Sir Mador Seeks the Grail


Sir Mador Seeks the Grail

From A Novel in Progress by David Gareth.

(Copyright © 1987 by the author and used here with his permission.)

(Originally published in The Round Table vol. 4 [1987])


Of those of us who set out on the quest the most zealous was Sir Mador. We all speculated about the vision that had started it. Some of our number hoped that it was a sign from God but weren't sure. I myself wanted it to be so badly that I had to maintain a degree of skepticism, even while in my heart I believed it was. Because if it was then there was the chance that in this world the perfection that the Grail symbolized could be achieved. So I had to try to find the Grail and I had to reserve final judgment about what the vision meant.

But Mador never had a doubt. He was certain from the first that the Holy Grail had appeared in the great hall and that its appearance was a sign from God that we were to change the emphasis of our brotherhood.

Then, you might well ask, why did I, who was more dedicated to Arthur's ideal than any other of his knights and who put more faith and trust in the brotherhood that we had sworn to foster, finally seek to encounter Sir Mador on my quest so that I might kill him. I know this sounds like sacrilege; for even if I was unsure of exactly what had appeared to the assembled knights, I knew that something had happened that required dedication, if not devotion, to the highest principles.

The irony is that Mador knew that better than any of us. Even before the vision, he had been perhaps the most devout, certainly the strictest, opponent of what he called "wicked ways." He railed against the frivolities and flirtations that most of us found harmless diversions. It was Mador's belief that our time could be better spent in prayer and self-denial. Even on feast days, when Arthur provided sumptuous meals for his court, Mador would eat a peasant's gruel. The peasants themselves ate better on these days because Arthur always shared the joy of such occasions by distributing food bountifully throughout the countryside. Mador alone refused to share in the plenty. Once when Sir Kay had encouraged him to relent a little from the strict regimen he followed by suggesting that God would not have provided such blessings if he did not wish us to enjoy them, Mador responded that no one could say whether they came from God or the devil and that even if they did come from God, they came as a temptation no less than if they came from Satan.

I have always remembered that response--in part because it was said with the bitter, angry smugness that made Mador's company so unpleasant. In his presence, I always felt that I must be on guard, watch every word and every action. Not that I accepted all of his judgments, but the sense of superiority which radiated from him at such times was as hard for me to endure as watching a friend being defeated in battle and being unable to come to his aid. I remember that response for another reason too. At the same time that I was annoyed by his smugness, I was moved by his plight. He lived in such a joyless world that I pitied him. Of course, he said his joy was in doing the will of God. But for him, reward was always in the future. Unlike Mador, I don't pretend to know the will of God; but I have always believed that no being worthy of love and worship could put into the world such things as the fruits of the earth or the color and calm of a spring day or the beauty of a woman and not want us to enjoy them.

It might be said--perhaps some of you are thinking it now--that this attitude was my downfall, that my actions proved Mador was correct. But it's not as simple as that. I never did find the cup that Mador sought, the one that had been held by Christ himself. That doesn't mean, though, that I found nothing in my years of questing. But what I found is another story--or another part of the story. I will get to that soon, but here I am telling what happened to Mador to make me want to kill him.

I must admit that I never liked Sir Mador, but I respected him as a man of conviction and as a knight of the Round Table. Never did I wish him any harm--until the quest.

Though some of us had our doubts, Mador was sure from the start that he was seeking Christ's chalice, which was, after all, what he had seen on that wondrous day. It is a curious thing about the vision that, while everyone agreed to having seen something of surpassing beauty, no two accounts of the vision coincided; and yet no one--except Mador--would deny that what another had seen was what appeared, or at least a part of what appeared.

When Mador told of the vision, it was clear that all he saw was the cup of Christ, the cup used at the Last Supper. He even described the hands of Christ that held the chalice. Yes, he saw those hands. Not Christ in all his glory, but just the hands holding the cup.

I will try to render his account faithfully. It's important that you see this vision through his eyes, as I have. He described it to me over and over again; and each time the description was the same. This was not the case with what some of the other knights said they saw. Some accounts changed with each telling. But Mador's never varied. All that changed was the intensity with which he spoke of the vision. That increased with each telling, increased in such a way that it was clear he thought of nothing else almost every moment of the day--and the night, for he slept little after seeing the vision. He was too consumed with it to rest or to let his mind stray to any other object.

What he saw passing through the hall was a simple chalice. It was unadorned: no jewels or carvings of any kind appeared on its surface. It was golden in color, but Mador was convinced that it was not made of gold because that would suggest a concern with earthly riches. As he told it, he knew as he looked at the cup that the color was only a sign of the true worth, which was to be found in what it contained, the blood of Christ. The gold, he said, made the blood more apparent.

It was not only in the cup that he saw blood. Blood streamed from the hands that held it, hands that had been pierced by nails and were contorted in agony even as they held the sacred vessel. The fingers were rough and calloused. A carpenter's hands, Mador pointed out. The callouses showed that they had lived through the harshness of human life and the blood proved that the owner of those hands had suffered not only in life but in death as well.

Suffering and hardship were what Mador saw in the vision. And so his view of the world and the way to happiness was confirmed for him. He was more convinced than ever that denial was the way to salvation. Then, with righteous smugness, he warned us all that we had best purify ourselves. Better not to set out on the quest at all than to set out with tainted intentions, he told us.

Some of the knights went to him, thinking that he had a special knowledge that had been denied the rest of us; and many of us, myself included, followed his example in fasting and praying and denying ourselves those things that we found most pleasurable. This in spite of the fact that his vision was not that of the other knights. No one else had seen such a bloody sight. That blood haunted him and became the focus of his search. But it was not even a part of what some others had observed.

My friend Gawain, for example, also saw what he called the cup of Christ; but it was a very different vision. The cup he saw was golden, and he had no doubt that it was real gold. Incised on it was the image of a star, which he was sure was the star of Bethlehem and which made him think of the joy of Christmas celebrations. Around the base of the cup there was a ring of rubies.

Of course, Mador attributed these discrepancies to a deficiency in Gawain's character. He accused my friend of being too worldly. But what made Mador truly furious was that Gawain had not seen the bruised and bloody hands that Mador had. As Gawain saw it, the cup was carried by a beautiful woman. Her hands were so smooth that he could almost feel their softness as he looked at them. She wore a diaphanous robe--a detail that Mador called blasphemous--and there radiated from her or from the cup or from both a light that was bright without being harsh or blinding. Gawain admitted to me, though not to Mador, that the woman and indeed the entire scene filled him with a pleasure that he could only describe as sexual but which he insisted was not lustful.

Others saw very different visions that day when what for want of a better term I must call the Grail appeared in Arthur's court; but those too are another part of the story. I tell you of Gawain's vision here just to show how differently the event had been viewed. I can only report what others have said, since I was not at Camelot that day. When I returned and heard of the wonder, I went to each of those who had been there and asked what he had witnessed. That the accounts were so different seemed to me to be part of the miracle that had occurred. But Mador did not see it that way. He was so sure of what he had witnessed that there was no other truth. When Gawain and the others told their versions, many of us would ask questions, hoping to draw out each detail, and then try to understand why the accounts were so different. But after hearing two or three of the accounts the first time, Mador refused to hear any more. He declaimed against false visions and condemned anyone who professed to have seen something other than the cup of blood in the rough, wounded hands.

It was not long before some of the knights had changed their stories. It saddened me then and does so even more now as I think of what resulted from Mador's vision that knights of the Round Table should have so little character as to be swayed from what they believed by the bullying words of Sir Mador. But that is what happened to some of them. Not to the best of our brotherhood--men like Gawain and Percival were not swayed by Mador. But others were.

