Author's Note: I do no claim Quest for Camelot or any characters contributing to the movie as my own, they are the property of Warner Bros. I make no profit from this story.
Quest for Camelot: The Hermit Chronicles
Chapter One: Ayden
The wind whipped every now and then across the open fields that lay beyond the stone walls and watery moat of the castle of Cam
The wind whipped every now and then across the open fields that lay beyond the stone walls and watery moat of the castle of Camelot. The quarried rocks shone brightly in the bright sunlight of midday and the numerous flags hanging from the battlements curled in the air. The sky was blue; no cloud was in sight save for a small wisp that moved quickly across the vast canvass. As beautiful as the landscape was, however, the young boy that walked hesitantly away from Camelot could not enjoy the picturesque view.
His line of direction was staggered and he often had to pause and turn his body slightly in another direction. His broad, calloused hands gripped a long, wooden staff as if life would end if he relinquished his hold on it. It was, after all, his most important possession. He timidly stuck the staff out in front of him, gingerly moving it back and forth before taking another few steps forward.
He did not know where he was going, nor did he care. As long as Camelot was directly behind him, everything would be fine – or at least he hoped it would be. His decision to leave his home within the safe walls of the castle had been spontaneous, but the stubborn boy was fixed on never returning. There was nothing there for him anymore, especially now that he would never see his closest friend again. Then again, it had been a long time since Garret had seen anything.
Garret had worked as a stable hand in the barns of Camelot. He had watched the more affluent boys his age prepare to take on the role of knighthood as they trained. Garret, however, could not afford to pursue his desire to join the ranks of King Arthur's knights at the Round Table – he had to work for his keep. Orphaned only a few years earlier at six, the stable manager, a friend of Garret's father, had generously taken the boy in. Life was challenging though, and Garret found himself desperately dreaming of something he had been told he could never have.
He had watched the pages enviously and adulated the knights themselves. They were the protectors of Camelot, of justice, liberty, truth, chivalry, honor, and valor. By simply watching them work with their horses, Garret had earned a myriad of light cuffs on the ears for his inattention to his stable duties.
One night, the older stable hands had been too busy flirting with a group of young women that they had neglected to take in the hay, which they had been asked to do two nights ago. It was still wet with the rain that had fallen over the countryside that morning, but was presumed to be dry enough at that point. It was not. Garret knew wet hay to be a danger to any barn, as it was highly flammable. Soon, a raging fire was consuming the stables.
Garret had rushed inward to salvage the knights' tack and save the horses he had grown to care for. As he sprinted down the aisles to let loose the horses in the furthest stalls, a wooden beam charring under the intense heat of the fire it was covered in crashed to the ground in front of him. The horses had taken fright and reared. Garret had been to close to the horses and, as he held his hands in front of his face to shield his eyes from the smoke and flames, he suddenly fell to the ground, clutching the font of his head in raw agony. His eyes burned, but his head throbbed from the impact of the horses' front hooves. He tried to open his eyes, but was only able to squint, seeing blurring shapes with colors overlapping and entwining to form hideous blobs. Moments later, Garret was unconscious and breathing raggedly.
Fortunately, several people who had seen the accident had pulled Garret from the stables' fiery clutches. His foster-family had cared for him, placing rags drenched in cool water on his eyes while he slept for days. This treatment, however, did not help Garret's vision or clear the torturous headache that plagued him even while unconscious and oblivious to the world.
He had awoken after a week of sleep. Unable to see more than faded colors and distorted shapes, Garret fumbled around, dazed and confused, wondering where he was and who was trying to calm him.
Days later, his world went black and the boy of almost thirteen years had been plunged into darkness.
The sudden loss of his most important physical faculty made Garret vulnerable and weaker than he had ever felt before. He had often wept over his condition, wondering why he had not just died the night of the fire. He cursed the very horses he loved for having blinded him, but knew that there was no true blame to place on anyone.
Everyone avoided the blind boy, no one wanted to befriend a person who couldn't even seem you, let alone see where he was going. Garret quickly tried to memorize the layout of the barn, sliding his hands along the wooden, charred walls to where he could easily find his way. Outside of his normal atmosphere, however, Garret was helpless.
One man took pity on the boy. He approached him one day, holding a wooden staff that he tossed to Garret after little warning. Garret quickly put up one hand to shield his face, but found that the man had aimed for the middle of his chest. Garret groped the staff, trying to hold it correctly and find the ends. They had been sanded down, almost as if this man had made this staff specifically for Garret. Indeed he had.
