The Lady Arthur Chapter 7

In which Morgana and Mordred do plot to steal the throne, and Arthur resorts to feminine wiles to attempt escape!

Morgana sat at the desk in her guestroom, dipping her quill in a jar of ink and carefully writing out a note to Guinevere. Candles flickered about the desk, and a fire blazed in the heath, casting all in shades of red. 

Dearest Queen Guinevere;

I write you as your loyal subject, sister in law, and forever friend to Arthur and all in his court.  Please do not hesitate to avail yourself of my services should you require ought.  My aid is yours, and the swords of my modest holding, Tauroc. You are forever in my heart!

The Lady Morgana

Just as she finished signing her name, a wicked smirk on her lips, she heard footsteps in the hall outside her rooms, and soon Mordred entered, cheeks still flush from the cold.

“How fared your errand?”  Morgana said, giving her son a hug and a peck on the cheek.

“The Huntsman has been tasked with the capture of Arthur,” Mordred said. “He will send word once he has him.”

“Her,” Morgana corrected. “Arthur is now a mere girl. Oh! How I wish I could see her face when she is imprisoned in the nunnery!  Rather like a maiden in a romance! Oh, he will be so vexed. Arthur. Oh, Arthur.”

Morgana clutched her hands beneath her chin. “It will be ever so delightful to welcome him back to Camelot once the curse is permanent and he must face life as a girl! I shall make him wear the prettiest dresses!.”

Mordred, for his part, while pleased at the prospect of being made king much sooner than he had imagined, found his mother’s pleasure in Arthur’s transformation distasteful. Still, he knew better than to suggest her behavior in any way untoward.  “The knights will never think to look for him at the Priory.”

“Indeed, and Arthur shall have such fun spending months dressed and living as a nun!” This time, Morgana could not help but cackle in glee at the thought, and Mordred could not hide a wince. 

“Why do you flinch?” Morgana said.

“I worry at what you might make of me,” Mordred admitted, “should ever you grow angry with me.”

“Oh, Mordred,” Morgana said. “You know I could never harm my cherished son. I long only to see you placed on the throne, your rightful place.”

“It is a comfort to know.” 

“Now, we must turn our attention to Guinevere. She still stands in our way. We must remove her from the throne before Arthur’s return, so that you are made king in her absence.”

“And how shall we do such a thing? She is much loved by the people.”

“You speak truth, and you also author the very means by which we shall see her thrown down: hate. We will make the people hate her, doubt her, look for salvation from you.”

Morgana went to her chest, unlocked it and removed a bulky book with black, engraven with runes of ancient Celtic. “Black magic! The dark arts! The spells I shall weave will ensnare Guinevere as in a spider’s web!”

46 Days now remain until Midsummer

A single ray of golden light sliced through the sod roof of Killmack’s cottage, falling on Arthur’s face, bathing it in golden light. Killmack, who woke always before the dawn, had been up for some time, rebuilding the fire, cutting up some bacon. Later, he would send word to the masked man who had hired him to capture this silly girl, who had been such a fool to wander alone in the wilderness. The wilds were no place for women.

He looked at her now, her pale face golden in the morning sun, and he marveled to look upon such a soft, angelic face. Never had he seen such beauty! Indeed, gazing in wonder at her face, he felt doubly sure she should never have been alone. What sort of father or husband did the girl have that she could have snuck out, and dressed as a man?

Yes, looking upon the lovely vulnerable girl, Killmack’s heart was so moved that he began to question whether he should turn the lass over to the masked man. The fellow had a darkness and a menace about him, and Killmack felt certain he had nothing but the worst intentions toward her.

Arthur woke with a start.  He saw Killmack sitting at his rough hewn table, just– looking. Being held in the man’s gaze made Arthur feel quite unmanned.  He did not care for it one bit. But, before he could find words to ask the man to stop staring, a new imperative came to Arthur’s attention: he needed to make water.  This, he thought, could be a chance to escape.

“Um, this is most embarrassing for me, as a lady, to speak of, but I need to… um… ?”

“Spit it out!” Killmack said, but just as the words left him, it occurred to him what this girl needed. “Oh! I see. Yes.”  He went over and untied Arthur’s feet, then picked him up and stood him up. “Out back,” he grunted, guiding Arthur out the door, then leading him around the back of the cottage to a small stream in the woods.

“I’ll give you some privacy, but do not be fool enough to try and run,” Killmack said. “You will not get far.”

Arthur, who was loathe to lie, merely shrugged. Then, he batted his eyelashes as he had seen maidens do. He knew it had a most powerful way of weakening a man’s will. “Um, my hands?”

“You think me a fool?”

“Well, would you pull my pants down, then?” Arthur said, pressing his knees together and hopping up and down. “I have to go so bad!” In fact, Arthur’s need was growing urgent, the tinkling sound of the nearby creek making even greater the pressure he felt.

“Pull down your–? I can’t…? Blast!!” Killmack grabbed the rope around Arthur’s wrists and untied it. “There.” With that, Killmack turned and walked away, looking quite embarrassed by the whole thing.

Sweet man, Arthur thought, having noticed Killmack blush at the awkwardness of the whole encounter. Arthur took care of his needs, then pulled his pants up, trying to remain as quiet as possible. “Just a moment,” Arthur called. 

“Hurry up,” Killmack said. 

Arthur began to creep away, carefully stepping across the stream, then making his way up the bank. Picking his way carefully through the undergrowth, he found a stick and took position behind an ancient oak. Then, he waited.

