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Note: This was my first adult fanfic (we won't discuss the angsty The Tomorrow People stories I wrote when I was in junior high), and written after my umpteenth viewing of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The setting and characters belong to Paramount; no infringement is intended and no profit will be had hereby.

A Long Time To Wait

"You have chosen wisely." Sir Henry gazed at the stranger, who, he began to realize, was not a knight and not the one to release him from his long burden. "But the Grail cannot cross the Great Seal. That is the boundary -- and the price of immortality."

The stranger nodded and dipped the Grail in the basin a second time, then as quickly as he could without spilling any precious drops, he hurried back toward the outer chamber. The woman followed, keeping her eyes resolutely from the pile of dust in the corner. A woman of some worth, Sir Henry judged, given the cool-headed way in which she had trapped the seeker after immortality. And yet . . . he had seen the ligth in her eyes as she gazed upon the golden and jeweled vessels. She was not immune to temptation, that one.

Sir Henry chose to follow by the easier route, the one that circumvented the traps. It was not in his old bones to hop from safe spot to safe spot in the Hall of Letters.

He had known, of course, that there were seekers in the Hall of the Great Seal. He had felt the change in the flow of the air, heard the murmur of their voices and their cries as the Breath of God whispered through the cool dimness, heard the echoing crack of a pistol. And when he had heard one of them call out that he had passed the Breath of God, he had dared to hope that his long vigil was ending at last.

Seven hundred years, the stranger knight had said. Sir Henry felt each and every year as a weight on his bones, crushing him. He had not known, in the beginning, what God was asking of him when he accepted the task. He drank from the Cup, and watched his brothers ride away. But with each passing year, the burden was made more manifest. Beyond the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, the world changed. He could see it in the eyes of the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword. He could read it in the books they brought him.

Man, the Scripture said, could not live on bread alone. Equally, however, he could not live on water from the Cup alone. What the few seekers who came this far never learned before their inevitable deaths was that there was an entire city hidden away here in the Canyon, secure in the depths of the caverns. In all the centuries since he had first drunk from the Cup, Sir Henry had seen the Brotherhood wax and wane. He had seen his benefactors come and go. He had even seen the occasional woman knighted and brought before him for his blessing.

But in all that time, he had never once seen the sun. The price of immortality was that just as the Grail could not cross the Great Seal, neither could he. And none of the caverns which let out into the sunlight had an opening behind the Great Seal. Sir Henry had long ago accustomed himself to the cold of the caverns. While he no longer noticed it, it was still always there. In seven hundred years, he had not been truly warm.

Perhaps that was his punishment for the sin of pride, for had he not been prideful when he was chosen and his brothers were not? He should have shown humility, but his heart had been full of exaltation. Still . . . it seem an over-long penance.

He arrived in the Great Hall practically on the heels of the strangers. A wounded man lay on the cavern floor, his head pillowed in the lap of a heavy-set infidel. Another older man, his cares written in his face, watched in concern as the stranger in the hat knelt by the unconscious man's side. This, then, was the reason why the stranger had been so intent on finding the true Cup, why he had dared test it first himself. It was not immortality or even the Cup itself that drove him, but his wish to save the life of this man -- his father, if Sir Henry were any judge.

Oddly, none of the soldiers that ringed the room, weapons drawn, made any attempt to stop the stranger as he ministered to his wounded father, first pouring water from the Grail across his lips, then into his mouth, and finally, laving the wound itself. The father stirred and woke. Sir Henry saw that his first thought was for the safety of his son and nodded to himself. Only after he knew his sone to be safe and whole did he turn his attention to the Grail in the younger man's hand. An expression of proper awe and reverence crossed his face as he took the Cup from his son. A good man, this. Worthy of the Grail's gift.

The father put the Grail down while he got to his feet; in the face of the miracle, most of the infidels fled and the rest threw down their arms.

The woman picked up the Grail, avarice lighting her face. "We have got it, Indy!" She started to back away and Sir Henry closed his eyes. There could be only one outcome. He heard the woman call to the stranger -- Indy? -- again and listened as the stranger pleaded with her to remember his warning to them. But greed deafened her and she backed slowly across the Seal, the Grail in her hands.

It all happened quite quickly after that. The ground quaked and opened, the remaining soldiers fled, the woman fell pursuing the treasure to the last, but the stranger was saved by his father's love and compassion.

Sir Henry watched, impassive. And then the father noticed him for the first time. Through the dust and haze of destruction, their eyes met. Yes, Sir Henry thought, here was a true Seeker. A worthy man. Someone who might have succeeded him, had the situation been different. Then the stranger caught his father's arm, urging him away. This man also was worthy, though certainly not ready to make the sacrifice required of a Seeker. Still, Sir Henry raised his arm in salute to them both, and for a moment, they regarded one another through the dusty air. Then the ground shook again, and the stranger and his father turned and fled. Sir Henry watched them sadly, then turned to go himself.

He thought, for one brief, tempting moment of the sunshine he had glimpsed beyond the Great Seal. He turned back, but that way was blocked by fallen columns -- a sure sign from God that his guardianship was not yet ended. The Brotherhood would retrieve the Grail, or God would return it to its place. The woman's body would be found eventually and given a decent burial. His long task was not yet ended.

He had seen and understood the look in the father's eyes, though . . . perhaps he had not long to wait after all.


Note: I don't recall the names of the three brothers being mentioned, other than Sir Richard (the knight in the catacombs under Venice, with the shield), and I'm not even certain he was one of the brothers. So I took rather great delight in naming him Henry. So there.


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October 2011

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