Archie tut-tutted his disapproval at Ink’s disbelief. Then he got up and scoured Humphrey’s bookshelves with a searching gaze. He pounced on a small red-bound book and flipped it open to the page he wanted.
“I do not subscribe to the notion that Arthur’s sword was magical in any way, but it certainly was special,” he said in a tone clearly reserved for nonbelievers. “Let me read you a description of Arthur’s sword. Then you’ll see what we hope to uncover beneath the centuries of dirt.”
Striking a dramatic pose, he cleared his throat several times. “This is from the Mabinogion, a collection of mediaeval Welsh poems.”
He read aloud, “Then they heard Cadwr, Earl of Cornwall, being summoned, and saw him rise with Arthur’s sword in his hand, with a design of two serpents on the golden hilt; when the sword was unsheathed what was seen from the mouths of the serpents was like two flames of fire, so dreadful that it was not easy for anyone to look.”
Archie closed the book and held it against his chest as he studied his audience. His glasses magnified his pale blue eyes to what seemed the size of saucers.
“It is described as having a gold hilt, studded with topaz, diamonds, and jacinth. It is supposed to shine with the strength of thirty flaming torches and blind one’s enemies. The words ‘one edge to defeat’ are engraved on one side of the blade and the words ‘one edge to defend’ on the other.”
He gave a smug smile. “So you see, dear young people, why the figure of Arthur has been shrouded in magic and mystery for centuries.”
Adam felt a pang of disappointment. The sword in the museum hardly looked like the elaborate description he had just heard. Yes, there was some kind of inscription on the blade, but the book described a sword with snakes on the hilt. Archie had said serpents. Adam had seen something like dragons on the hilt.
Then Archie said, “Of course, the serpent and the dragon were intertwined in Celtic mythology, the dragon being in essence a large serpent with legs and wings.”
Adam looked up at Archie with mixed feelings. He could now see how the beasts’ heads could be dragons’ heads. But what about the stone between their mouths? It looked so ordinary that he couldn’t imagine anything glorious about it. Certainly, it didn’t seem capable of sending out fiery beams.
“It sounds incredible, sir,” he said, a note of doubt creeping into his voice, “but weren’t the people back then too primitive to make anything like that?”
“Too primitive?” Archie blinked and looked offended. “Do not for one moment think the Celtic swordsmanship was of a primitive nature, my boy,” he scolded, wagging a reprimanding forefinger at Adam. “Celtic warriors were renowned swordsmen who placed an extremely high value on fine weaponry. They decorated their sword hilts with amber, ivory, and gold leaf. The same goes for their scabbards, helmets, and shields.”
Kim said, “But this sword was found in a bog. That’s a kind of swamp, isn’t it? Why would anyone throw away something so valuable?”
When Archie turned his pale blue stare upon her, Kim shrank back against the cushions, as if frightened of her boldness.
“Good question, young lady.” Archie replaced the book on the shelf before plopping down into his armchair. “No, it was not thrown away. The sword has long been a symbol of kingship, of prowess, of a leader’s role in society.”
He shook his head vigorously. “To let it fall into the hands of an enemy would be unthinkable and symbolize defeat. Thus, often the Celtic people would throw their leader’s weapons or regalia into a sacred lake or river. They would rather honor the goddess of the water than surrender such important items to a victorious enemy. Does that answer your question?”
“Yes,” said Kim.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish