High Noon Over Camelot

by The Mechanisms

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The English Student
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The English Student I love all the Arthurian in-jokes I keep discovering - so clever, and so atmospheric. Reminds me of my very favourite series ever, Stephen King's The Dark Tower. In short: a winner. Favorite track: Holder of the GRAIL.
ETstudios
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ETstudios I love sci-fi and westerns, as well as Arthurian mythology. This mixed the three fantastically well, meshing great storytelling through audio production with very enjoyable songs to make an awesome audio experience I find myself repeatedly enjoying. Favorite track: Peacemaker.
Artie WFord
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Artie WFord I've always loved Arthurian legends and this album is a combination of the ever-nicest music, storytelling, plot twists and favorite characters. Favorite track: Blood and Whiskey.
Emily Howling
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Emily Howling I'm so happy this has come out. It's a fantastic story with fantastic twists and fantastic tunes. Definitely lives up to, if not surpasses, the previous albums. Favorite track: Hellfire.
Garrett Miller
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Garrett Miller A winding tale of madmen, lovers, xenophobia and religious fanaticism filled to the brim with Arthurian references. Favorite track: The Hanged Man Rusts.
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about

A tale of hope and despair aboard the Fort Galfridian, long lost to the outside world, where the chaos of centuries of solitude has been brought in check at last by the guns of the Pendragon Gang. But the visions of the mad prophet Galahad, and the schemes of the Pendragons' lieutenants Mordred and Gawain, threaten to cast the station back into anarchy. And all the while, the Sun grows hotter...

This is the third studio album by The Mechanisms, written 2013-2014 and presented at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2014.

credits

released July 25, 2014

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Jimmy Hetherington @ PCE Audio.
"Fort Galfridian" artwork by Ruth Wilkinson.

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The Mechanisms Oxford, UK

The Mechanisms: a band of immortal space pirates roaming the universe in the starship Aurora. Some say they’re from a steampunk future, others claim they’re from a cyberpunk past, a few even whisper that they may be from a dieselpunk alternate now. They are all correct. ... more

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Track Name: "The Tower"
“High noon over Camelot. The fluorescent sun beat down on the rusted metal desert, when the Pendragon gang rode into town. Arthur was the brains of the outfit, with Guinevere’s pistol and Lancelot’s rifle following where he led. And here it led to Camelot, a two-cylinder town run by Lavinia Stone, as corrupt and foul a Sheriff as you could ever hope to meet, backed by her brutish clan.

She knew why they came. They wanted her town. Avengers or conquerors, who’s to say? She spat out a stream of tobacco that sizzled on the scorching steel floor.”

“Any sumbitch can pull this tin star from my stone cold hands, makes ‘em rightwise sheriff o’ this here town.”

The three Pendragons nodded and took their positions on main Street. The other end stood the family stone, leering and cradling their guns. The promise of violence hung heavy in the air. Arthur’s hand hovering over his Clarent 10 caliber railgun, an ancient weapon he took off a bandit tried to bushwhack him in one of the flooded sectors. The sun flickered and brightened, casting shadows from the run-down saloon behind them. as the clock tower started to ring noon.”
Track Name: Gunfight at the Dolorous Guard
GUINEVERE
I’m Guinevere, the fastest draw,
My hand is fate, my word is law,
And you should fear me.
Call yourself a true gunslinger,
See who has the quickest finger,
Draw your gun.

LANCELOT
I’m Lancelot, the sharpest aim,
Don’t try to play me at this game,
You’re doomed to failure.
You gave in to base corruption,
Brought about your own destruction,
Draw your gun.

ARTHUR
I’m Arthur, I will rule this town
We’ll drive you out and run you down,
Your reign is over.
Sheriff Stone your death is soon,
Your time is up, the clock strikes noon,
Draw your gun.

“Draw!”