Mordred was the first to swear that what he had actually seen was just what Mador described. To this day, I am not sure why he did. Perhaps it was because he was embarrassed to have seen so little. What he first told Gawain--never would he confide in me--was that he had seen only a bright and blinding light, which filled him with terror rather than the joy or peace or awe that most of the other knights felt. Perhaps he had another reason too. Their ardor created a bond between him and Mador that surpassed even the loyalty that Mador felt to the King. Mordred used that ardor to convert others. He seemed to enjoy the power that rigidity gave him. As he convinced others of the absolute truth of Mador's version, he formed a coterie of believers. In the end there were a dozen of them---some of us called them the Apostles--and Mordred directed their actions and even their thoughts. He could control them merely by suggesting that something they did or intended to do was not true to the spirit of the vision.

I had reasons to distrust Mordred before the quest began, but I never realized the extent of his lust for power until I saw the delight with which he manipulated the Apostles. I didn't know at the time how dangerous the power base that Mordred formed then would be. If I had known, I would have hated Mador more for helping him to form it. But even then I resented Mador because he had caused otherwise good knights to be false to themselves.

If that were all he did, I would not have liked it, but I wouldn't have despised him as I came to. It wasn't only turning a dozen men who should have known better from the truth as they knew it. After all, they were as much to blame for their behavior as Mador was. No, there's more to it than that.

As we prepared for the quest, anticipation spread throughout Camelot. No one who had ever met him doubted that Arthur was a great man and a great king. Some of us felt that the achieving of the Grail was something that was destined to happen during his reign. Each knight hoped that he would be the one to bring such glory to Camelot--even those of us who had only the vaguest idea of what the Grail was. But everyone was caught up in the excitement, not just the knights. Armorers hoped that the knight they had outfitted would be the first to achieve the Grail, that the gauntlet they had made would be the first to touch it. Blacksmiths hoped that the horses they shod would carry the knight who achieved the Grail. Even cooks and kitchen helpers hoped that the knight for whom they prepared provisions would be the chosen one.

While almost all of Camelot was drawn together by a sense of purpose, Mador remained aloof. I and the other knights--even the Apostles--oversaw the care of our horses, the sharpening of our swords and the burnishing of our armor, but Mador left all of that to his squire. He would not consider worldly matters. "The holy blood is my concern," he would say and then retreat to a chapel to pray and ponder his vision.

When all the preparations had been made and we were ready to set out on the quest, we gathered together before Arthur. I noticed that Mador had a new device on his shield. It was a cup of blood held by wounded, bleeding hands. His identity now lay in the quest or rather in the vision he had had.

As Arthur gave us his blessing, he reminded us that we were still knights of the Round Table and that the defense of the people of the realm was still our obligation. He told us to right whatever wrongs we might discover in our wanderings. In the middle of the King's words, Mador turned and left the hall where we were assembled. It was clear that he was indicating his intention to show allegiance only to his vision and not to any earthly king or concern. However sincere we were about undertaking the quest, some of us were incensed by this affront to our king. Gawain was the first to react. He turned to follow Mador, intending, I am sure, to drag him back before the King and force an apology from him. The Apostles, however, formed a phalanx before him; and for a moment it seemed as if a fight would ensue. But Arthur calmed the situation by saying to Gawain, "dear nephew, would you leave too before I give my blessing. I know you're as anxious as Mador to depart, but spare a moment more for your uncle." His smile showed that he appreciated Gawain's loyalty but wished nothing to mar the beginning of the holy quest. Gawain understood and turned his attention back to the King, but not without a scowl towards the Apostles and a look of disappointment as his gaze fell on his half brother Mordred.

We set out from Camelot, each of us going his own way, trusting to the power of the Grail to lead us if we were meant to find it. I travelled to the west, at first sharing the road with other knights; but as roads forked and divided, I found myself alone. For weeks I rode, hardly knowing why I went one way rather than another. Sometimes I followed a path because I had seen a deer running that way or heard a bird calling in the distance. There was no map to follow, no guide to lead; and so I followed nature's beauties where they led me. Sometimes I found myself at the same place I had been days before, but this never disturbed me. Time seemed unimportant. And who knew by what route the Grail would be reached?

