The Lady Arthur Part 3

Chapter Three

In which Arthur seeks the aid of the wizard Merlin, and the Lady Guinevere warns him of new dangers he must now consider as a damsel. 

The sound of Merlin’s snoring echoed through the crystal cave.  Nimue lay next to him, sleeping blissfully, great tufts of cotton sticking out of her ears.  The messenger Arthur had sent, a mere stableboy named Hoven, lingered outside the entrance to the cave, lantern in hand, nervously shuffling from foot to foot.  He raised the lantern and peered into the darkness beyond the entrance, but he could see nothing.  He could only hear the snoring, though he wondered if it was from a man or a grizzly. “Merlin?” He hissed.  “Merlin?” His voice echoed back to him– Merlin… Merlin… Merlin..

A sliver of cold, spring moon hovered in the sky above him, visible through the still denuded trees, and he could also hear waves crashing on the distant shore.  “Merlin?”

The boy’s knees knocked as he contemplated the threshold.  The thought of entering the wizard’s cave terrified him.  What if Merlin turned him into a toad?  He did not like the thought of a toad’s life, what with the diet of flies and always sitting on logs.  But the Queen had been clear and insistent, and Camelot aswirl with wild rumors and a growing sense of panic.  This is my chance to prove myself, Hudor said to himself.  In fact, he had ambitions to become a knight someday, and he could not fail at this task if he hoped to impress the Queen and– King, if that was still the right word.

He stepped into the cave, and then went further.  His lantern lights caught sparkling stalactites and stalagmites, and deeper into the chamber he saw side caves filled with wonderous apparatus, as well as a raised area on which he could make out a bed.  The cave was warm, no doubt heated by some unseen magic.  Hudor crept closer and closer to the bed, his lamp hand shaking, throwing light around the cave, wild, threatening shadows rising up on the cave walls.

“Merlin!  Merlin!”  He shouted, his terror getting the best of him, and he ran up the steps onto the dias, stumbling and falling onto the bed and across the bodies of Merlin and Nimue.  It is a little known fact that Nimue, as a nymph, had little use for what she considered the silly ways of the mortals, and she did sleep without a stitch of clothing.  Consequently, Hudor landed with his face planted firmly in her soft bosom.

“W- what?  Who dares?”  Merlin shouted, rousing himself, seeing an assailant with his face in a place it ought not to be.  “Scoundrel!”  Grabbing Hudor by the scruff of neck, he yanked him off his still slumbering beloved and hurled him across the cave, sending Hudor’s lamp smashing to pieces against the rock– the light extinguished.  The cave was now pitch black.

Hudor’s teeth chattered as he crawled in the direction of what he hoped was the entrance, all thought of his mission gone and replaced by his terror of the angry wizard.  He had only made a few — what is the word? Crawls?  Creeps?  Moves?  Well, forget it- he had made only a few movements, when his head bumped into something. “Oh, no.”  He reached out and felt the coarse fabric of a robe, and then a calf.

“Oh, yes,” Merlin said, igniting the magic fire on the tip of his staff.  Seeing it was just a boy and dressed in the Kings’ livery, Merlin held his hand.  “What are you doing here?”

“First, let me say, I had no impure intentions toward your lady, and–”

“Never mind that!”  Merlin roared.  “No doubt the King sent you. And I suppose the message is he wants to see me.”

“Y-yes,” Hudor said.  “Well, in fact, it was the queen, and you see–”

“Up!  Let’s go, you prattling fool. The sooner I find out what new predicament Arthur has gotten himself into, the sooner I can go back to sleep.”

“Yes, milord.”

“I am not a lord,” Merlin said with disdain.  “I am a wizard.”

Hudor followed Merlin toward the front of the cave.  “Should I apologize you your lady?”

“Best she never knows what happened.  Leave her to sleep.”

“Would she turn me into a toad?”

“No.  Probably just trap you in a pillar of amber of all eternity.”

Seeing the boy’s face grow pale with fear made Merlin chuckle, in part because, well, he wasn’t joking.

Meanwhile, back at the castle, Arthur had his arms bent around his back and was turning in circles once more– this time trying to reach the laces at the back of his gown. 

“Arthur, allow me to help,” Geuneviere said.

Arthur grinned.  “I have taken more than a few dresses off you, my love!  I know very well how to do it!”

