The little boy looked longingly at the Colt Single Action Army Model 1873 revolver in his hands. The metal was cold and smooth, and the weight of it felt solid and strong in his tiny fingers.”Arthur! Get away from that!”
The boy turned around to see his brother, Kay, waving distastefully at him. With a sigh, the little boy put the gun back on the table.
“Guns are for knights,” sneered Kay, “and you’re only going to be a squire.” He picked up the gun and began pointing it carelessly about, posturing and posing like the mighty knight he hoped to become. He accidentally squeezed off a shot and hit a peasant. “Sorry! Accident!” he called out, and tossed the gun back onto the table.
“Now what’s going on here?” said a man’s gruff voice, and Kay and Arthur hurried outside to see their father, Sir Ector approaching.
“Arthur did it,” said Kay, pointing at Arthur.
Arthur didn’t say anything because no one ever believed him. He wasn’t Sir Ector’s real son, so it was always understood he wasn’t quite as good as Kay.
“Now Arthur,” said Ector sternly, “I warned you about playing with your brother’s gun.”
“Yes, sir,” said Arthur miserably.
“That peasant is going to come out of your allowance.”
“Yes, sir,” said Arthur.
“I know boys will be boys,” said Sir Ector, “and I’ve shot my share of peasants back in my day, but we really must be careful, hm?” He ruffled Arthur’s hair to show it was all right, and the boy felt a little better. “Now come along, Kay. The knighting ceremony is tomorrow. This is no time to be fooling around.”
Arthur watched from the outside the next day, in one of his many favorite hiding places from which he would watch the goings on in the castle, as Kay was knighted by a visiting knight from the royal court. The knight wielded a ceremonial Winchester rifle, which he touched to each of the kneeling Kay’s shoulders, and then fired ceremonially into the air, upon which Kay rose, and was patted on the back by all involved. He was now Sir Kay, and was given his own brand new gun.
Arthur sighed. He had often dreamed about wearing armor and galloping into battle and firing his own gun at other people in armor, which in retrospect seemed a little pointless, as most of the armor did not hold up well against being shot at. But it wasn’t his place to question why people wore non-bulletproof armor in a world of guns, just like it wasn’t his place to question why he couldn’t be a knight. All the same, it seemed silly and not very fair.
All this brooding was washed away the very next moment as a messenger came galloping into the castle gates. “Excellent news, everybody!” cried the messenger, as was the custom at the time. “Good stuff, guys!”
Everyone in the castle came running out to meet the messenger, waiting expectantly for his amazing news. The messenger wheeled his horse around in a circle for a while until a proper-sized crowd had gathered, and then he chose to make an announcement. “The king is dead!”
Everybody kind of stared silently at him for a moment.
“That’s… great,” said Sir Ector.
“What does that mean for you?” said the messenger tantalizingly, as he circled around and pointed at the members of the crowd. “That means that you, yes, YOU, could be the next king! Sound too good to be true? All you have to do is go up to London, ask around for the gigantic stone in the churchyard, and if you can pull the magical gun out of that stone, then you, yes YOU, are England’s next king! Be careful, it’s not as easy as it looks! But what have you got to lose? And if that doesn’t work out, stick around and watch the tournament! A grand time for all, gentlemen, maidens, and children alike! See you there!”
And with that he galloped off.
“Oh, I could be the next king, father,” said Sir Kay. “Can we go up there?”
“Sure,” said Sir Ector. “Why not.”
The next day they went up to London. There was indeed a fantastic tournament, and Arthur would remember watching his first real joust for the rest of his life.
There had been two knights, heavily armored and mounted on great thundering chargers. It seemed as if the whole earth was shaking as the chargers lumbered forward, gaining speed with the momentum of a freight train as each knight exerted great discipline in holding steady his shotgun. As the combatants neared, there were two great blasts as the shotguns fired, and one of the knights went tumbling off his steed in a spray of blood. His opponent’s aim had been true, and had basically blown his head clean off. Meanwhile, the loser had missed altogether, although he had gruesomely murdered the other man’s horse.