For days I would encounter no one and for weeks I would have no news of any of the other knights of the quest. But occasionally I would come to a village or to a peasant's hut. Occasionally too I would meet with one of my fellow knights and exchange news of our questing. If I tell of adventures and wonders, do not think that the quest was always exciting. Most of the time it was boring. Many of our number abandoned it from boredom, the boredom that comes from expecting something extraordinary and thus being aware of every moment that is routine. I have heard it said by some that faith is the virtue most important to the seeker of the Grail, by others that it is hope or charity or chastity. But they are all wrong. Patience is needed most and it is hardest to cultivate, especially for those of us who thrive on action.

In all the years of questing by so many knights, there were really very few adventures and wonders. Remember that when you try to understand those of us who undertook the quest--especially Mador.

When I first had news of one of the questers, I could hardly believe what I heard. I might not have if I hadn't heard it in a way that made it impossible not to and from people who had nothing to gain by lying. As I rode into a small village, intending to ask for a meal and shelter for the night, the women of the village ran for the woods and the men ranged themselves before me with pitchforks and hoes brandished hostilely.

I raised my hand in greeting and told them that I had come in peace from Arthur's court and requested their hospitality for a knight who sought the Grail. Always before, the mention of the holy quest would move the people of the countryside to deference and sometimes to awe. But here that was not the case. It seemed to make them more determined to prevent me from entering their village. They knew, as I did, that an armed knight could easily have slain all the men of the village; but such intimidation was rarely the reason that knights of the Round Table were well received by the people. We had gained a reputation for trying to bring justice to the realm and for defending the weak against those more powerful who would take advantage of them. So I was doubly surprised when they respected neither my position nor my quest and were willing to risk their lives to deny me access to their homes.

It took some doing to convince them that they should allow me to dismount and talk to them. And it was some time into our conversation before they felt safe enough to lay down their weapons and speak frankly about what led them to such extreme action. The story I heard from them made their suspicion of me seem more than justified.

They told me of another knight who had come to their village some weeks earlier. They greeted him warmly and offered him probably a greater hospitality than they, with their modest means, could afford. Since King Arthur had brought peace to their region, they saw the arrival of a knight as a cause for festivity. He was, after all, a sign of the stability that the King had brought to their simple lives. On the few other occasions when they entertained a knight errant, he would welcome the mead and hearty foods the villagers offered, which, however simple, were a pleasing change from the travel rations he consumed when no shelter was to be found.

But this knight was different. He would accept only brown bread and water. At first the villagers thought he did not wish to deplete their stores or to take food away from people who were so poor. When they urged him to eat and told him that they had enough to share with one of Arthur's knights and were happy to do so, he still refused. When one of their leaders said to the knight that they would be honored if he ate with them, he actually meant that they would be insulted if he would not accept their offer. But the knight was unmoved. He sat for a moment without answering and then, as the villagers told it, he glared at their leader with eyes that seemed possessed.

"I am a knight on quest for the Holy Grail," he said. "Do not tempt me from my path. The things of this world can only distract me from the higher glory I seek. You would have me befoul my body with those things in which you find pleasure. Those things are put before me by the devil. But I will be strong; and I will not let you entice me anymore. As long as I am here, you and your people will abstain with me from these temptations."

The people didn't understand what he meant by this but thought it best to leave him alone to do what penance he thought he must. Their leader directed them away from the knight and towards the meal they had prepared. When their strange guest saw them approach the food, he drew his sword and ran to the tables that had been set up. He was shouting "You will not befoul my quest" and ranting about the denial of bodily pleasures. With his blade, he scattered the food onto the ground and stove in the side of a cask of mead and let it flow into the dry earth.

A boy of seven years picked up a meat pie and would have made off with it, but the knight saw him and struck him on the side of his face with his gauntleted hand. The boy dropped the pie and reached for his bruised face. His hand felt the moist warmth of blood. A woman, the boy's mother, rushed to his side and started to wipe the bloody face with her apron. The knight grabbed her and thrust her away with such force that she broke her arm as she fell. "Don't remove the blood," the knight said. "It is a sign that I am following the true path. I must watch its flow. It will tell me where I must go next."