Guinevere draws quickest
Her shots are clean and sure
And Ezra and Ezekiel
Lie bloodied on the floor

She fans out four more chambers
And Jezebel goes down
With a new quartet of holes blown
In the flesh around her frown

Nathaniel stands the tallest
The meanest of Stone’s clan
Until three shots from Lancelot
Leaves him dead atop the rusted sand

Ruth and Nicodemus
Mordacai and Obediah
All take a heartbound rifle shell
As he blows through them with fatal fire

Finally there’s Arthur
Who stares down Sheriff Stone
He draws and fires, and leaves her kneeling
Coughing blood and bits of bone

“Do it, you piece of-” [GUNSHOT]
Track Name: "Strength"
“The cruel Sheriff and her kin were dead, their bodies tossed to Annwn, the lightless levels of the outer station, where the ghouls lurked and feasted on corpse meat. And with her death, settlers came from the far reaches of the steel sky to live and work, for Camelot was one of the few places in the central ring which had been plugged into the water supply. Food was brought from farms on the hydroponics levels, and a seemingly neverending stream of do-gooders with guns came riding into town, offering their services of protection against the gangs that roamed the vast inner wastes.

The Pendragons took these lost, violent souls and gave them purpose, sat around the huge metal table that had been in the town hall since before the oldest could remember. The three Pendragons’ rule was wrought in iron, but fairly done, for though each one craved power, it was tempered by their love for the other two.

And when Camelot was safe and prosperous, Arthur sent his youngest hand, a hotheaded child named Gawain, to ride to his old camp and bring his people to Camelot, among them Arthur’s daughter Morgause.
The inner level of the space station curved back on itself – steel ground that turned to sky with no horizon, but it was still a hundred miles by the shortest route to Camelot when they set out, clad in dust masks and goggles, over sandy dunes of rust."
Track Name: Empty Trail
Keep on riding for our newfound home
Road keeps winding where’er we may roam
Gotta keep on riding, to rest our weary bones

Sun keeps fading, night is gonna fall
Stops it’s blazing, darkness covers all
When the night time falls we’ll camp here till the morn

Bike is broken, wagon can’t be towed
Drop some weight to lighten up our load
Push ahead now, the going gon’ be slow

Axle cracked, the wheel won’t turn no more
No spares packed, and no repairs in store
Wheel don’t turn, devil knockin’ at our door

Gawain, go out and drive into the rust
Bring back help from someone we can trust
If he don’t come back, there ain’t no hope for us

Sun is blazing, throat is awful dry
No sign of fading, left down here to fry
No solace from the unrelenting sky
No-one’s coming, we’re all gonna die.
Track Name: "Death"
“When Gawain finally returned with a posse of Arthur’s knights, he found the caravan dead. Whether by the heat or by vengeful knives, it made no difference, the half-eaten state of them named the culprit: a ghoul raiding party. And on that day Gawain conceived a monstrous hate.

All, however, failed to notice that Arthur’s child was not among the slain, for the band had taken pity upon the helpless young Morgause and saved her. From that day, she lived among the ghouls, who called themselves Saxons, after the seax knives they carried. Years passed, and the child grew from the girl Morgause into a sharp young man who chose his name as Mordred.

When he was grown, young Mordred left his Saxon family and the adopted mother who took pity upon him, to find more out more of where he came from. He travelled to Camelot, and there became trusted of the Pendragons. Mordred knew Arthur as his father, but alas the aging gunfighter did not recognise his son. And so the years passed, and the oppressive heat steadily grew.

Aside from the great round table and the fierce-looking seat at its head, there was one other artifact that had been in Camelot since before history: the Hanged Man. Wrought in copper and wire, no-one could remember why it had been hung from the gallows, but it had always been there. The name “BRIAN” was engraved on its chest, but time had worn most of it away and what could still be made out was read by the townsfolk as “MERLIN”.

Merlin was paid no mind, until one day it started to speak. It spoke to Gawain. It spoke to Arthur. And it spoke to a wandering preacher-man by the name of Galahad.”
Track Name: The Hanged Man Rusts
MERLIN
Gawain, I know you fear the underworld
Hate the ghouls that live in its thunder
That hunger for carrion torn asunder
By blades that glint in the dark
But hear me when I tell you straight, your
Hate’s misplaced, it’s baseless and savage.
The danger’s your loathing, provoking their fear and
Their violence directed at you.

GAWAIN
I hear what you say and I’m listening,
But hanged man your words make no sense
If you’ve looked in their eyes, you’ll have seen it
Barbarity pure and intense
I’d love to sit down and to parley
But there’s no way to teach them to serve
A bullet is all they deserve

MERLIN
Arthur, my sheriff, I’ve news to cheer you
Your son yet lives, he’s drawing near you.
And saved by those they blamed through fear
Now he’s grown up into a man.
You lived, and grieved you’d ne’er again see him,
But still he came though feeling deceiving,
So recognise, embrace and believe him.
And you may yet save your world.

ARTHUR
Hanged man, your prophecy’s groundless
I have no son, dead or alive
It’s true that I once had a daughter
But she fell to barbarian knives.
I have all those I trust around me
This world’s hard and I must be too.
There’s none of that trust left for you.

MERLIN
Deep within the depths of the station
You’d find the key that brings your salvation
Ornate and hidden past pain and privation
It’s clutched in the Captain’s cold hands
But take your seat, the one that they warn you from
Galahad, be strong, its visions
May overwhelm but they won’t steer you wrong.
Follow them through to your fate.

GALAHAD
Well son that’s a hell of a story,
But hanged man I’m glad ya choose me.
I know what’s its like when those bastards
Just can’t see.
I won’t forget what you told me
I’ll do what I need
If there’s any hope it’ll save us
We might be freed
From the heat
From the violence
From the hatred in their hearts
Track Name: "The Hierophant"
At the head of the table in Camelot there stood an empty chair. Its sharp form dominated the room, seeming to take no notice of the creeping rust. Two of the company had tried to sit there so far, a pair of deputies whose names were quickly forgotten. One died instantly, the other didn’t stop screaming until his death a few months later. So now it stood empty.
None of this put off Galahad. On Merlin’s advice, the weathered minister walked in at the height of the day’s scorching heat.

“I wouldn’t do that, preacher man”

“Don’t recall asking your opinion, son.”

I should explain a bit about the seat, and the world in which all this takes place. Long ago, a star-faring civilisation decided to build a space station of unparalleled size and power, in close orbit to their star, Avalon. What happened to them is a mystery, but the station, named Fort Galfridian, was left unfinished – it’s work crews abandoned.

The chair in question was known to the ancients as a Siege Seat – it would lock your mind directly into the systems. All the station’s sensors and knowledge. You became one with Fort Galfridian. Which would have been fine if it wasn’t in a decaying orbit, gradually falling into the sun.
The overwhelming heat and information overloaded most minds, leaving them changed and broken. And Galahad was no different, it’s just that the holy roller had a rather unique interpretation of what he saw.
Track Name: Hellfire
“My people, my friends, my flock; I have had a vision – a vast fiery orb, floating in an unending sea of nothingness, and us, so small, so fragile, and falling, falling into the flames.”

Your soul is connected to the world you’re in
You’re dragging it down with the weight of your sin
Surrounded by temptations and you just give in
We’re falling into the flames

That fire! That fire!That hellfire!
Your brow becomes slick as you perspire
Think you’re thirsty now wait till it gets drier
And you feel the heat of the flames

That fire! That fire! That hellfire!
Your sick and sinful lives will build a funeral pyre
Your perversions scar the station, son, they’re gonna fry her
And we all fall into the flames

That orb of damnation makes the sun seem pale
You’re quite correct to quiver you are right to quail
The only way to save us is to find that grail
We all fall into the flames

That fire! That fire! That hellfire!
Your skin starts to sizzle as you expire
You claim to be virtuous, but you’re a liar
And will feel the heat of the flame

Hellfire!
Hellfire!
Hellfire!
Hellfire!

That fire! That fire! That hellfire!
At the heart of the inferno that will never tire
I have seen the end is nigh, and damnation’s nigher
And we all fall into the flames!
Track Name: "The Lovers"
Not all of Galahad’s brain-fried revelations were fire and brimstone. The station had also revealed to the padre the existence of a key which could return to them control of all its systems, including engines that could move it away from its fiery fate. He now knew that the Galfridian Restricted Access Interface Login, or GRAIL, was located in the old Captain’s cabin, well hidden, several levels and many days travel away.