Men!  Guinevere thought to herself.  Never wanting to ask for help.  “Very well,” she said, sitting down and watching, amused, as Arthur struggled.  He sat, bent over, tried rubbing the laces against the bed post.  Once more reached back, straining, making frustrated little noises like a mouse.  Finally, making a violent twist in an attempt to reach the tops of the laces, he stumbled and fell backward on his behind.  His hair fell all in his face.  Guinevere thought he looked rather fetching and ridiculous.

“Fine,” he said, trying to get back to his feet, finding it difficult with his feet tangled in his long gown. He plopped back down.  

Guinevere offered a hand.  Arthur took it and she helped him get back to his feet, “Your hand is so soft!”  She couldn’t help but gushing.  Indeed, it was perhaps the softest hand she’d ever held.

Arthur turned his back, looking back over his small shoulder.  “Please.”

Guinevere, having overcome her shock, was now feeling playful, and she decided to tease Arthur a bit.  “Do you wish your wife to help you out of your dress, my dear husband?”

Arthur knew what she was doing, and his eyes sparkled with amusement.  “You’re loving this, aren’t you?”

“A little.”  Guinevere untied the began to pull loose the silken laces.  “Now you have some sense of what we women go through.”

Arthur started to argue, thinking to explain she had no idea what it was like to be weighted down by a suit of armor, but he thought better of it.  Instead, once the laces had been loosed, he pulled the clasps off his shoulders and shimmied out of the dress, letting it fall to the floor to pool at his feet.  

Guinevere caught a glimpse of his maidenly shape, naked, in the mirror. ‘Oh, Arthur! She thought.  He was a vision.  How could a man such as he’d been live with such a body?

Arthur stole a glance as well, confirming without any doubt that he now bore a fully female form. Being a Christian man and knowing it was a sin for him to gaze on the body of any woman other than his wife, even if he was that woman, he pulled his eyes away of the alluring female in the mirror. Shamed at what he had become, he went to his armoire and  quickly pulled on britches and a tunic.  The pants were too long, the tunic strained scandalously against his ample bosom.  He did not need a look in the mirror to know he would not feel confident wearing a shirt that so displayed his bust., He added a cloak, pulling it closed over his body, hiding his womanly shape.

He sat, and while Guenivere slipped the dainty slippers from his tiny feet, he pulled his hair from the cloak and tossed it back over his shoulders.  “I will need a haircut,” he said, “before my journey.”


But before he could elaborate, there was a knock on the door.  “Merlin to see you,” the doorman called.

Arthur, feeling a bit more himself now that he wore a man’s garb, got up and unbolted the door.  Merlin strode into the room as Arthur rebarred the door.  Merlin gaped at Arthur, then his wife, then back to Arthur.

“You sent for me?”  Merlin said, adopting a straight face.

“Yes.  I did.”

“Is something amiss?”

Arthur rolled his eyes.  “Yes, Merlin, something is a-miss.  In fact, that is the issue.  I am a miss.”

“I hadn’t noticed.  Your disguise is so convincing.”

There was a moment of silence, then they all laughed.  “It seems I sent for a wizard and a jester arrived instead.”

“Laughter, my lord, is the best medicine.”

They sat at Arthur’s table, and Arthur recounted the tale of how he had come to find himself a woman.  When he finished, he got right to the point.  “Can you dispel this magic?”

“I can try.  Step back, my queen.”

Merlin spoke in ancient words, rife with magic.  He waved and incanted, chanted and thrashed about Arthur’s form with his staff.  Arthur, whose hopes had risen at the arrival of the wizard, felt his heart sink.

“Ceridwen,” Merlin mumbled. 

“What sort of witch is she?”  Arthur demanded. 

“No witch,” Merlin said, his voice growing dark and dire.  “But a goddess of the Celtic peoples.  Such magic can only have come from a being of divine power.  It is beyond my skill to remove this enchantment from you.”

“Then I must accept her challenge.  I must find and tame a unicorn,” Arthur said. 

Guinevere had returned to the table, and she now took Arthur’s hand.  “You can’t mean it,” she said.  “It is too dangerous.”

“I have been on many quests, faced many perils.  I have not failed, and I will not fail in this.”

“But, you are only a girl now.”

Arthur, who, unused to the new weight, had been slumping, now straightened his back and raised his chin.  “No.  I may have a maiden’s form, but I am still a man.  I am still Arthur.”

“Yes, we spoke of this, but you have a girl’s body. My husband, you do not know what it is like for women.  There are dangers I dare not speak of that only a woman knows. You will not be safe.”