The men of the village were enraged and would have attempted to overpower him, but the stranger kept his sword in his hand and glanced from the blood occasionally to make sure that no one came near to aid the terrified child. After staring as if obsessed with the blood for more than half an hour, the knight turned and, without a word to the villagers or even to the injured child, he mounted his horse and rode off to the west.

If the actions and the ardor of the villagers had not been so convincing, I might have had trouble believing that one of our number had so disgraced the Round Table. But there was no doubting what they recounted with such indignation. I asked them if this knight had told them his name. He had wasted no time on such courtesies, but they could describe the device on his shield: a golden cup filled with red blood and held by bloody hands.

It was clear to me that Mador's dedication had crossed into the unhealthy realm of obsession and that he had let the holy quest lead him into the most wicked deeds. I recalled Arthur's reminder that we were still knights of the Round Table who were sworn to protect the people of Britain. Now I was torn. Should I continue on my quest or should I try to find Mador before he did even more terrible things in the name of his vision? Since I was unsure of what direction would lead me to the Grail, I might easily follow him without abandoning the quest. But if I caught up with him, what would I do? Could I persuade him that he was in error? Impossible. He was convinced of his own infallibility. Such a person has no desire and, in his own mind, no need to listen to reason. Certain of his own righteousness, he is a danger not only to true righteousness but to anyone whose vision is different from his. Would I then fight with him so that I might force him to return to Camelot? To fight with a brother knight and a companion of the quest would surely mean the end of my chances of achieving the Grail.

Finally, I decided that I must follow him, hoping that what had happened was an aberration that would not be repeated but in my heart believing that it was not and that I might be forced to fight him to prevent him from doing more harm to the innocent folk of the realm. But before setting out in pursuit, I spent the night with the people of the village, shared their food--what little was left after Mador had ruined what they had offered to him--and swore to them that the King would right the wrong done to them.

My fears about Mador were truer than my hopes; and the truth was worse than my fears. Following the road that Mador had taken from the village, I arrived in a few days at the town of Langport. My inquiries at the inn revealed that Mador had been there for a couple of days, long enough for him to bring a deep division to the townspeople. Mador had begun telling of his quest to some of the holiest people of the town. Some of them saw him as a saint and a few of them had begun imitating his ardor. Now there was a small group who rejected the local priest because he was not sympathetic to Mador's vision. This group began to attack the priest as too worldly and even to call for his blood as the only way to atone for his loose morality. The supporters of the priest pointed out that he had done more to help the poor than anyone in their memory. They were willing to overlook his nightly visits to a woman who lived on the outskirts of town.

None of those in the inn knew exactly what distinguished the new doctrine inspired by Mador's vision from that which they had accepted all their lives--except that it was much more rigid and that Mador spoke a lot about blood. There were hints of ritual mutilations but some of the stories were so clearly exaggerated rumors that no one knew for certain what happened among the faithful.

The little sleep I had that night was disturbed by dreams: I saw myself resting beside a river. Water has always been a comfort to me since I was raised in the watery realm of my fostermother, Vivian, known as the Lady of the Lake. She had taught me not to fear water, told me that water would never harm me. That made my vision even more disturbing. In the dream, I rose to wash myself in the cleansing water. I walked into the flow, cupped my hands, and doused myself. But it wasn't cool; it burned. I looked at my hands and saw they were red, then at the river and saw that it was a river of blood. On the shore I saw Mador preaching, then picking up a child as if to baptize him but instead slitting his throat and letting the blood run into the river. He did this again and again until the river rose over my head and I began to drown in the innocent blood.

In my waking moments, as I followed the trail of blood and insanity that Mador left, I was troubled by something in addition to the cruelty so at odds with the ideals of the Round Table. I had encountered wickedness before. Sometimes it had been far worse than that perpetrated by Mador. But it had been done by men whom I could easily categorize and condemn as evil, often by men who themselves professed to make evil their goal. I could dismiss them as perversions, aberrations--perhaps even as challenges or signs sent by God or the gods so that we might better know and deserve the good.

