Notes and Disclaimers: As always, the characters in this story were originated by Naoko Takeuchi and are currently owned by Bandai Visual and Kodansha, and by some unnamed bard in the dark ages. Thanks to all of them for letting me get this off my chest.
I honestly don’t expect too many people to get this one, this is not the most popular, or most common story in the Arthurian cycle, but in many ways, it is one of the most compelling.
Since the days I wrote the first of the Courtly Tales, Yuricon has undergone a *lot* of changes, so I hope you’ll drop by for news, events and contests and of course the largest shop on the Internet for Yuri fans. And, if you enjoy this story, please feel free to let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Senshi of the Grail
“And so, I came upon a castle.
It was not so much to look at from the outside, but immediately there was a kind of otherworldly light that sprang up from it, so that I felt I was looking in through a door upon heaven.
I was weary and wounded, my clothes ripped and worn. My heart turned towards the castle in hope that I might find respite and healing.
The doors opened just before my hand touched the wood. As you know, I am not entirely without suspicion or worldliness, so I recoiled slightly, concerned about what I might find waiting for me. But no monster showed itself, nor obvious evildoer. Instead what appeared before me was a young woman, clad in white.
“Traveler!” she cried out, then stopped and stared for a moment. When she spoke again, her eyes were wide, but her tone was calm. “Welcome to the castle of the Fisher Queen.”
I wondered at the name, but said nothing, wanting to avoid offense. I was led in to the castle, my horse taken away by stablehands and my own self taken in hand by the woman in white.
“You have arrived in time for a great feast,” the woman, who never named herself, announced. “Tonight the Fisher Queen will dine with you.” The pronouncement was laden with meaning but, again, I could not bring myself to ask.
I was bathed and clothed in cloth of gold and brought to a large chamber laid out as if for a great meal. Despite the large table, set with many plates, I was alone as I was seated in the place of honor.
After a few moments, there was the sound of horns, as if from far away, announcing an impending arrival. The doors to the hall were flung open and I beheld a spectacle that I can now scarcely credit, although I saw it with my own eyes.
A procession entered the hall; flag bearers and musicians led the way, followed by nobles of all kinds and ranks. They entered the hall silently, their faces expressionless as they took their places at the table. The musicians played merrily on, but no sign of joy was to be seen on any face.
When the great ones of the castle were seated, there was a profound silence that settled upon the crowd. As one, they turned to the doors and waited. There was a soft sound, the sound of cloth being pulled across the ground, and then *they* appeared.
The first was a woman, tall and fair. Her dress was white, but around her neck she wore a dark blue stone and upon her forehead was a golden circlet with the same blue gem. In her slim white arms, she bore a pillow made of some soft material. Upon the pillow lay a sword. As she passed by, a soft murmur followed her, a wind of amazement in her wake.
Following the first came a second woman with long, wavy hair. Her gemstone was a vivid green, and in her arms she bore a mirror that shone darkly upon us. As she passed the murmur of the crowd ebbed and flowed like the waves.
Next came a tall, dark woman, bearing a deep garnet-colored gem. Stones upon her neck and brow reflected the deep wine-color of the stone in her hands. Time seemed to stand still as she passed by.
Finally came a maiden, younger, smaller than the rest. Her pure eyes remained fixed on the item she carried – a grail, a cup of pure light. The room lit with an ethereal glow as she passed around the table. The crowd was silent as the object moved around the room.
The four stood behind me, or should I say that arrayed themselves behind the host’s seat, which was still empty. Once this was done, all eyes once again turned towards the doors, and once more a bewildering sight appeared. There was a figure of immensely royal lineage, her face beautiful but for the ravages that pain or disease had left upon her. Grey skinned, brow furrowed, but still there was no doubt this was the ruler of all who sat there. The company sprang to its feet as she entered, and I did, as well.
Slowly she was carried in on her palanquin, her bearers endeavoring to move her with utmost smoothness and softness, and still the flinch upon her face when they missed their step, no matter how small, was apparent to all. Slowly, carefully, they brought her to place prepared for her at the head of the table.