The man introduced himself as Sir Lionel, a Knight of the Round Table. He had observed Garret before the accident and had seen him take a keen interest in becoming a knight. Lionel had also watched the boy carefully after he had lost his vision. He called Garret's idea of memorizing his surroundings by feeling his way around remarkably clever for a boy of only thirteen. Garret had blushed shyly, but a smile spread across his face. He decided that he liked Sir Lionel; the man seemed trustworthy enough.
Sir Lionel began to teach Garret how to defend himself. At first, Garret struggled, sometimes becoming so frustrated that he would fling his staff to the ground as he tried to hold back tears from his expressionless eyes. He did not want to seem weak to Sir Lionel.
"Garret," the knight had one day told the boy, "even knights become frustrated sometimes. I myself had become too angry about something that I wanted to weep. This, however, is not the way we should act. We should strive for patience and be relentless in seeking to achieve our goals. We should never despair or lose hope. I have faith in you, Garret."
The knight had placed his hand on Garret's shoulder and had bent down to match the boy's average height. Although he could not see, Garret knew that his friend was looking him straight the eyes while addressing him. People avoided looking at Garret's eyes. Some even whispered that they looked soulless and haunted, an unfair description that had begun to bite at Garret's emotions, making him sarcastic and often bitter; however, he was never this way to Lionel.
Lionel's courtesy, friendship, and words inspired Garret. He picked up his staff from the cobblestone ground and assumed a defensive stance, waiting for the man to betray his own position. The opportunity came when the knight's boot scraped against the stones of the road, an almost inaudible sound. Garret's hearing had increased in attentiveness and reception to compensate for his loss of another sense. This one movement allowed Garret to 'visualize' a faint outline of where and how Sir Lionel was standing.
Before the knight's staff came upon Garret, the boy raised his own to counter the blow. He parried Lionel's attack and rallied with a sharp swish at the knight's feet. Sir Lionel, taken completely by surprise, had been swept off of his feet and had landed on the ground. He laughed loudly and stood up. Placing his hand on Garret's shoulder once more, Lionel said words that Garret would remember for the rest of his life: "I am proud of you Garret."
The knight unsheathed his sword in an official, professional manner and Garret stood tall with his staff at his side.
"United we stand," started Lionel, beginning the mantra of the Knights of the Round Table.
"Now and forever," the two friends finished solemnly.
The mere thought of Sir Lionel was enough to make the boy's eyes mist with hot tears. The traitor Sir Ruber had killed the knight in an attempt to murder the king and take over the kingdom when Garret was fifteen. The boy had been inconsolable with grief for days, refusing to leave his room even to open the shutters on the windows for sunlight. His only friend was gone... lost... dead.
Garret shook the memory from his mind where is would plague him for the rest of the day if he did not shove it aside. Garret did not cope well with grief, though he rarely lost his head for anything. His temper was normally even, and he was beginning to mellow even more as he grew older. It had been a short two weeks since the death of Lionel, but nothing would ever extinguish the pain of Garret's loss.
As he continued walking at his slow, laborious pace, Garret found himself suddenly in a slight climate change. The temperature of the air in front of him had dropped significantly and he could not feel the sun on his sandy colored hair – at least, he still believed it was the same color it had been more than three years ago. Garret deduced that he was in front of an area possessing a periphery of trees. Garret held his wooden staff in one hand and used the other to press against the closest tree. It was very thick and most likely massive as well.
A thought entered Garret's mind. There was only one forest in the vicinity of Camelot: The Forbidden Forest. This had to be it. Garret stood his ground, but felt as if the trees had suddenly transformed into monstrous teeth, part of the hideous mouth the of the forest that threatened to consume him if he dared to venture it, especially alone.
Garret had heard stories all throughout his childhood about the mysterious forest. It was rumored to be a place of untold danger, holding peril so great that even the bravest men dared not even to think of entering.
Garret considered these thoughts, standing absolutely still, silently weighing the options. There was no turning back, he silently decided, only walking forward. His pre-blindness knowledge informed him by flashing the memory of the forest's length as he stood on the tops of the walls of Camelot. It had stretched for miles, ominously looming over the countryside. Most people, including knights, would shy away from it, vouching for a different route to and from the castle. No one could blame them though.