Mador, however, fell into a different category. He was a man who sought the good with all his heart and soul. If I were to meet him and tell him of the horror with which I viewed his actions, he would be convinced that I had too little faith and too little vision to understand him. He would consider me a threat to the good which he pursued. He would probably tell me that since I wasn't in the hall when the Grail appeared, I couldn't know what the truth was or what the quest demanded.

In my mind, there was the gnawing doubt that he may have been correct, that I might not know what the quest demanded. But I knew, with a certainty which matched his own, that it could not demand the shedding of innocent blood or any willful and capricious increase in the suffering people had to endure.

This was the beginning of a doubt which was to grow almost to despair before the end of my quest. If we could both be so sure of what was right and wrong, how could there be any hope for the world? I knew I must follow my conscience, but mustn't he as well? And if we both did, mustn't good always be counterbalanced by evil? What hope then was there that the world could ever improve appreciably?

These thoughts plagued me as I rode alone through the countryside. When at last, I saw a village in the distance, I was grateful that I would have some human companionship to help dispel the gloom that had settled over me. I had often found the simple common sense of some of the people of the realm a balm to the troubled soul and never had I felt more need for it than now.

I spurred my horse and raced towards the village. The wind in my face, the green grass beneath me, the power of my mount as he effortlessly traversed the distance between me and my goal--all these reminded me of my childhood lessons in horsemanship, the thrill of the union between man and beast, the closeness to nature, the sense of power and control. The last of these was especially comforting at a time when I felt so helpless. Unable to extend Arthur's ideals even to one of his own knights, apparently unable to bring myself any closer to the Grail, unable even to blot from my mind the memory of the woman whom I loved and yet the loving of whom was a betrayal of my king, my quest, nothing seemed to be under control except the horse that responded to my commands, almost to my thoughts.

For a short time, I was free from these cares and contradictions, free from the dilemma presented by Mador's actions and from that presented by my own. But only for a short time. When I reached the village, reality and its complexities rushed at me faster than the wind had as I rode. Men and women came out of their huts and began telling me a chilling tale. Two other knights had been there before me. The first had come the day before, just as the villagers were taking their midday meal. From their description of his arms and his manner, I knew him to be Sir Mador.

Mador told the villagers of his quest. They had been enthralled by his ardor, which seemed as if it could only come from a true devotion to God. He spoke of God's suffering and of the hardships of the world which must be endured in order to achieve the only reward that truly mattered, the spiritual reward that comes to those willing to sacrifice all for their vision. This world, the life of this world, the things of this world--none of these was important, he told them.

For these poor people battling the elements in order to achieve a meager existence, the message was appealing, almost comforting. He seemed to them a prophet sent to assure them that there was some purpose to the struggle of life. So when he asked for their help, they told him he could have whatever he needed to speed his quest.

One of the men recounted Mador's reply to the generous offer: "The innocent blood appeared to me, and now I seek the cup that contains the innocent blood. I have followed my quest to this village. Now I need a sign to show me the way. I need to see where the innocent blood flows."

"We didn't know what he meant," another said. "It seemed as if the voice of God spoke through him. We thought ourselves blessed that this holy man had come to us for a sign. There is almost nothing we would not have done for him."

The rest of the story, too terrible for one person to recount, came from the collective voice of the village. One person spoke; another took up where he or she left off; another filled in details left out--until finally the whole story was told. The help Mador wanted from the village seemed simple enough. He singled out a girl on the verge of womanhood. He wanted to take her into the fields, away from even the simple material possessions of the villagers. "I will let her pray," Mador had said, "and then from her I will learn the way to the innocent blood."

The girl's parents were proud that the holy man had chosen her as his guide to the Grail. They told her to mind the holy man and do exactly as he said. He ordered the girl to follow him. His tone seemed unexpectedly cold and harsh, but at the time everyone attributed this to his singlemindedness. No time for courtesies when about God's business, one of the villagers remembered thinking. Leading his horse--something which seemed strange to the villagers, but only in retrospect; at the time, if they noticed it at all, it was only to consider how inseparable a knight and his horse were--he took the girl far out into one of the fields. .