When she was seated, she bid all to sit and welcomed me warmly. I tried to not stare at the wound which bled through the bandages, plainly visible…and although I wondered at it greatly, I could remember my mother bidding me as a child to not call attention to other people’s differences and so I remained silent.
The meal was sumptuous and the Queen most gracious, but her pain was ever obvious and it worried me that she suffered so. Above all, there was the question of the Grail…for surely it had been the Holy Grail itself that I had seen? If the goodness and kindness embodied in that cup was real, why could she not partake of it and be healed?
All these thoughts filled my head. I did my best to be a good guest, but when the meal was over, I retired to the room prepared for me with relief. The sight of the Queen in such pain…I can never forget it. And I…I could do nothing.
I slept deeply that night, and awoke as the sun rose. Immediately, I knew something was different. The sun rose, not through the window of a high castle tower, but upon my body laid out on a bower in the woods. Castle and court had disappeared! Or, had I been spirited away? I did not know and sat there in bewilderment until a glimpse of white through the woods made me aware that I was not alone.
It was the maiden who had greeted me the night before – her face was grave, almost reproachful.
When she reach where I sat upon the ground, she pointed an accusing finger towards me. “Senshi of Crystal Tokyo, why have you failed our Queen?”
I shook my head, not understanding the accusation.
“The Fisher Queen, keeper of the Grail, suffers a wound that may not be healed until a Senshi from Crystal Tokyo should ask after it and cause it to be healed. You, Senshi of healing, of wisdom, Sailor Mercury, you have been shown the Grail and failed to understand its power. Once again our castle retreats into the mystery that surrounds it. You have failed our Queen – and us.”
And with those words, she disappeared.”
The Senshi of Mercury was silent for a long moment, while the Queen and her sister Senshi watched her with clenched hands. Mercury bowed her head. “I have therefore sworn to leave the court of Crystal Tokyo and not return until I have once again found that Castle and had the Grail revealed to me. It is my fate to heal the Fisher Queen of her unhealing wound.” Lifting her head, the Senshi of Wisdom lowered her visor and bowed low. “My Queen, I go seek the Grail.”
At this vow, her sister Senshi stood, each also clamoring to find that holy cup and bring it back to the Queen. Queen Serenity heard these vows with a grave expression and when noise of Senshi and crowd died down, she nodded slowly.
“It is my fate, I think, to lose my Senshi for a time. Although I let you go with the greatest reluctance, I know I cannot hold you back. Therefore, go with my blessing, brave and noble Senshi and return to me as soon as you can, Grail or no.” With tears streaming silently down her face, our brave Queen stood and walked away from her seat. The Senshi stood hesitating, then slowly and separately walked out of the room and out of our fair City.
And, as you know, they are still gone. Out there, somewhere are our beloved Guardians, the Senshi or Crystal Tokyo. May they return soon, before misfortune falls on us all.”
Notes: Almost 8 years after I planned on it, this story is done, phew. This is loosely patterned after the story of Parsifal, who is a very, very late addition to the Arthurian cycle.
There were two key concepts to Parsifal’s story – one, that he was a knight’s son, but that his mother raised him to be naive, unaware of his heritage. She warned him to not fight or do any violent skill of any kind, but when he saw knights ride by him in the woods, he was compelled to become a knight. His mother also told him to never ask any questions. His “innocence” allowed him to see the Fisher King’s castle, but his inability to ask after anything he saw lost the right to approach the Grail.
Before Parsifal even existed in the cycle, the knight that came closest to the Grail was Bedivere, which was the later name of one of Arthur’s earliest companions, back when he was merely a Welsh warlord, Bedwyr. Bedwyr was also the first knight to throw Excalibur in the Lake, before Galahad came on the scene. (Thomas Mallory rewrote a lot of the cycle to add more French characters in the place of the older Welsh or English ones.) It has always seemed obvious to me that Mercury is Bedwyr.
There is one story left in this series – Venus. Can you guess who she must, *obviously* be? ^_^