I was hoping that each of you might join me."
"I also pledge to seek the Holy Grail," Griff said. "And will journey with my king."
"What exactly must we do for this Quest?" Goliath asked.
"That's the beautiful part, Goliath," Griff said. "Do what you do. Protect the innocent, defend the defenseless. Be the heroes that you already are."
"It is no coincidence that heroes are awakening all over the world," Arthur said. "A new age of heroes is beginning, and I cannot think of a better way to mark it, than by reclaiming the Grail from Evil."
"Then you have the full support of the Manhattan Clan, Pendragon," Goliath said.
"If it will hurt the Illuminati," Robyn said. "Then the Redemption Squad is in as well."
"Me too," Rory piped up.
"Aye," Macbeth smiled. "How can truly call myself a friend to King Arthur Pendragon, if I would not join the quest for the Grail?"
Arthur glanced over at Kelpie and Merlin.
"Thirty seconds to midnight," Merlin said.
"Sir Griff and I will be journeying to Avalon," Arthur said. "It's enchanted mists will take us where we are needed most."
"Very clever indeed, Your Majesty," Goliath replied.
The golden letters at Arthur and Griff's places began to glow.
"Midnight," Merlin said.
The table shimmered for a moment, and there was a flash of light.
A holographic image of a wooden bowl shimmered into existence above the Round Table.
"The Valorous Seek to Find me," The Grail's voice echoed. "I judge this a Noble Endevor. LET THE QUEST FOR THE HALLOWED GRAIL BEGIN!"
"It worked!" Fleur grinned excitedly.
"Oh that's a bloody relief," Griff breathed.
"We have the blessing of the Grail itself," Arthur said. "This Quest has truly begun."
December 25th, Castle Carbonek
"Duval!" Peredur Fab Ragnal yelled.
The Cyborg came running into the Grail Chamber. "What is it?" he demanded.
"The Grail is glowing. I've not seen that since…"
"The Valorous Seek to Find me," The Grail's voice suddenly declared. "I judge this a Noble Endevor. LET THE QUEST FOR THE HALLOWED GRAIL BEGIN!"
"No," Duval growled. "No, no, no, you stupid cup, you have a perfectly good Fisher King right here in Peredur."
"No Fisher King is meant to last forever, Valmont Duval," The Grail said, images began flashing in the water. A woman in a hajib fighting bandits with a scimitar, a woman digging in the desert dirt, a scientist working in a lab, a rabbi with a giant stone figure walking alongside him. "You should know that better than anyone. And I have not sensed the valorous actions of so many heroes since Camelot itself. I cannot deny the Grail Quest. Not when it demands itself."
Duval glared at the wooden bowl.
"I will personally see to it that any who would try and steal what is rightfully ours will meet a terrible end."
"We shall see, toaster face," The Grail said.
"Toaster Face," The stone of Destiny said. "Nice one."
"Whose idea was it to put those two in the same room together?" Duval asked.
"Yours," the Stone and the Grail replied in unison
December 24th Eyrie Building, NYC
"Should we inform the Illuminati that King Arthur plans to take the Grail from them?" Owen asked.
Xanatos steepled his fingers and considered for a moment.
"No, I don't think so, Owen," he replied. "There's every chance that they already know. Their information network is…remarkably well informed."
"And besides," Xanatos said. "This means the Grail's now in play, anyone can claim it. Time for us to start taking some…'Valorous Actions'."
"Of course sir," Owen said.
December 25th, Knight's Spur.
Merlin and Griff loaded the skiff with several bags and supplies that might be needed for the trip.
"Be careful, Arthur," Fleur said quietly.
"With you and Kelpie as our ground support?" Arthur asked. "I cannot think of better hands or talons to be in."
Griff glanced over at Merlin and cocked an eyebrow ridge. Merlin shrugged, and then Griff cleared his throat.
"We're all set here, your majesty," Griff said. "If you'd like to be alone with the Queen…"
"Your Majesty," Rory, Molly, and Barghest approached the skiff. Molly suddenly hung back.
"I would like," Rory said, "If I may, that is to say. I've been looking for…Training schemes for hero work. And…I can't think of a better person to learn them from than…well….you?"
"This is an official Quest, Rory," Arthur said. "Proper protocols must be observed to claim the Grail. Only Knighted Champions may travel with me. Even Merlin is only going as far as Avalon, to greet his father."
"Get permission to use the isle as a waystation and whatnot," Merlin said. "A token appearance at his silly Gathering should put him in the right mood. I am a bit surprised to see you're not on the island though, Bahn Sidhe."
Molly took a step back from the wizard and Rory smirked at her.
"I understand," Rory said. "I'll try to do my part in Ireland then…"
"Or," Griff said, sidling up next to Rory, he placed a talon on Rory's shoulder, Molly immediately followed suit and the two of them pushed Rory to his knees.
"With this Sword, and by my Hand," Arthur said. "I dub thee Sir Rory Dugan. The Reborn Knight."
"Here comes my favorite part," Fleur said glancing at the table. A golden flash suddenly appeared on the seat to the right side of Griff's seat.
Sir Rory Dugan
The Reborn Knight
"Well, Sir Rory," Griff said, to the slightly still dumbfounded Rory. "We'd best get a move on."
Rory spun around and grabbed Molly's hands.
"Take care of my da for me please," Rory said. She nodded. Rory turned towards the skiff, and then, on an impulse, spun around again and grabbed Molly and kissed her.
"Ah," Merlin said. "That's why she's not on Avalon."
Rory broke the kiss, and then whistled sharply. In an instant, Barghest was by his side.
"Let's not tarry anymore," Arthur said, climbing into the skiff. Merlin, Griff, Rory and Barghest piled in after him.
"Vocate venti fortunate,
Ex ricae Oberonis,
Et hic navis frugum regate,
Ad orae Avalonis."
To be continued…