Preparations were made to ride. Did they believe Galahad? Maybe not, but he was very persuasive, and if he was right, they couldn’t afford not to act.
The three Pendragons were to lead the posse, with Mordred and Gawain left in charge of Camelot. Arthur’s first thought was to leave Mordred in charge alone, but the young man had always been reluctant to draw his piece and did not relish violence. His unknowing father had long mistaken this for weakness and, unfortunately, left Gawain alongside him.

That evening, the GRAIL posse drank the night away in the Joyous Gard, the town saloon, before they rode into the wastes to chase Galahad’s prophecy.
Track Name: Blood and Whiskey
LANCELOT
Oh my loves, raise a glass to those we leave behind
We may end up dead, with a bullet in the head
But if we’re not returning from this damn fool quest
Tonight we drown our sorrows down with whiskey

Guinevere you’re my stars, Arthur you’re my night
I know we’ve got to ride at the dawns first light
And I ain’t saying this preacher man’s crusade ain’t right
But first we fuel a few more sins with whiskey

ARTHUR
Lancelot, you’re a fool to drain your bottle dry
Whiskey kills your fear, and you need hold it near
‘Cause I don’t know what is out there but we need that GRAIL
And I love you, but you stink to hell of whiskey

Galahad is crazy but you’ve felt this heat
And the only explanation comes from his damn seat
So with you and Guinevere I know we won’t be beat
But we might as well have one last shot of whiskey

GUINEVERE
Drain your glass, strap your piece, for my loves we ride
Empty miles of steel fall away below our wheels
As we leave a trail of bodies of the folks we’ve slain
And the camps we raid for gasoline and whiskey

Maybe it’s the heat or maybe it’s the pain,
But I can’t shake the feeling we’re not coming back again
We’re not pure of heart, but we’re sure of aim
And our heads are full of love and blood and whiskey.

ARTHUR
There’s a dream that I get when I look out west
Of a golden age and the world’s wrongs all redressed
But I wake to find there’s nothing here but fear and death
And between the two there’s only blood and whisky.

GUINEVERE
Quit your whinging Arthur or that wound won’t heal
And the vultures that are circling will get their meal

LANCELOT
We can mourn our dead later until then don’t feel
Just clean the wound with bloody rags and whiskey
Track Name: "The Fool"
While the Pendragons were away, fighting and dying on the bandit-ridden sub-levels, Mordred and Gawain spent their days running the town and arguing. If Gawain was too quick to hang, maybe Mordred was too quick to pardon, but between them they kept Camelot running. Through it all Mordred reasoned, cajoled and pleaded with Gawain for the one thing that had been in his mind since he walked into town so many years ago: peace with the Saxons. A truce with the ghouls.

Arthur had always denied any such requests and did not believe the ghouls capable of reason enough for such negotiations, but now Mordred had the authority, and though Gawain could not be persuaded to support the idea, neither would he stop him. If a treaty could be formed before the Pendragons returned, maybe Arthur would see the ghouls were not the monsters he believed them to be.

And so Mordred found himself returning to his adopted home in the darkness of the outer rings, where the radiation shielding was weaker, leaving the ghouls twisted, sickly things. He was once again among the carrion cooking fires, the huts of bone and gristle, and those clothed in the leather of their fallen friends, for nothing went to waste among the Saxons. And to the highest of their chieftains, he brought his proposal.
Track Name: Skin and Bone
MORDRED
My friends down here I return to you
In the light I did what I went to do
With my father’s power for peace I sue
And in the sun there’s room for you

CHORUS
Skin and bone, you alone
Don’t hate what you now see
Though starving fools cry Saxon ghouls
In the darkness we run free

What care we for your light and sun
In the dark we see, in the black we run
We use a knife, they use a gun
And each will kill the other one

CHORUS

MORDRED
I beg you now this war to cease
They seek the GRAIL in the depths beneath
Air and water, shelter and feast
We can share with you if there is peace

CHORUS

What care we for your wealth and GRAIL
With a sharpened tooth and a jagged nail
We’ve no use for your fairy tale
Your childish quest is doomed to fail

CHORUS

We can live without this constant death is all they know
I’ll defend you to my dying breath is cheap here below
Please believe me there’s not much time left us but now you show
I’ll show you peace, then we will try
We’ll walk beneath the rusted sky
Track Name: "The Hermit"
So it was agreed that the ghouls would return to the light, and talk with their oldest foes, as the survivors of those searching for the Grail, found themselves in ever thicker darkness. Until at last they found themselves in a passage, sealed up for centuries, leading to a door simply labelled “Captain”.