The comment shook Arthur.  He knew what dangers she spoke of, and it did shake his nerve as he considered, for the first time in his life, what every girl was taught to dread.  But Arthur pushed away this new, troubling womanly fear. “I am a warrior, still, no matter my body.  If anyone should menace me, he will find he deals not with some helpless damsel, but a skilled swordsman.”

“Arthur!  I do not doubt your courage, but your arms?  They are– delicate.  There are serving girls in this castle with more muscle.”

‘My arms?”  Arthur said, suddenly self-conscious of how slender they seemed.  “My arms are–”

“I will accompany Arthur,” Merlin said.  “He will not quest alone.”

“And I shall carry great Excalibur, and–  wait. My sword?”  Arthur looked about the chamber, and then remembered that in his shock, he had left it in the Great Hall.

His men were sent to retrieve it, but when they returned they bore ill news: Excalibur was gone. 

By the time Lancelot rode back through the gates of Camelot, Gawain at his side, the sun rose behind him, throwing a golden light across the silvery land.  The air smelt of spring– freshly blooming flowers, budding trees.  “Did we truly see what I think we saw?” Lancelot asked, recalling in his mind the image of Arthur, turning and turning in the air, turning and turning into a maiden fair.  

“I do not know if I trust my eyes,” Gawain said.  “For they seemed to tell me that our KIng is now– a girl.”

“Yes.  That is what my eyes also told me.”

“What are we to do?”  Gawain asked.  “What does it mean?”

“I don’t know,” Lancelot said. “There is no map to guide us through these lands.  I will see the King,” Lancelot finally decided.  “Perhaps there I will find answers.”

“Do you wish me to join you?”  Gawain asked.  In truth, he had grown tired from the long night, and what’s more he found the idea of seeing the king in the shape of a woman disturbing.  It unnerved him, the thought that man could be woman, woman man.  He did not know why.  And so he was relieved when Lancelot sent him on his way.

The Church of Saint Servanus stood at the end of a crooked, flagstone path near Legion’s Gate, in the old town section of Camelot.  Few were the souls who visited Camelot without making time to see the chapel, considered one of the most marvelous buildings in all the isles, for the Romans had constructed it with a domed roof, an art which was then still unknown to the Britons and, indeed, most of the world. Many believed the building had been constructed using magic, but Mordred knew better.  It was an art called Engineering.

Yet, wondrous as it may be, Mordred had not come to admire the building.  He had a darker purpose.  He pulled the door open and stalked among the pews, his steel shod boots ringing against the stone floor. “Friar Lowbottom!”  Mordred called.  “Friar!”  Nothing, but Mordred knew where he must be.  Bounding down the stone stairs to the crypt, he saw flickering torchlight and poked his head through the door.  “There you are!  Eating a healthy breakfast, I see.”

 Friar Lowbottom peered over the top of his pewter mug, frothy foam from the ale he’d been sipping clinging to his mustache.  “Care to join me?”

The honored dead from the Roman times now shared the crypt with mighty oaken casks.  Mordred did have to admit the Irish had brought fine wines and ales along with their new religion.  It was almost worth it.  He grabbed a mug off a hook and, choosing a cask at random, pulled the stopper, letting the dark brew flow into the cup, the air filling with the tart smell of fermented grains.

Sitting, Mordred raised his cup.  “To Christian Virtue,” he said.

“Amen,” Friar Lowbottom answered. They drank.

“Have you heard the news?”  Mordred asked.

“If you are referring to that nonsense about the maiden king…”

“It is not nonsense, I witnessed it myself.  The King now makes a most fetching lass.  It was– remarkable.”

Lowbottom downed the rest of his ale.  “This is shocking news.”

“Indeed.  And, your grace, you have a vital role to play now.  Girls, you know, they are so emotional.  They can not think with reason, and are prone to the most foolish decisions.  You would agree.”

“Of course.”

“They need guidance, and the Lady Arthur is no different now than any other silly girl.”

“Well, I suppose that depends on–”

She is just another flighty female, Friar.  I am telling you.  And she needs your guidance.”

“That is one of the requirements of my office.”

“Oh,” Mordred said, reaching into his cloak. “Before I forget.”  He held out a small leather purse, then tossed it onto the wooden table.  “A donation.  For– your good work.”

Friar Lowbottom lifted the purse and held it in his palm.  “Most generous.”

“Yes.  I have a few thoughts on how you might council our fair king.”  Mordred leaned forward, copper his hand to Lowbottom’s ear, and whispered.

The Lady Arthur 2

Chapter Two

In which Guinevere does gaze upon her husband, now a maiden fair.