Garret had once listened to a villager tell stories about the forest. He embellished his already wild accusations by saying he had seen flying plants, moving trees, ravenous rocks, and even streams that would suck one under intentionally. At first entranced by these stories, the effects soon wore off. Everyone knew and agreed that plants could not fly and trees, rocks and streams were not personified in reality.
This reassurance, however, did not empower Garret as he took a hesitant step forward. 'It's just a forest,' he silently told his nervous mind, 'nothing could go wro-'
The boy's thoughts were broken by an inhuman screech, high-pitched and menacing. Something cut through the air in front of Garret like a whetted knife, brushing against his chest and making the boy fall backwards in surprise. His grasped his staff in both hands as he stood up. "Who's there?" he asked, hoping that an answer would help him pinpoint his attacker's exact position.
The only reply was three tiny chirps to Garret's right side. His opponent was small, Garret could tell so much from the sound. It was most likely a bird of some type as well. Reaching into his vast memory, Garret was able to decipher the bird's cry and place it with that of a small falcon.
"Two steps into the Forbidden Forest and I'm already being attacked by birds." Garret stated incredulously. The falcon chirped again ruffling its wings, or so Garret assumed from the sound produced. A sudden flapping sound and the feeling of wind rushing around him informed Garret that the falcon had taken flight and was encircling him at a rapid speed.
"Hey," Garret growled. "Knock it off, you silly bird." Garret stuck out his staff in the random hope of stopping the bird's movements. Moments later, the staff gained a small amount of weight on the side Garret had bayoneted out. The falcon had landed on Garret's staff and was discreetly shuffling its way closer to Garret.
The boy shook the staff lightly, trying to scare the bird into flight. "Get off my staff," he demanded gruffly. The falcon, much to Garret's dismay, was persistent. As he continued to move skillfully down the wood, Garret could hear the faint scratch the bird's talons made when his diminutive feet followed each other as if the falcon were dancing.
Garret stopped shaking his staff in pity of the bird. The flacon finally reached Garret's shoulder and settled himself (or herself; Garret did not know) on the boy's strong, broad right shoulder. He (Garret settled on referring to this bird as a male for now) chirped again, almost as if reassuring Garret of his presence.
Garret shook his head. "I really don't need a pet, you know." Garret felt the falcon toss its head indignantly, but then use it to nuzzle the boy's jaw.
"Wait," Garret said, furrowing his eyebrows in vexation. "Can you... understand me?" It was unlikely that this creature could decipher human speech, but Garret had known horses that responded to the human voice. Who knew? Maybe birds of prey possessed the same faculties. Falcons were rumored to be highly intelligent birds as well.
The falcon chirped. "Am I free to interpret that as a yes then?" Garret inquired. Another chirp.
'I'm going crazy,' Garret thought, placing his hand on his hand as he began to process this information. It seemed as if the falcon wanted to come with him. The only question was why.
"You want to come with me?" he skeptically asked the bird, raising an eyebrow. Two very enthusiastic chirps and a wing flap.
Garret relaxed and laughed. "Alright then," he agreed, "it's settled. You'll come with me. I guess I could do with some company."
The falcon nuzzled Garret again before taking flight.
"Where are you going, bird?" Garret asked, secretly hoping that his new 'friend' had not decided to leave him. As the word 'bird' left his mouth, however, Garret realized how pathetic it sounded. He felt a oscillating breeze in front of him and heard the rhythmic flap of feathers only feet away from his eye level.
"Well, I'm glad that I can find you," Garret admitted, relieved that the bird had decided to stay, "but I think you'll need a proper name."
The falcon chirped once more in agreement. Garret pondered names, turning each one he thought of over in his head.
"Why don't you tell me which one you like," he said to the bird before beginning a list of titles. "Aaron."
There was silence as the falcon once again settled on Garret's shoulder. Garret thought he felt his friend shake his head. "That's a no then? I will have to remember that. How about Leon?"
More silence and more head shaking.
The bird ruffled its feathers indignantly.
"So you are a male," Garret concluded with a small laugh at the falcon's reaction.
An affirmative chirp along with was seemed like an impatient stomp of his foot.
"Mulciber? Darcy? Roan? Ayden –"
The falcon exploded in a series of euphoric chirps.
"You like Ayden?" Garret asked the bird, turning his head to his friend although he could not see him.
Garret smiled. "Ayden it is."
Author's Note: Reviews are greatly appreciated. The next chapter will be up shortly.