The Sleeping Knights

Once upon a time a young shepherd boy called Rhys was looking after his flock next to the lake in Snowdon’s basin.

It was a beautiful day in early summer.  The sun shone down, the lake reflected the deep blue of the sky, and the only sounds disturbing the stillness was the occasional bleating of sheep and buzzing of insects.

But he was bored.  He had practiced his flute and read his chapter, and now there was nothing else to do but sit and watch the sun make his stately march across the sky.

He looked out across the lake.  He could go for a swim, perhaps.  Or – better idea – he would see if he could contrive to walk all around the edge of the lake!  Without once falling in.

He started off, running up the north side of the lake, and then descended to cross the marshy stream from the mountain.  Now for the tricky south side!  He edged along carefully under the almost sheer rock face, judging his movements with as much carefulness as one of his sheep.

 

Rhys stretched out his foot, feeling for a ledge.  He slipped his foot into a hole, and then almost fell into the lake, as a loud creak echoed through the valley.  Looking down, he saw with wonder that a door had opened in the mountainside!

He carefully dropped down to the entrance and peered in.  All was pitch black.  But luckily he had in his belt a candle stub and some matches.  He lit the candle and, hand shaking with excitement, descended into the dark.

The candle cast flickering shadows on a flight of stairs that led ever downwards, but at last came to a stop outside a huge oak door.  Heart hammering, he turned the handle, which surprisingly gave way easily, and pushed it open.  As he did so, a great bell rang out.

Rhys jumped, scared out of his skin.  As the door moved silently he grasped his candle ever tighter, one hand ready to cross himself and say the Lord’s Prayer.

He took one faint step into the room, then another.  The candle lit up something dumpy and soft on the floor.

Rhys froze.  A body!  Funny.  There was no smell of rotting flesh, no bones.  If he had to make a judgement he would say the man was deeply and peacefully asleep.

He straightened back up, casting the light over the whole cave.  There were hundreds of them!  All as still as death, even though they were not dead, waiting and watching for something…

He turned back towards the entrance.  What was that?!  He froze again.  A rustle of cloth, a muffled groan.  One of the men was stirring!

“Is that you, my lord Arthur?” the man said, in a deep voice gravelly from long disuse.  “Is it time yet?”

“No, it’s not time yet.” Rhys squeaked, his voice shaking in fear.  The man settled back down to sleep again, and in another moment Rhys was on the other side of the door, racing up the stairs two at a time.  The circle of light at the top never seemed to get any bigger, until suddenly the sun burst round him.

He stuck his fingers inside the little hole, and to his great relief, the door closed in its proper place.  The moss grew back over the edges, the lichen re-appeared, and not a crack showed where it might be.

At the end of the day he recounted his adventure to his widowed mother, who told him that the men were the knights of King Arthur, waiting for their lord to return and help Wales in its time of greatest need.  But never again did Rhys venture to the other side of the lake.