Unfortunately, as Bors and Percival already found, the automatic gun turrets outside were still very much active. Anyone approaching was blown swiftly to pieces. Arthur was all but prepared to give up, until he saw the gleam in Galahad’s eyes.

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m gonna do what I was chosen to do.”

And with that the maddened pilgrim stood and walked into the corridor. And the guns opened fire.

Say what you want about faith, but it can do powerful things to those that have it. It can stop you faltering when the bullets start to slam into you. It can keep you walking as they blow your legs to bloody stumps. It can keep you laughing as your lungs are riddled with lead and shrapnel. It can keep you smiling as half your face is blown away. It can keep someone like Galahad standing tall until the guns clicked dry.

The door was not locked, and opened without a sound as what was left of Galahad fell to the floor. From inside came a pale blue glow. A lifepod stood in the centre, with a motionless figure inside. His uniform identified him as Captain Joseph Robert Mathea. In his hands he held the GRAIL.
It is a shame none of the three Pendragons thought to check the logs held in that room. They held much on how Fort Galfridean fell, and perhaps could have warned them of the terrible responsibility of holding the GRAIL.
Track Name: Holder of the GRAIL
I set foot upon my station and pride swells inside my chest
Upon my coat there hangs a newly minted Captain’s crest
Then the General who came with me says “My lad you must not fail,
We entrust a lot of power to the holder of the GRAIL.
From the air that we are breathing to the lights and solar sail
All the systems stand at your command: the holder of the GRAIL.”

It has been a month now since the General’s shuttle never came
On the commlink theres just static, every colony the same.
I have sent some crew to get help on the ship we use for mail,
For I must keep up their spirits as the holder of the GRAIL.
We still don’t know what has happened, but I know we must prevail,
I will do my best to lead them as the holder of the GRAIL.

It’s now been almost a decade since all contact first was lost
And the General’s iron rule has brought on us a heavy cost.
She comes up while I am fishing, and says “Son, don’t look so pale.
But the engineers have mutinied, and you still hold the GRAIL.
Even here in hydroponics, well, the air is smelling stale.
So I order you to take it from them, holder of the GRAIL.

I’m now locked inside my Cabin, and outside there’s only death
I still hear the General curse me with her choking final breath
If it’s truly just this station to which now we are curtailed
Then the power of a god is with the holder of the GRAIL.
Behind my door they are still coming, for I hear the turrets’ wail
And I must sleep forever as the holder of the GRAIL.
Track Name: "Judgement"
The Pendragons knew none of this, as they activated the lifepod. The Captain opened his eyes, and maybe began to speak as the long sleep wore off. The three Pendragons raised their guns and shot him dead.
They took the GRAIL, and placed it in the pedestal in front of the lifepod. All at once, with a whir of ancient machinery, the pedestal rose through the station until the three of them found themselves in the centre of the round table, in the town hall of Camelot. From the console, a crackling voice spoke.

“Please designate Captain for final authorisation”

It was only then they realised that there could only be a single Captain, with total control of the GRAIL. Though Arthur was perhaps foremost, they has always ruled as three, their ambitions held in check. They found they had spread around the pedestal, and their hands had moved over their guns.

Outside, oblivious to this, in the scorching heat of midday, the rest of Camelot stood on the nearby Camlann wastes, to meet to Saxon delegation. On that field, two hundred Saxons and twice that of townsfolk looked each other in the eyes for perhaps the first time. Mordred walked to them and there, before them all, offered a hand of friendship.

He did not see the scorpion that crawled near them, nor the ghoul who drew her Seax to slay it. He did, however, hear the shot Gawain fired when he saw the drawn weapon. And then death and battle was all that he heard.
Track Name: Peacemaker
GAWAIN
Oh, Peacemaker, where you gonna run to?
Oh, Peacemaker, are these your friends?
Oh, Peacemaker, what you gonna do now?
Is this your end?

