The Last Defender of Camelot
Roger Zelazny

Roger Zelazny

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The Last Defender of Camelot


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introduction to “The Last Defender of Camelot”

from The Last Defender of Camelot
Copyright © 1980 by the Amber Corporation

I wrote this one for The Saturday Evening Post and they asked me to cut it to 4500 words. It is 9000 words in length. Crossing out every other word made it sound funny, so I didn’t.



text checked (see note) Feb 2005

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The Last Defender of Camelot

Copyright © 1979 by Davis Publications, Inc.

“Is it that you do not believe in such things?” she asked, her eyes scrutinizing his face.

“No, quite the contrary,” he replied. “I am willing to believe in magic, divination and all manner of spells and sendings, angelic and demonic. But—”

“But not from someone in a dump like this?”

“The only forgiveness you require is that which has been withheld all these long years—your own. No, it is not a doom that has been laid upon you. It is your own feelings which led you to assume an impossible quest, something tantamount to total unforgiveness.”



“But he never struck me as evil.”

“Nor was he. His was the most dangerous morality of all. He was a misguided idealist. In a more primitive time and place and with a willing tool like Arthur, he was able to create a legend. Today, in an age of monstrous weapons, with the right leader as his catspaw, he could unleash something totally devastating. He would see a wrong and force his man to try righting it. He would do it in the name of the same high ideal he always served, but he would not appreciate the results until it was too late.”




“Shouldn’t have stayed out this late,” he muttered, and after several more pauses, “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, che la diritta via era smarrita,” then he chuckled, halting beneath a tree.

Note (Hal’s):
Launcelot quotes the opening lines of Dante’s Divine Comedy: In the midst of my life’s journey I found myself in a dark wood, for I had lost the right way.

— end note


Dante’s Divine Comedy

“People haven’t changed. They are as rational—and irrational—as they were in the old days. They are as moral and law-abiding—and not—as ever. Many new things have been learned, many new situations evolved, but I do not believe that the nature of man has altered significantly in the time you’ve slept. Nothing you do is going to change that.”

“And your oath? To right wrongs, to punish the wicked . . . ?”

“The longer I lived the more difficult it became to determine what was a wrong and who was wicked. Make it clear to me again and I may go back into business.”



“Admit that you do not know what I might do, what I can do.”

“Freely. That is why I fear you.”

“And you doubt that I will be able to turn back the clock?”

“I doubt that you can do it in a fashion to benefit anybody. [...] Become a physician and fight pain. Take up painting. Be a professor of history, an antiquarian. Hell, be a social critic and point out what evils you see for people to correct themselves.”

“Do you really believe I could be satisfied with any of those things?”

“Men find satisfaction in many things. It depends on the man, not on the things.”

“You used to favor a white charger,” he commented, “but I thought it appropriate to equip you with one of another color, since you have abandoned the ideals of the Table Round, betraying the memory of Camelot.”

“On the contrary,” Launcelot replied, glancing overhead at the passage of a sudden roll of thunder. “Any horse in a storm, and I am Camelot’s last defender.”




Note (Hal’s):
“Where Duty and Glory Lead”: a traditional slogan among royal artillery units throughout the British Commonwealth.

— end note

text checked (see note) Feb 2005; Dec 2009

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Background graphic copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen