This is part 4 of a retelling of a scene from The Once and Future King book series, by T.H. White. To read the preceding part of this story sequence, click here.
What is done, is done
Mordred’s sword did not do the full task of slaying the creature, and the poor beast writhed in pain. Gawain raised his sword and followed Mordred’s action, and then all together the four boys set about the work of finishing the creature off.
When the job was done they fell back on the grass, their clothes covered in blood. The unicorn which had once glistened in the moonlight was now nothing more than a dirty cadaver. Gahareth was crying so loudly the boys didn’t even notice Meg cutting herself free and escaping, ashen faced as she dashed into the wood. Agravain stared dumbly at Gawain, but the eldest brother could only look at the grass beneath his own feet. Mordred sat quietly behind them all, fiddling with a sleepy caterpillar.
We must take it back to mother, said Gawain, at long last. We must take it back to her, and show it before she rises for breakfast.
The words woke the others from their reverie, and slowly they pushed themselves back into action. After several minutes of struggling to move the unicorn’s remains but an inch they remembered their pony. Even with their beast of burden it was too much to bring back the whole of the unicorn, so they tied its mane to the stirrup of the saddle and struck off for home with the creature’s head dragging along the forest floor.
Their mother’s reward
The sun was just starting to rise as the four boys worked together to put their gift on a chair in the lobby to their mother’s room, and then stood tall, their mouths in fierce smiles as they waited for their mother’s arrival.
When she saw what they had done, however, she did not do what they expected at all. She did not jump and cry for joy at their capturing the unicorn which had eluded her. She did not reward them with an extra helping of pudding at breakfast. She did not want to hear the tale of the hunt. She did not even speak their names.
Instead, she shrieked at them for dirtying her furniture, and locked them in their tower for a month.
This was the beginning of their desire to go to Camelot.
*** End Scene ***
If you’ve read the book, you already know that my quick sketch here does no justice to the original material. It’s such a beautiful, sad, and powerful story. I remember this scene often, because it makes me wonder about all the children in the world today who have their hopes taken from them by their parents, and it makes me wonder when I watch people in the world acting in ways that are hard to explain. I wonder what their stories are, whom they have set their hearts on pleasing at times, and how it worked out for them.
Thanks for reading. If you think you’d enjoy it, pick up the book! You can find it by clicking here. [affiliate link]