The villagers watched as the knight directed the girl to kneel and pray. He removed his sword from his scabbard and held it by its blade so that it formed a cross over her. The parents and some of the other villagers wondered if the Grail might materialize right there before their eyes, so holy did the scene appear.

After a moment, Mador lowered his sword, then took it by the handle, drew his arm back and swung forward with all the strength his obsession gave him. The villagers watched, shocked, uncomprehending at first. A scream from the girl's mother convinced them that they had actually seen what they couldn't believe they had. The sword had moved swiftly through the young girl's neck. Her decapitated body remained kneeling for a few seconds, hands still clasped in prayer, before it fell to the earth.

While the horrified villagers, led by the girl's parents, ran shouting in pain and anger and grief towards the girl, Mador calmly mounted his horse and rode off. Only later when they pried the mother's hands from her daughter's body did one of them notice that Mador had ridden in the direction the blood flowed as it spurted from the innocent neck.

That evening as they watched over the girl's body, a second knight had entered the village. He heard the tale and instead of accepting the hospitality that he had come to request, he rode off in the direction taken by Mador.

When they finished their story, I vowed to join this other knight in pursuing Mador and "bringing him to justice." That was the phrase I used; but as I looked at the pain in the faces of the villagers, I resolved that I would kill Mador. Such unequivocal cruelty seemed to me to deserve no other treatment. I could not even justify my actions or dignify his by calling it an execution or a slaying. I wanted to kill him, nothing more. True, I wanted to avenge the death of the innocent girl. But I also wanted to remove from existence this threat to all my hope and faith that with the right values and ideals and the right leader there could be a better world. Mador, who had been treated more than fairly by Arthur and who had more advantages and--I must admit--more talent than most people, seemed to deny even the possibility of improving the lot of men.

If I rode into the village with a sense of calm and control, I rode out in a wild fury. My mind no longer dwelled on the simplicity of childhood or the comfort of companionship. I thought only of finding and killing Mador. I knew such an act would mean the end of my quest. I couldn't kill a brother knight--and kill him in anger--and still seek the holy Grail. But that didn't matter at the time.

I rode for most of that night, only stopping to give my horse enough rest to go on and myself enough to deal with Mador when I caught him.

The next day my fury persisted. Several hours after daybreak, I saw a knight in the distance. My heart was pounding with excitement that it might be Mador; but he was riding towards me, which made it unlikely. When I was close enough to see the device on the shield, I recognized the knight as Sir Bedivere. I spurred my horse, and as soon as I had reached him I began asking if he had seen Mador. He was not puzzled by my failure to greet a friend or my strange question.

"Yes, I have seen him," he replied. "You can rest easy now. He is dead." Bedivere explained how he had arrived at the village shortly after Mador had slain the girl and had tracked him down and punished him for the deed. "And now," he said, "I must return to Camelot. The quest is over for me."

"I wish I had been the one," I said. I couldn't argue with his conclusion, but I was sorry for him. I had believed that Bedivere might have been destined to find the Grail. There were few more worthy than he.

I told him of my hatred for Mador, of my desire to kill him and of my fear that the intention was as bad as the deed. I wondered whether I should return with him. But he dissuaded me. He said there must be a reason why he had come to that village before I had and why he had been the one to kill Mador. "It seems that you're not meant to abandon the quest. Perhaps you will find the Grail or perhaps you have something more to learn from the seeking of it. I don't think it was ever meant for me anyway. I was trying to fill the void left when my beloved Brighid was taken from me, but I never truly believed that this quest would fill it."

I knew he was right, that I had to go on. Because now, though I had learned something from Mador, I had more questions than before and I knew that if any of them were to be answered it would be on the quest for the Grail. Most of all I wanted to know the answer to one question: What is the Grail if not what Mador thought it was?