Welcome to the Hotseat of Truth, a device in which your protagonist is trapped. The only way to escape is to answer five searching questions completely honestly or the Hotseat will consume them to ashes!
Today’s victim is Percy, an Arthurian Knight of the Round Table, doomed to immortality and still alive in the present day. You can read his story in Quartet: Four Short Stories, Four Explorations of the Fantastic, by Leo McBride
How did you feel when you realised you had somehow become immortal?
You’ll forgive me, milady, for my answer. For you see, I felt ashamed. I knew in my heart the reason why immortality had been bestowed upon me, and every day that I continue to live is a reminder that I have failed my king. I swore I would not rest until I completed the quest he charged me with, and here I am, still without rest, still without the goal I sought. Each day I wake is a reminder of my long failure – and a spur to drive me on to succeed at last. Then, I hope, I might be able to give myself to that sweet bliss of eternal sleep that has eluded me for so long.
What is the hardest thing about being immortal?
The hardest thing? That’s a simple answer. It’s the people one leaves behind. I have lost so many, whose brief candle has been snuffed out as my dim light endures. Worse, as the years have gone by, I have realised how bright those lives shine in comparison to my own. Perhaps immortality dulls one’s light. Instead, I see their lives like a flare in the darkness. I have been with them as they died. I was with Merlin as he was born. And sometimes, through the crowds of the world, I think I see a face I recognise, only to realise I am mistaken, and I thought it was someone I lost long ago. For some of those moments, the grief never fades.
Have you ever behaved dishonourably?
I fear it is my dishonour that prevents me from completing my quest. Only those who are worthy may find the Grail. If I were worthy, I would not still be alive. My quest would be done, my king would be satisfied. I am a knight, and I have fought on battlefields, on streets, in sewers and in palaces. Some would say that battle is chivalrous, but it seldom is. When I first saw knights in the forest I was raised in as a boy, I thought them angels, as my mother described. Taking part in battle has taught me combat is more often the devil’s work. It is often brutal, and dirty, and fraught with terror. One does what one needs to do in order to survive. Has every such conflict been honourable? I dare not say. There is one greater dishonour, of course – the day I held my tongue when I should have spoken out, and in doing so failed my king.
What do you feel is the greatest gain that humanity has made over the time you have lived?
You live in a time of wonders beyond my power to imagine as a child growing up in the forest. Your physicians are almost the equal of Merlin himself. You have the power to speak and have your voice heard on the other side of the world. You have unlocked the code of life itself. You don’t always use such wonders wisely – you sometimes use such power to destroy rather than to heal. But there seldom passes a day when I do not turn my head to the sky and gaze upon the greatest wonder of all, one that so many take for granted. You can fly. What more wondrous sensation could there be?
What is your favourite alcoholic beverage? And has the imbibing of same ever got you into trouble?
Wine was commonplace around our knightly table, but growing up I was innocent. When I first travelled with the knights who came to the forest, they gave me wine and I knew not what it was. They were teasing me, I realised later, having sport with the foolish young peasant boy. There was especially one knight, Sir Kay, who kept refilling my tankard and urging me to drink more. We had something of a falling out, I must confess, and he took to insulting me – which in turn drove me on to prove myself. But perhaps his anger was understandable. After all, it was the morning after my first night of drinking that he discovered I had used his helmet for a bowl. Again, I must protest, I was young and so very foolish.
There will be more of Percy’s adventures in print sometime in the future…