Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Return to Camelot: Fate/GO and the New Legend of Bedivere

Yes, we're here talking about Fate/Grand Order again. I do this a lot... and admittedly, one of the reasons I do it a lot on here is because my writing for Crunchyroll, VRV, We Are Cult, and The Sartorial Geek is allowing me more scope to talk about things I love in multiple areas. That does, however, mean that a lot of what would usually have been my blog fodder is now elsewhere. Which, don't get me wrong, is good. But it also means the stuff I cover on here will be a lot more chill and a lot more personal.

It also explains (in addition to other blog-ly duties) why I've gone to once weekly on here. If you'd like more from me, absolutely hit up my feeds on the other sites.

That. Aside.

I recently finished, save for the Free Quests, the Camelot storyline of Fate/Grand Order. And if you know anything about me, it should surprise you zero that this is the one I've been gearing up for. Even the very opening of it intrigued me: a journey back to the Crusades, only to discover that there were no crusades, and that Camelot and the era of Ozymandias both existed at odds in this time.

Even for a franchise already steeped in Arthurian lore, this Singularity of Fate/GO takes some massive, crazy turns. The jumping-off point of the story this time is the now-common legend of Bedivere returning Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake at Arthur's death, so that Arthur may die. In all versions of this telling, Bedivere tries twice, unable to part with his king, and is admonished. The third time, he throws it back, the Lady catches it, and Arthur dies.

This entire Singularity is kicked off because Bedivere couldn't make it happen on that third try. And what wowed me about this whole mess is that, really, this could be a "respected" piece of Arthuriana.

So, quick version — as quick as I can make this Once Upon a Time style soap opera heck-mess. You (the player) and your faithful sidekick Demi-Servant Mash Kyrielight meet a Servant claiming to be named Lucius. But you discover soon after that he's actually Bedivere, and yet he is not part of the Bizarro World Camelot that's landed here. If anything, he seems desperate to put an end to it. Also, he has a super powerful silver arm. But using it too much wears him down.

Meanwhile, in Camelot, we have a really weirdly godlike version of good ol' Altria Pendragon. She's surrounded by the usual suspects (Gawain, Tristan, Lancelot, Agravain, and Mordred), all of whom are completely down with her plan to find pure humans and welcome them into the walls of Camelot, and kill the impure ones. Even though this is super un-King-Arthur-y and they all know it. (Well, except for Lancelot. He's running a refugee camp on the quiet.)

So what's going on? Who is this Altria Pendragon who clearly looks and sounds like our Altria enough to know it's her, but who's got some really weird concepts of what "saving humanity" means? It's all down to Bedivere and his arm.

In the earliest legends, Bedivere only has one arm. So if we go by that, at the moment of Altria's death, he should have one arm and one Excalibur. But here he is, a millennium and a half later, with two arms and no Excaliburs.

Filling in the blanks yet?

Fortunately, it's laid out for us: when Bedivere tried a third time to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake, he once again failed. He couldn't go back to his king after a third failure, so he just... took Excalibur and wandered off, alone with a magic sword of immortality and his guilt. He eventually washed up half-dead on the shores of Avalon, where Merlin crafted him an arm out of Excalibur, on the condition that he then "return" it to his king. Bedivere was never a Servant... just a barely immortal human who'd been running himself down for more than a thousand years out of guilt.

But since the sword wasn't returned, Altria couldn't die. Instead, she took up her spear Rhongomyniad (a weapon mentioned in passing, usually as "Ron"), whose power eventually took control of her, making her its avatar. In fact, late in the chapter she becomes referred to as Goddess Rhongomyniad, signifying there's more of the spear's will to her now than her own. And this plays big-time into the game's story's endgame, but as a stand-alone story, it's so beautiful and heartbreaking.

I'm absolutely not even remotely shocked that it was turned into a stage show.

Overall, I really do like Fate/GO's stories, but this one in particular was so stunning simply because of the Arthurian lore it was already building on. The game gets silly and jokey and self-aware, but I always marvel at just how well it knows what it's talking about, regardless of era.

I wish people could experience this story in full — a knight so overly loyal to his king that he caused centuries of harm, and how he did penance for it — even if they're not into the game. It belongs in a book of lore. Granted, the bit about Sherlock Holmes breaking and entering a library of magic might be a bit weird in the midst of it, but whatever man. It's Fate.

The next Singularity is going to be a big one, as we finally approach the Big Moment for this particular story arc. So I'm kind of happy we're coasting along on a self-aware magical girl story for now.

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