The mind of Arthur, as he found himself led back to his chambers, would best be described as a seething cauldron of denial. This could not be happening to him.  He could not be a woman, and so he warred with what his eyes and senses told him, scarcely even aware of Morderd’s hand on the small of his back, guiding him past the gawking faces of servants.  It was a trick of the spell that all who knew Arthur, looking now upon his now lithe and winsome shape, did recognize the mind of Arthur now ensconced within the shapely form of a young woman.

Arthur did not notice the stares.  He focused only on this strange delusion he suffered, the feeling of his dress swirling about his legs, the odd way his body seemed to — jiggle. He looked at his small, soft white hands, and he glanced down at his chest.  No.  He thought.  What has happened could not have happened.

It was the third time he tripped upon the hem of his dress that he finally, exasperated, clutched at the soft material and lifted it, not aware of how utterly feminine he looked, like a woman born as he finally began to become aware of his surroundings.  They reached the stairs.  He suddenly became aware of the hand at his back.  “Get off me,” he hissed, once more wilting at the sweet sound of his voice in his own ears.  The lilting sound of his voice was just another matter for him to refuse to believe.

Mordred, finding himself quite pleased with all that had befallen Arthur, obliged, but could not resist commenting: “Yes, milady.”

“I am not a lady,” Arthur said.   The stairs forced him to further lift his dress, and those servants who had gathered at the bottom of the stairs saw a flash of white ankle, and the sparkling slippers he wore upon his tiny feet. Arthur hurried up the stairs, eager for the solitude of his room, a chance to think, to deny and defy all that his mind was telling him he had now become.

“He is quite lovely,” one of the maids said.

“Pretty as a picture,” another added. 

“Better keep our heads down.  Things will be quite upset around the castle.”

When they reached Arthur’s chambers, Mordred reached to open and hold the door for Arthus.  Arthur slapped Mordred’s hand away.  “Go away,” he said, grabbing the handle to the door.  “I wish to be alone.”

“Of course,” Mordred said, with a small bow. “Do let me know if you need anything, Auntie.”

Arthur plunged into his rooms, barring the door behind him.  He seized a hand mirror and forced himself to look.  He did not see the handsome, manly face that had looked back at him for so many years. No,  a lovely female face gazed back at him, her eyes wide with feminine surprise, her skin smooth and bright.  “No,” he said, his heart racing.  “No.”  But he kept the mirror in his hand, staring at this face, the face his eyes were telling him was now his.   “Impossible,” he said.  “Unacceptable.”

The seething cauldron of denial further consumed him.  He set the mirror on his bed, and stood, looking over at the full length mirror that rested by the window.  A golden ray of sunshine cut across the room, right in front of the mirror.

Arthur once more looked down at himself, once more at the hands that could not be his.  No man had hands so delicate.   “This isn’t real,” he decided.  “This can’t be real.”

He strode toward the mirror, tripping once more on the hem of the gown he refused to believe he wore, the gown that so perfectly clung now to the body he could not inhabit.  He dreaded what the mirror would show him, and yet it drew him, pulled him across the room.  He dropped his eyes, taking position in the ray of sunlight, and then slowly he raised his head, looking upon–

“Her?”  He said out loud.  The image in the mirror– a vision of startling beauty.  That same angelic face, and a female form of such perfection that it made him gasp.  He stepped closer toward the mirror, shaking his head, his thick, black curls bouncing as he did so.  He put his fingertips to the mirror, touching the cold glass, his fingers to her fingers. Looking down at himself– herself? The dress, the shape, all wrong.  “Impossible. Impossible.”

As King Arthur struggled to accept his new sex, Arthur’s knights had raced after Ceridwen.  Some chased on foot.  Lancelot and others had leapt upon their steeds.  It did not matter.  Ceridwen’s mount, speeded by her magic, raced away from them, thundering off into the distance until they were forced to stop, lest their own steeds perish from the chase.

Meanwhile, word of Arthur’s pleasing new shape spread. While the men had gathered in the Great Hall about the roundtable, Geuneviere and the ladies had celebrated in the Queen’s Hall.  She and the others, not concerned with miracles and the doings of their men, had eaten and now nibbled at the fantastic array of desserts and liquors which had been furnished by the queen.  Mordred quietly entered the hall, walked to his mother, Morgan LeFey’s side, and whispered in her ear.

The other women watched, curious, for there was something about Mordred’s air that suggested his errand was of dire import.  As soon as he finished, Morgana removed the napkin from her lap and declared, “My queen.  May I speak with you in private?  It is most urgent.”

