CONTEXT/RATIONALE: This was a Story for Alec/Dodinel and Ray/Dinadan to explore the Trod into the Near Dreaming revealed last session. However, Nick/Gawaine and Alex/Fergus were available and keen to join in so what to do? My solution was to split their roles in two: firstly, playing themselves observing the story (initially through the mechanism of the mobile phone Thora had given Dodinel last session) and investigating it; partly through the idea of Mythic or Atavistic personas. The idea is that Fergus and Gawaine (and also all Kithain) were once True Fae, godlike spirit beings who demoted themselves by becoming physically incarnate. The Dreaming preserved a memory of these identities, essentially the god/demons that Gawaine and Fergus used to be, but trapped in a realm of being with no potential of becoming, eternally enacting a role without the option of freewill and personal transformation that is implied by a mortal existence. Long story short: they get to play badass versions of themselves trapped within the Camelot-realm.
Dodinel and Dinadan arrive in the Near Dreaming dominated by the ruins of Camelot. They encounter the Desolate Village and realise that, after the fall of Camelot, everyone is trapped in a cycle of suffering and flight. By night, the village is attacked by wild forces from the forest of Camelot. The two fae get drawn into helping the villagers defend themselves
Dinadan is captured by marauding bears and Dodinel mortally wounds a bear but loses his sword. He escapes the Desolate Village but, entering the Lawless Wood, he encounters the Queen of the Bears, Abigail Artois, the girl he abandoned to the bears in London Zoo, now grown to adulthood in this deadly realm.
The mythic version of Gawaine is a doomed solar champion who realises newcomers have introduced change into this realm. Heartened, he mounts his griffon Kinkeiled and flies off to take the battle to the bears. The mythic Fergus Ironside is a grave haunting ghoul who stalks the wounded bear and salvages the lost child trapped within it.
Dodinel and Dinadan are prisoners of the bear-queen under Bear Mountain, but Dodinel eats himself free. They also rescue Fuzzball, the teddy bear that Dodinel wassailed into life to be Abigail’s guardian when he sacrificed her to the bears. While Mythic-Gawaine fights his way into Bear Mountain, guided by a London Zoo souvenir badge found in the dirt, Mythic-Fergus has accompanied the bear-child Percival back into the mountain. Together they rescue other Wild Innocents from the bodies of fallen bears.
The two changelings confront the Bear-Queen in her Hall. Dodinel frees Abigail from her bondage to the bears and Dinadan glamours her perceptions to overcome her fears of leaving. When the bears try to hold onto the queen by force, Gawaine arrives to stop them. Dodinel redeems Fuzzball and appoints him new king of the bears. Dinadan, Dodinel and Abigail flee Bear Mountain. They arrive outside the ruined Camelot, besieged by an army of barbarian invaders bearing the flags and totems of wild animals.
In the Autumn World, Gawaine, Fergus and Thora Drake meet in Hyde Park to share their research on the fall of Camelot. Gawaine dates it to 540AD when barbarian Saxons swept across Roman Britain; Fergus has concluded that Britain was already lost in a civil war which allowed this to happen; Thora has found that the invades were distinguished by their animal heraldry – the stag, the wolf and especially the bear.
Dodinel and Dinadan wonder how to infiltrate the besieging barbarians when Fergus and his army of Wild Innocents arrive. Together, the pass unremarked through the barbarians but are met at the gates of Camelot by Mythic-Gawaine mounted on his griffin. He warns them that there is nothing waiting for them in the ruins of Camelot: the defenders are also barbarians who are in their turn besieging the inner bailey, defended by barbarians who in their turn besiege the keep. The King was the centre of Camelot and, without the King, there is no centre. The group decides to abandon Camelot to its eternal siege and ruin and depart westwards, looking for Avalon and Arthur.
Flying on the griffin Keincaled, the pass over the Forest of Bears and the Devastated Village and beyond it, the Wasteland. They come to the sea and pass over that to the Western Isles. They see many islands each corresponding to their individual visions of Avalon. The seas freeze over and they pas across a desert of ice where other Avalons exist as oases of life, as verdant Shangri-las. Eventually the griffin can fly no further and Dodinel, Dinadan and Abigail, as creatures from the Autumn World, must go on alone. They pass through a weird ice city corresponding to a barren frozen-over London. Eventually they come to a well in the ice guarded by the two cosmic polar bears Dodinel encountered at London Zoo. The pool is a singularity, the Big Bang and Big Crunch, the beginning and end of the universe. This is Avalon.
Dodinel roars his defiance at the bears, but is no match for them, however Abigail as Queen of the Bears is able to intercede. The bears allow them to pass through the well of Avalon, but warn them they will be changed, as Arthur was changed before them. Passing through the well, the group encounter the Grail Hallows and realise, as Arthur did before them, that these are symbols of doom: Powerlessness, Despair, Suffering and the Triumph of Evil. Before they emerge back into the Autumn World, Dinadan clasps to himself the Willow Cloak of Powerlessness, Dodinal the Iron Mask of Despair.