In this story of Parzival, one of Arthur’s knights, I hoped to achieve a dark fantasy that honors the Lord.
“I will renew a tale that tells of great fidelity, of inborn womanhood and manly virtue…” Wolfram Von Eschenbach, Parzival
Parzival and the Hermit dug the Lady’s grave near the Hermit’s kitchen garden. Parzival noticed traps and snares settled against the hut wall, and birds in cages hung from the eaves: magpies, ravens, and crows.
“What are these, good Hermit?” he asked.
“I study God’s winged creatures,” the Hermit said. “Each has its ways and language, a native tongue in which they call out, converse, and woo. And I note the deceivers among them, those with the flesh of birds but souls of men; for they betray themselves by an ignorance of such languages and by suddenly crying out with the voice of a man or woman.”
Parzival stared, amazed. “There are many marvels in this world, man of God!”
They worked on. The sun sank low in the branches and at last the task was done. Parzival turned to leave but the Hermit persuaded him to stay the night.
“The Enchanter—who is a shape-changer—will come to see where she is buried,” the Hermit said as he set a snare between saplings that overshadowed the grave.
Parzival marveled at all the Hermit had told him but especially this, and the spark of anger still alive in him rekindled.
The two shared soup on the step of the hut, peering into the twilight and watching for the Enchanter, but he did not come. So Parzival attended to his horse, then with his sword still on, went inside to guard the grave from a chair by the window. Soon his eyelids grew as heavy as drooping pinions, and he slept.
He awoke with a start, his face wet with tears, to the sound of fluttering wings and raucous cries.
The Hermit put a hand on Parzival’s shoulder, and together they squinted into the darkness and saw a struggle in the shadows.
Lantern in hand, the Hermit ran out with Parzival. They found an aged raven caught splay-winged in the snare and fiercely clacking with its beak. But its cries were not those of any raven, so Parzival drew his sword to kill it, but the snare swayed and tossed, moving the raven beyond his reach.
The Hermit set his lantern down and with his knife clipped the ends of the snare, so that the raven was rolled up in it. “Behold!” he said holding their prize aloft. “It is wounded—but not from the snare. This puncture though seeping is a bit older.”
Parzival leaned closer to look. In his mind’s eye the bronze pin glinted in the Lady’s hand as she tried to fight off the Enchanter and injured him. . .
The raven glared at Parzival with wrath and shame as if guessing his thoughts, then croaked, “She is gone, gone forever…!”
Parzival gripped his sword like a dagger, but the Hermit held him back. “With nothing to staunch the wound, the raven will die.” And he tossed the raven within its snare into a cage hanging ready, then closed and latched its door.
After a fitful sleep, at first light, Parzival went out with the Hermit to see the great bird already grown stiff.
The Hermit said, “We shall burn it.”
So, they built a fire and destroyed the raven’s corpse, and the soul of the Enchanter, the great man in his great robe with its vile symbols, sprang forth from the fire with a shriek as unholy angels seized him.
Parzival stumbled back. The Hermit cried out to God. Fire fell from the heavens upon the small fire and burning corpse.
Parzival gnawed his knuckle. When he grew steadier, he said, “If only I hadn’t challenged him…”
“Each went to their place,” the Hermit said. “She to God in Heaven, he to the pit!”
Then, having seen yet another great thing under the sun, Parzival set out again on his quest. Rain fell as he rode his mount uphill along the slippery path toward the Castle and beyond. The Castle was shrouded in mist for it was in flames. He met many fleeing and saw the Lady’s Mistress, looking hideous from terror, and bareheaded and bald, being hurried along by her servants.
Noticing a little maid who had fled without her shoes, he rode her on his mount for a time then set her down at the gates of a City where she had cousins to take her in.
And so Parzival rode on. During his wild trek, he continued to wonder who the Lady might be, she who was buried in the wilds where she had suffered. People say he never found the Grail but came to know the things of Faith are certain – for Christ is true and faithful forever. He understood then the Lady was simply sleeping in the earth until Christ’s return, while the Enchanter and his works were burned to ashes.
And so, at last he gave his memories to God, and grew ever more eager to see his sweet Condwiramurs, his wife who was waiting at home.
END ~ FINIS