Alarmed by the tone in Morgana’s voice, Guinevere smiled apologetically and rose.  “Do forgive me, good ladies,” she said.  In the hall, Mordred and Morgana waited.  Guinevere looked about to make sure there were no nosy listeners.  “What is it?”

Morgana took Guineviere’s hand and said, “I have shocking news.  It is about– Arthur.” 

Mordred related the story of what had happened, now putting on a mask of concern for his poor Uncle’s plight.

“I do not believe it.  Is this your idea of some jest?  I am not amused,” Guinevere said.

“The lady– I mean, Arthur, has gone up to your chambers,” Mordred said.  “You may see for yourself.”

“I will,” Guinevere said, no more able to accept what she’d been told about Arthur’s change than Arthur himself.  She spun and stormed off, mind racing, wondering what manner of mischief Mordred was up to now, for the boy was well known for his childish antics.

And so it was Queen Guinevere, having entered their chambers by her own door, made her way to Arthur’s rooms.   She froze at the sight of the beautiful girl, standing at the mirror, whispering, “Never.  Never.”  Instantly she knew at once this girl was in fact her husband, the king. As soon as she looked upon the ravishing shape he now wore, one that could not be mistaken for anything other than female, she began to wonder.  What would this mean for the kingdom?  For Guinevere, herself?  Was she still married?  Could this girl still call herself ‘husband?’  Could she still call herself King?

As much as Arthur’s change made Guinevere worry for her own future, she was also a fine, Christian woman, and as such compassionate and loving. Her heart went out to her husband, guessing at what a shock and horror it would be for him to find himself reshaped to such a lovely girl.  How could he face the world with that pretty face?  Those white arms?  “Arthur?”  She called out.  “Is that really you?”

The girl pulled her eyes away from her image in the mirror.  She looked back over her smooth, round shoulder.  “Yes,” she said.  “It seems so.”  She turned, and Guenivere now took in the whole of her comely shape.  As Arthur felt his wife looking over his slender waist, his soft curves, he blushed with shame.  “I am sorry,” he said.

“Sorry?”  Guinevere answered.  “Why would you be sorry?”

“I have failed you,” Arthur said, and Guinevere could not help but note he had as lovely a voice as any girl in the kingdom.  Her eyes dropped away in what seemed maidenly distress. “I am unmanned.”

Guinevere instantly went to her, to the girl Arthur, and put her arms around him, hugging his soft body to her own. She knew what to say, she knew she needed to be strong for Arthur.  “You did not choose this,” Guinevere said.  “And I am yet your wife, your queen, and I will always stand by your side.”

“Truly?” Arthur said.  “Even as I am–  a mere girl?”

Guinevere knew that Arthur needed her more than ever, so she put her own fears aside.  She put her hands on his cheeks– they were so soft!– and met his eyes. “I know that still within you beats the heart of the man I swore to love.”

For a moment, Arthur thought he might cry, but he remembered that he was yet a man, and he fought back the strange new impulse to weep.  Matching his wife’s gesture, he reached out and put his hands on Guinevere’s cheeks, staring into her eyes, and he found in those emerald eyes all the strength he’d ever needed.  The tumult in his mind settled, and he faced the truth.

“I have a maiden’s form, but I am yet a man.  I will always be Arthur.”

“Yes, my love.”

“Send for Merlin. I must speak to him at once.”

“And you say he is a  beautiful maiden?”  Morgana asked, sitting in the room which had been set aside for her visit.

“An English rose,” Mordred said, chuckling.  “He looks younger, too.  The face of a girl, though there can be no doubt he is of child-bearing age.”

“What do you mean?”  Morgana was thrilled, imagining her brother so shaped.  “Tell me.  I want all the details.”

“He is a most buxom lass, and with generous hips, mother.  It is quite extraordinary, and his face?  Men would start wars to win but a smile from her.”

“It is too perfect,” Morgana said.  “Too delightful.  And this means, we must seize upon this opportunity, my son.  You are meant to be king, and I will see you on the throne.”

“And what of Arthur?”

“You said in the prophecy that the goddess decried he shall be a wife and mother! Oh, I can’t wait to see his belly swell with child!”

Unless he tames a unicorn, mother.  Do not forget that part of the witch’s spell.”

“Well, we shall have to make sure that our fair, virgin lady does not succeed in that quest, then, shant we?”


“You, my son, will sit upon the throne, while my sister, Arthur, suffers the pangs of childbirth.  Did I not tell you the old gods would return?”

“You did,” Mordred said, with a smile.  “And well they have.”

