When Jon and I visited this place it was after visiting Merlins Tomb. We went further into the Forest from Paimpont and found this lake. Then walking through a strange wood full of birch and silver birch we went over a bridge and found the very small lake above. It made a very deep impression on both of us and even now it sends a shiver down my spine. It was so perfect and still and magic and it inspired this story. If you get the chance to go to Morbihan it is full of the flavour of Merlin and Arthur. It is a strange and beautiful, peaceful place.
Phil drove slowly up the drive in his VW Golf, scrunching to a halt on the shingle. He had come back to his old home with just one intention.
Phil handed in the end-of- term reports and then told his head of department he was going on an autumn holiday with his twin. Now he was back home. Locking his car he heard the rooks arguing loudly in the wind- blown pine trees, then suddenly, it all stopped. He became aware that he was surrounded by a silence that was interrupted by the chak chak of startled jays. He knew there was no such thing as complete silence, but wished he could find a place where it did exist. He needed somewhere that would still his mind and give him the peace he so much desired, but he realized that he would never get that. It was too late.
Phil slowly walked to the pool in the wood at the back of the house. Staring into the deep, dark pool he shivered ‘this could be a reflection of my soul’. It wasn’t a large pool, about twenty foot in diameter and perfectly round, but it had always fascinated him. As a child he had watched deer come here to drink, and one day even dared his sister to jump in to see how deep it was, she never had. On hot days in summer, they had always run here to cool off. There was always a gentle breeze, and the rustling of the trees reminded them of the sea. They would lie here laughing. It was their magic, secret place.
During the long hot summer of 1976, the pool had never dried up. This bestowed it with greater mystical powers in their young minds. Phil and his beautiful sister, Jane, decided that Merlin had looked after it, and would one day he would appear to them in a puff of white smoke. They thought that one day, Merlin’s sword Excalibur would slowly arise from the depths of the dark water and appear before them. Phil thought back to when they were about eleven years of age when Jane had dressed up like the Lady of the Lake. She had worn a cardboard pointy hat with a nylon scarf draped over it; she had also worn a long white dress that eventually had been torn by brambles, and muddied by the water in the pool. The dress had been their mother’s, last worn thirty years ago.
Phil smiled as he remembered how he once got down on one knee to Jane, whilst wearing a knight’s outfit his mother had made. The costume had been made of cardboard with nylon stockings - both sprayed with silver paint. His stalwart sword was two pieces of wood nailed together like a cross and painted silver. Holding Jane’s hand, he had said to her. ‘My lady Jane, I promise to love you and protect you from any monsters and evil things. I will kill them with my silver sword and protect you all your life’.
‘And I sir, in return will love you, and look after you, and cook cookies, and tidy your bedroom, and any other thing you shall so command.’ Jane and Phil had sworn a secret oath and taking each other’s hand, they dipped them in the cold water. Phil shivered when he remembered how cold, slimy and clingy the water had felt. He could feel the freezing wetness on his hand today.
A branch cracked. It sounded like a rifle shot snapping through the air and made Phil jump. He felt the blood drain from his face. He shuddered. He was feeling cold and he saw that the sun was low so he decided to head back to the house before anyone came. The house was isolated, silent, but not silent enough for his inner peace.
Scrunching back up the pea shingle drive - good for hiding footprints Phil registered in his mind. He wondered where he should start first, not that there was such a mess to tidy up. He had tried to keep it to the minimum. When he entered the front door, Phil felt that the house was still full of the warmth he had known all his life. Jane had lived here with him for most of their adult lives, and now she had left him on his own for the first time. They had loved each other so much. Photographs around the house showed a brother and sister, so close and always smiling. They were so similar to look at, both with light brown hair and natural blonde highlights; blue eyes that sparkled with fun. Some of the photos showed them on their various trips overseas to places like the French Alps or Uluru - Ayers Rock in Australia. The pictures of them in their swimwear in Dubai and wearing a Leis in Hawii showed them laughing, with their arms around each other, now he had lost his soul mate, his twin, and was desolate.
