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.