Mordred left his mother to her schemes, climbed to the top of the tallest tower inCamelot, and made his way out onto the flat, stone roof.  Night had fallen, and the air had grown cold.  His breath escaped him in great gouts of silvery steam.  He and his mother were both pleased at what had happened, and yet Mordred did not fully understand his glee.

For the door to open for him to seize the crown? Of course, this pleased him.  But why did he take such delight in seeing his Uncle reformed into a damsel?  Why did it make him feel so– excited?  He didn’t understand it, and he decided he didn’t care.  He turned his eyes to the twinkling stars in the heavens, and he offered a prayer of thanks to Ceridwen for her wonderful works of magic.  His prayer finished, he plunged back down into the castle.  There was much to do.

The Lady Arthur of Camelot

La Demoiselle d Arthur

And her Knights of the Table Round

In which Arthur, KIng of the Britons, does find

himself a lady fair

It was The Feast of Saint George, and in the Great Hall of Camelot, King Arthur and his knights gathered for a banquet.  The seven famed hearths blazed with mighty fires, and the room swam in the succulent smell of roasting pork, veal and venison.  Servants scurried here and there, refilling mugs with ale, but the food waited– as it always did on the Feast of Saint George– for the occurence a miracle.

“Arthur,” Sir Yvain said, and not for the first time.  “Just a slice.  I am famished.”

“Patience,” Arthur said.  “The meal will be all the more satisfying knowing that you earned it through your pious devotion.”

“But I am sooo hungry.”

“You will make it, my friend,” Arthur said, patting him on the wrist.  “I am sure you will.”

“This waiting for miracles is for fools,” Mordred said. “Irish blarney.  We are Celts, and it is time to admit that.”

Arthur hid his irritation behind a fatherly smile. “Our faith has delivered us many victories in war. Our traditions guide our footsteps, so we do not stray…”

“Into the forest of folly,” Mordred groaned.  “Yes, I recall as you have only said that same thing to me, I don’t know?  There are fewer stars in the heavens, I will say that much.”

Arthur sighed.  It was a failing on his part, but he did not like Mordred.  Arthur, in fact, would never have awarded the arrogant young man a place at the round table, but for the fact that the boy’s mother, Morgana, had begged him, and she was his sister, and the boy his nephew.  Yet, Arthur considered his inability to like his nephew as falling short of his Christian obligations as an Uncle.

“Remember, Arthur,” Lancelot said, breaking off his conversation with Percival.  “We united England for the benefit of the future generations.”

“That may have been a mistake,” Arthur said, taking a sip of ale.  “It may we have made things too easy on the young.”

Mordred scowled, dreading another if you only knew how hard I had it when I was your age speech. “I need warm myself by the fire,” Mordred said, getting up and sauntering over to one of the great hearths, mug of ale in hand.  As he walked, he marvelled at the floor of the great hall– all intricate mosaic tiles, artfully laid out in the images of the Roman gods– a floor left over from those who originally constructed this mighty hall, the Roman Legions who had held this fort, it was said, for many hundreds of years.

There was the image of a man atop a mountain, bolt of lightning in his hands.  A woman hunting. Few Britons remembered anymore who these Gods were, their stories, but the images had always fascinated Mordred, and since he’d first come here as a child, he’d made up stories to go with the images.

The walls of Great Hall had been plastered and painted with the images of the Celtic Gods– and these names Mordred did know.  Dadga, Morrigan, Brigid and Danus among so many more.  Mordred reached up and gently lay his fingers on the image of Mighty Dagda, and his heart sang, even to grow cold as he looked over and saw the image of the cross.

Mordred frowned and looked back to his Celtic Gods.  His mother Morgana had told him all the stories, had told him of the way the Irish had come and turned the people of Briton against their traditions.  “The Irish,” Morgana had said in disgust. “Of course, they of all people would fall in love with a religion that serves wine in the middle of the ceremony!”

It had only been a few generations since the Christians had come to Briton, and Morgana had filled Mordred with a zeal to restore the old gods, to sweep these Irish and their wine soaked rituals into the sea. He glanced over at Arthur, who now laughed and drank with his men, but Mordred could see the grey starting to fill his head, the wrinkles about his eyes.  How long?  He wondered. How long until that old fool dies, and I can fix all that he has done wrong to our people?

Arthur, despite Mordred’s irritating display, felt a general sense of well-being.  Indeed, after many fierce battles, the warring kingdoms of Briton now stood united.  The people prospered, and he’d established a uniform system of justice to be applied through all the lands.  Built roads.  I am, he thought, looking about the fine men gathered at his round table, perhaps the greatest king ever.