Phil slowly walked up the stairs, and had reached the landing when the smell of her perfume wafted past him. He quickly turned and grabbed the banister rail. It was only his imagination playing tricks. He knew he had to face this final act. Taking a deep breath, he walked into their bedroom; yes, it had been their bedroom. They knew it was wrong, but had loved each other as man and wife. Nobody suspected over all those years. They had been so clever, but now their relationship was defiled. The defilement had not been by anyone they had known or liked, although in the past there had been a few men Jane liked, but Phil made sure that Jane would always be his. He often threatened to tell someone about their relationship, and used this fear over her to keep this secret, like the secret that they had sworn to by the pool. Now she was lying dead on the bed. Two days ago, he had removed the knife, bathed and perfumed her body, kissed and loved her, then dressed her as his Ophelia. Now he wept as he carefully positioned her hands so that her stiff fingers clasped daisies like the drowning Ophelia in a Pre-Raphaelite painting by Millais the one they had often admired in a gallery painting.
It was still light outside but Phil wanted the funeral ceremony to be at sunset. He went to the garden shed and pulled out an old, dirty white go- cart. Phil remembered the happy times. The fun they had both enjoyed, hurtling at what seemed to them five hundred miles an hour down the hills, and then there were the screams of fear and delight when they landed in a tumbled jumble of arms and legs wrapped around each other. That of course had been the start of their love all those years ago. Now Phil gently carried Jane down the stairs and carefully placed her on what was, in his child’s mind, a trusty white steed – the old white go-cart. He guided it slowly, carefully down the well-worn path to the pool. It was dusk and the sun was casting long, gold, shadows through the trees. It looked like it would be a glorious sunset. The rooks were cawing noisily as they came back home to roost. Invisible feathers ruffled somewhere. The old familiar wood was settling for the night. Phil knew there was a time for everything.
After lighting some scented candles and placing them around her funeral bier, he read aloud, like a prayer, from the Lady of the Lake in“Malory’s Morte D’Arthur” Tears trickled down his face; he sobbed between words and thought about what the final act would be. Now, through the tall beech trees, the sun lit up the pool and it seemed to be a perfect golden orb. Phil kissed his Ophelia then tipped the cart towards the pool and watched Jane gently slide in, sinking into the cool, wet, darkness, her long white dress billowing around her. The daisies that Phil had picked for her funeral wreath floated out of her hand, and it looked briefly as though she was waving goodbye. Now she was gone. He sat bereft by the pool.
This house had been their Camelot. They had had their adventures and fought monsters here, but had always come back here to the safety and love of the house. Now Phil was fighting monsters of his own, on his own. He was distraught that his castle had not protected Jane from harm. He remembered how the housebreaker had come into their Camelot and destroyed everything he and his sister had built. Two days ago, the man had raped and killed his sister and Phil had decided instantly that ‘he could not be allowed to live.’ The moment Phil had arrived home and discovered his sister with the housebreaker, a rage took over and he had killed him, then dragged the man’s body down the stairs and left it in front of the large fireplace, but now Phil had come back and an hour ago he’d lit the fire and, a line of petrol-soaked paper lay in a trail around and over the body and, he had hoped it would catch fire; creating for Jane’s murderer the hell he so deserved. The house would soon go up in flames and leave no trace of his and Jane’s beloved fairytale.
Phil fumbled in his pocket for something and pulled out of his jacket pocket a small brown bottle of pills. He opened the bottle and took the pills one by one. Soon he was feeling drowsy. It was past dusk and it was chilly. Their forest now seemed unwelcoming and threatening. Phil knew that his end time was approaching. Carefully picking up his wooden silver sword, he slipped silently into the cold, cold pool to join his Ophelia.
copyright of photo and story is Diana Leighton's 2013.