Oh, Peacemaker, nowhere left to hide now.
Oh, Peacemaker, you have failed.
Oh, Peacemaker, draw your gun now.
End your tale.

MORDRED
No path past hatred’s stain
I see that hope for unity made me a fool
Corpses leer round Gawain
Tell me dear brother is this how you’ll rule?

“So Mordred fought, seeing in each slain saxon the face of she who saved him. And as his cheeks grew warm with tears and Saxon blood, so too his heart grew cold.”

MORDRED
Oh Warmonger, is this what you wanted?
Oh Warmonger, it’s this all you know?
Oh Warmonger, is your world so empty?
Just friend or foe?

Oh, Warmonger, see ‘em flee before you.
Oh, Warmonger, watch them fall.
Oh, Warmonger, their flowing blood implores you:
Heed its call.

GAWAIN
Now at last free of fear
My vision blurs with crimson, but I finally see
Hold brutality near
And release the coiled violence that’s inside of me

“So Gawain fought, hearing through it all the shrill keening a vicious laughter. And as his fear bled from his pistol’s mouth, he knew the laugh was his own.”

MORDRED/GAWAIN
There’s nothing left to say/The air is filled with screams
We’re rotten to the core/Before I treated battle like it was a toy
And I will make them pay/But not in my darkest dreams
For making me believe there’s more/Could I have ever touched this savage joy

MORDRED
…where will you run to?
…where will you run to?
…where will you run to?
Track Name: "Justice"
As death surrounded Camelot, within the town hall the three Pendragons squared against each other. In each heart love warred with greed. And within each mind scenarios whirled. Guinevere was the quickest on the draw, no question, but maybe she could only take one of them down before the other shot her. Lancelot was the best shot, but slowest to slap leather, if he could stay alive long enough to draw, it was over. Arthur could beat him on speed, but Guinevere might be counting on this. A cloud of rust billowed in the breeze from the open door, but no sound broke the silence.

Then all at once, each of the three realised their hands were moving away from their guns. As they locked eyes, they knew that love had won. Lancelot and Guinevere nodded to Arthur, who without a word moved forward towards the console, to declare himself Captain with their blessing.

They knew what would happen. Fort Galfridean would live again. He could move them away from the sun. He could reactivate the lights and the radiation shielding of the lower levels. He could bring back prosperity to the hydroponics. Just this once, there could be a happy ending.

Three shots rang out from the shadows of the doorway. Guinevere fell dead. Lancelot fell dead. Arthur fell to his knees. Mordred walked in with blood on his hands and tears in his eyes.

“I’m sorry, father.”

What words passed between them then are perhaps too personal for us to share, but when they were finished, Mordred placed his wounded father into the lifepod, and fired him into the aether. With the sound of killing fresh in his mind, the broken, hate-filled Mordred chose the new Captain and set a course for Fort Galfridian’s engines.

As as high noon rang in his ears, Mordred rode his rotten world into the sun.
Track Name: Once and Future King
A broken man lies in the rust that’s stained his whole life through
The blood that pools beneath him doesn’t change the metal’s hue
Like rain fall long forgotten Mordred’s tears in his wounds do sting
To Arthur in his arms he sings, you’re the Once and Future King.

Galahad’s blind faith, Gawain’s blind hate could overcome his might
His lovers’ eyes he last saw gleam in the pin of his gunsight
From the wastes his child came bringing revelations of all things
Arthur didn’t see, and now he’ll be, the Once and Future King.

Loved only by a woman whom he’d been taught to despise
Mordred’s gift to Arthur could be love in his own eyes
Fating him alone to keep the life to which he clings
He sends him out, into the dark, the Once and Future King.

A kiss upon his forehead binds at last his son’s goodbye
Just one more shot will send him out into the endless sky
Here at the end of history, as the final high noon rings
Mordred sits and waits without the Once and Future King

Faster now and faster in the sun the Station sets
Its people damned, doomed by a man who’s lost all his regrets
Yet as the station burns above a second star’s shining
While his world it dies, he’s left alive, the Once and Future King

MORDRED
We could have saved them all
And yet you could not see
And now you’ll always be
The Once and Future King

The key was in our hands
etc.

I fought to save your dream
etc.

I fought to gain your love
etc.