Just as that thought crossed his mind, the doors to the great hall flung open, the steel bound oaken frames slamming against the stone walls, sending a terrible noise like thunder through the chamber.  A chill wind came swirling into the room, followed by the clatter of horses’ hooves, and then a mighty white steed trotted into the hall, upon which rode a tiny, slender figure in flashing chain mail and an iron helmet, the visor pulled down.

“Ah,” Arthur called out.  “Our miracle arrives.”

Mordred scowled.  He scowled often.  In this case, it rankled that once again Arthur and his expectations of miracles on St George’s Day had been fulfilled.

The tiny figure leapt from the house, landing with a “clang” and then immediately drew its sword.  The hand of every knight went to the sword that rested next to his chair, thinking this strange little man meant harm to Arthur, but the King, trusting their visitor the manifestation of divine providence, waved his hand.

“Why do you come to the Court of Arthur, King of all the Britons?”  He asked.

The figure lowered its sword and dropped to a knee.  “I have come to join the round table.”

The men all laughed, as this figure seemed a child, and far too small to be of use in battle.  Arthur chuckled as well.  “Show me your face.”

“Yes, your highness.”  The helmet came off, and golden hair spilled out, pouring down over the shoulders.  It appeared they were speaking to a child, and a girl child at that.

“Are you a girl?”  Arthur asked.

“Yes,” the girl said, her eyes hard, serious, determined.  If she heard the laughter, she did not acknowledge it. “And I am pure of heart and stout of arm.  I have come across the sea from Leon, where I had a vision of the Virgin Mary.  She told me I was to travel here and join the round table.”

“Indeed?”  Arthur said, glancing around at his men, who were all chuckling, and yet curious as well.  This was, after all, the St George’s miracle, and so must not be dismissed. “Your name?”

“Ceridwen,” the girl said.

Mordred, who’d been watching with practiced teen-age boredom, started at the name.  It was the name of a celtic goddess, but could this be the shape-shifter, herself?

Arthur looked at the young girl.  She appeared to be about 12 or 13.  These miracles usually involved some sort of test for him or one of his knights, but in this case he’d been merely asked a question.  Perhaps, he decided, I am called on to show grace.  He adopted his fatherly ‘about to give bad news’ look and tone. “Well, little one, you are certainly bold to have made such a journey, and I do not question your heart.  But, brave as you are, the life of a knight is not suited to a young girl.”

Now, Ceridwen smiled.  “Are you saying, great king, that I am too young?”

“Indeed,” Arthur said.  “But what if I were to send you to be with my wife and the other ladies?  You could try on a beautiful dress or do other such things as ladies do.”

“I travelled across the sea to join the round table,” the girl said.  “And if I am too young, then I will grow older.”  With that, she stood and waved her arms and all watched in wonder as she sprouted, growing a full foot and now standing 6 feet tall.  No longer did she have a youthful face, but that of a grown woman.  

The men all gasped.

“I am no longer too young.  I request, again, that you make me one of your knights.”

Arthur thought.  What was the meaning of this test? He couldn’t just let any person join his retinue, and more, women were not allowed to serve as warriors.  It would be– unChristian of him. “You may no longer be too young,” he said. “But you have not proven your skill with a sword.  You must defeat another knight in a duel if you would be shown as worthy.”

“Very well,” Ceridwen said.  “I challenge every man in this room to a dual.  Who will fight me?”

The men all shrank back and averted their eyes.  Not Gawain nor Pervical, not Galahad, Agravain or Lancelot would meet the challenge.  First, because it was unheard of for a man of noble Christian blood to fight a woman, and second because this woman clearly knew magic.

Three times in total did Ceridwen call out the men of the roundtable, and three times the men did decline to meet her in battle.  Mordred sipped his ale, loving it all as both Arthur and his men seemed utterly cowed by this arrogant woman– if she, indeed, was a woman and not a goddess!

Ceridwen then turned to Arthur. “None of your brave knights will meet me.  Therefore, by the laws of chivalry, I am declared winner over them all.  I ask for a third time that you make me a knight of the round table.”  She looked Arthur directly in the eyes, and her look was of total defiance.

Arthur considered, and shook his head.  “You mention the courtly laws,” he said.  “Then, surely you must know by those very same laws that a woman can not be made a knight.  Would you ask me to dishonor myself by breaking the law?”

“No, my noble lord, but I would point out that the laws do allow a king to make any, and I do quote, “ any person a knight who he deems worthy, the judgment of the king superseding all other strictures.”