Everyone clapped and cheered.
“Well played, Sir Uwaine!” said the winner, shaking the limp hand of his decapitated foe. “Well played!” He then walked off the field amidst the tossing of garlands and favors.
“Do you want to enter the tourney?” said Sir Ector to Kay.
Kay looked as if he were about to be sick.
“Looks like a lot of fun!” nudged Sir Ector.
“Hey, I have a better idea!” said Kay. “Let’s go try to pull that gun out of the stone.”
“You boys go on and have a crack at it,” said Sir Ector. “These next fellows are supposed to be pretty good with machine guns, and I don’t want to miss it.”
Kay and Arthur went out to the churchyard, which was curiously empty. Presumably everybody else was interested in the machine gun battle as well.
There was a rock in the middle of the courtyard. Just a big rock.
“Oh no,” said Kay. “You don’t suppose someone’s pulled it out already?”
“Well, it’s a pretty big rock,” said Arthur. “And guns aren’t very big.”
“I know that, dummy,” said Kay, hitting Arthur. “I’m not stupid.” He scowled at the rock for a few minutes. “So what are you trying to say?”
“It’s probably buried in there somewhere,” said Arthur.
Kay scoured the rock for some kind of crack or opening, but it was as solid as the unquestioned religiously-dominated patriarchal establishment of that era. “It’s no use,” he said impatiently. “I bet it’s all a big joke anyway.” He gave the rock a big kick, and stomped grumpily back towards the tournament.
Meanwhile, Arthur sat there and looked at the stone. “I bet it’s in there somewhere,” he said. He tried punching the rock, and then kicking it, and then trying to see if he could dig under it, but none of that was any good. As he explored all the options, the day began to wane, and people began walking by on their way back from the tournament. A small crowd began to gather to watch the little boy and his curious antics.
“It’s no good,” called an old woman from the crowd. “All the knights in England have tried everything, even dynamite. That rock is as unyielding as the faceless nonsecular manocracy of our feudal system.”
Kay and Sir Ector were heading back from the tournament as well, and spotted the spectacle. Kay laughed mockingly. “Still there, Arthur? You think you’re going to be the next king?”
Arthur ignored his jibes. “There must be a way,” he said, staring intently at the stone. He closed his eyes and tried to think. There was something special about this place, something calling to him from the stone. He knew he should just give up and walk away. Already the murmurs of the crowd had turned derisive, and many were watching just to mock and make light of him. But somehow he couldn’t turn away from that stone, and he knew it was destiny that was drawing him. All of a sudden, everything became clear. He rose to his feet and walked toward the stone with clarity and purpose.
“I’m going to need a drill,” he said, “equipped with a diamond-tipped drill bit.”
“Oh, I’ve got one of those,” called out a nearby beggar, and dug it out of his robes to hand to Arthur.
Arthur pulled down his goggles, steadied the drill, and drilled down into the rock. There was complete silence but for the sound of the drill. Arthur had worried that the stone was made out of some kind of magical substance that was higher on the Mohs hardness scale than diamond, but apparently it wasn’t, and the bit worked its way easily through the stone. Soon, the pitch of the whirring changed and Arthur pulled the bit out of the stone. He had struck a hollow region. He peered inside it carefully and was satisfied with what he saw. He worked the drill in a few more times to widen the hole, and then took a long screwdriver out of his pockets and stuck it in. He shielded his face and pulled the trigger.
The magical gun fired and a spray of crumbled stone went flying in all directions. Cracked all throughout, the remaining pieces of stone fell apart and tumbled to the ground. Among the rubble was a shining weapon of the finest stainless steel. All eyes were on Arthur as he reached down, picked up the gleaming Desert Eagle and raised it high, firing a round into the air.
The crowd cheered. Sir Ector and Kay came near, and Ector knelt before Arthur. “Long live King Arthur!” he shouted.
“Long live King Arthur!” shouted the crowd.