At this, some of the men chuckled.  Mordred laughed out loud, as he loved seeing his Uncle made to look the fool.

Arthur grimaced.  This girl, miracle or not, was proving as annoying as Mordred, and she was trying his patience, and it snapped.  “You are being ridiculous,” he said.  “You are  a sorcerous, a witch, and your spells and trickery do not change the fact that women are not meant to fight.  I can no more make a woman a knight than I could make a kitten a tiger.  Be gone from my hall, and waste no more of my time with your foolishness.”

The hall grew silent as all waited to see what Ceridwen would do.  The only sound was the popping of the fires.  Ceridwen sheathed her sword. She put her face in her hands, and for a moment seemed to be sobbing, but then she looked up, a wicked smile on her face, and she raised her hands, crying out, “You say a woman can not serve as a knight, Arthur?  Perhaps you should be one!”

With that, a great wind once more swept into the hall, forming a vortex which lifted Arthur off his feet.  He began to spin, slowly, struggling against the wind which seemed to have pinned his arms to his sides, to have taken his voice.  Arthur’s men rose, meaning to rush to his defense, but the wind pushed them back, heels scraping across the floor, and they were all thrown against the walls and pinned there, writhing helplessly against the power of Ceridwen.

All eyes were on Arthur now, and all looked in wonder as each time he spun, he was changed.  Turn– and long, thick hair now swirled about his head.  Turn– and now he seemed smaller than before.  Turn— and his breeches and tunic vanished, replaced by a woman’s gown.  Turn– and the gown did hug a shapely figure, slender waist, rounded hips.  Turn- and from the top of the dress spilled soft white breasts. Turn– and now narrow shoulders replaced his manly frame.  Turn– and dainty white arms dangled from his sleeveless dress.

The hall went dark, and all could hear Ceridwen laughing.  

“Arthur King, did he declare, a maiden could not be a knight

He swaggered and bellowed and played the man

But Ceridwen had other plans

Now that king a man no more

Now does he take a woman’s shape

Now does he face a woman’s fate

Small and pretty and soft and weak

No this girl is not a king

Nor can she a warrior be

Lady Arthur is meant for homemaking

A fertile mother and devoted wife

This now becomes Arthur’s life

Oh, why or why, she will cry

Oh my, oh my, she’d rather die

For being a woman, after once a king

Only sorrow her new life brings

The winds died down.  Arthur lowered to the floor, stumbling slightly.  He had felt himself changing, but did not understand the nature of the changes.  He now looked down to see his fresh, new breasts– soft and round.  He felt cold, and plucked at the clothes he wore, realizing he wore a dress, horrified, humiliated.  He looked at his hands, his slender wrists, his soft white arms, and his mind fought against it. He struggled, refusing to accept what his eyes were telling him, the words of Ceridwen’s song.  “A woman?”  He said, shocked at the sound of his voice.  “No.”

Arthur’s knights stared at him, at the woman he’d become.   In truth, it was part due to shock, and it was part because he was now the most lovely woman any of them had ever seen, with a face that would make an angel weep.  They all knew this fair maiden was none other than their King.  They all stood frozen, no one knowing what to do or say.  Ceridwen continued her song.

Is there no hope?  Must Arthur be

A maiden fair for all his years?

There is a way for our damsel dear

To escape her little life of tears

By midsomer, our virgin sweet

Must use her pure and womanly heart

To tame a unicorn with feminine art

To present to me by end of longest day

Shall the lady fail or be delayed

a maiden faire then she must stay

Arthur, sweet lass, for ever more

No more a knight, no more a king

This truth from her down mouth

She did decry.

Once more, Ceridwen waved her arms.  The knights and Arthur found themselves freed from her spell. The men charged Ceridwen, but she leapt upon her steed and rode out of the hall, leaving behind only her laughter.  Arthur had tried to charge his tormenter, but unused to a woman’s dress, he’d stepped on the hem and stumbled, falling to the ground, his long, black hair hanging around his face like a curtain.  He felt the wrongness of his body, his clothes.  It didn’t seem possible that he found himself a woman? No. 

A hand reached down, coming into his vision.  Arthur took it, and was helped to his feet, surprised how small and soft his hand felt in this man’s coarse, calloused grip.  As he stood, he looked up to see Mordred’s grinning face looking down at him–  how short am I? Arthur wondered.

“Milady,” Mordred said, putting a hand on the small of Atthur’s back and guiding him toward the exit.  “You must flee!