 Not wanting to catch the girl in a rude position, Killmack also waited, gasping with exasperation every few seconds. And, he waited, and then he grew angry, for he was certain the girl had decided to run. “Foolish child,” he spat, then made his way to the stream, the path the girl had taken as obvious to his skillful eyes as as if it had been lit with fairy dust. He hoped over the stream.

Arthur took a peek, saw the Huntsman hop the stream, and he threw the stick off to the right as far as he could. The Huntsman’s head snapped up, and he bounced off to the right, in the direction of the sound.  Arthur bolted to the left, racing away through the forest, hoping to escape.

It was a foolish hope! 

The Huntsman quickly recognized the ruse, and raced after Arthur, crashing through the forest.  Arthur hopped over a fallen tree, glancing back to see the Hunstman easily closing in on him.  Realizing that his escape plan was futile, Arthur grabbed a thick branch from the forest floor, and dropped into a fighter’s crouch. “Stay away from me!” Arthur shrieked.

“Girl, do not be a fool,” the Huntsman said. He lunged. Arthur swung. The Huntsman caught the stick and yanked it from Arthur’s small, soft hands. Once more, Arthur was horrified at how small and weak he’d become. The Huntsman stepped forward, towering over Arthur now, making him feel like a child. The Huntsman held out his hand. “Come along.”

Feeling a fool, Arthur glanced over his shoulder, thinking to run once more, but he knew the Huntsman was too fast. Swallowing his pride, Arthur took the man’s hand. “Does this mean I do not get breakfast?” Arthur asked in a small voice.

“Oh, you’ll get your breakfast, young lady, but you’ll also be getting a spanking.”


Arthur felt the Huntsman’s arm lock around his waist, then he was lifted in the air and soon found himself over the Huntsman’s knee. “You need to learn to obey,” the Huntsman announced.  It’s not right for a girl to be so hard-headed.”

“Don’t you dare!” Arthur screamed, shocked to find himself bent over a man’s knee. “Don’t you–”

Whap! The Huntsman’s hand swatted Arthur’s fanny. Whap!

“You will regret your–!”

Whap! Whap! “You will mind your tongue, girl!” Whap! “This is hurting me more than it’s –whap– hurting you.”

“I am not a girl!”


“Arrrgghhhh!” Arthur finally called out, a guttural scream of pure fury as he wiggled and kicked and punched, trying to free himself. His vision went red. He began to hyperventilate.  

“You will cease this tantrum! You will learn your place!”

“Unhand her, you brute,” a deep, man’s voice called out.

The Lady Arthur Chapter 6

In which Arthur finds himself captive.

“Let me go! Let me go!” Arthur demanded, annoyed at how weak and feminine he sounded. He writhed and wiggled, but to little purpose. His ankles were bound together, and his wrists had been tied behind his back. 

“You keep chirping,” Killmack said, “I’ll be forced to gag you.”

The thought of being gagged did not please Arthur, and so he paused and considered his situation.  He’d found himself first carried some distance through the forest, thrown over the man’s shoulders like a sack of potatoes. It was another reminder for Arthur of how much smaller he was now as a woman.  Then, he’d been tied to the back of a pony and brought to a shambles of a rustic cabin with a grass roof and weathered wood that looked like it had been hewn right out of the forest.

The man who’d captured Arthur now busied himself at a small stove, the crooked chimney pipe rising up through the ceiling. Initially, Arthur had been focused entirely on trying to free himself, but now that he’d accepted he could not escape his bonds, he was given time to think. He recalled what Guinevere had said to him, her warnings about the dangers particular to women travelling alone in the wilds.

Was that what this was all about? Was this man planning to have his way with Arthur?

The thought gave Arthur chills, the dangers of his new sex now manifestng ina very real manner.  Arthur resolved that, should the man prov so dishonorable, so savage, then he would fight tooth and nail to preserve his maidenly virtue.

He decided to try new tactics.

“I can pay you,” Arthur said. “Gold. More than you’ve ever seen.”

“I have no need of gold,” the man said. “The forest provides all I need or care for.”

“Why have you taken me prisoner, then? For what purpose?”

The man, who’d put a crude pot onto the stove and had been stirring, stopped and looked at Arthur. “You’ll find out soon enough.”  The man then stared at Arthur, a dark look in his eyes.

“What does that mean?”  Arthur said. “Soon enough?”  The man’s penetrating stare made Arthur’s skin crawl, and his womanly fears redoubled. “If you dare touch me, you will hang for it!”

“You’re pretty enough,” the man said. “Well shaped. But I am offended at even the suggestion. You nobles are all the same. You think commoners little more than animals.”

“What makes you think I a noble?”  Arthur said, and then realizing his accent was giving him away, added, “Er, aye main, wha’evr gives ya such a thought as that, aye?”

Killmack burst out laughing.  “Is that how I sound ta ya?”

Arthur looked away. “Sorry,” he said. “I guess it is obvious.”

“It is and at the same time it isn’t,” Killmack said. “You are clearly a lady, but this is the first time I have ever seen a lady out alone, and dressed as a boy. And, I might say, you aren’t the most graceful girl I’ve seen.”

This time it was Arthur’s turn to laugh. He felt the two were bonding, and he wanted to try and get the man to take his guard down.  “It’s hard to be graceful all trussed up like this.”

“I suppose,” the man said.  He came over, and Arthur’s hopes rose as he thought the man might untie him, but instead he just pulled Arthur off the floor and placed him in a sitting position.  “I’ll feed you some soup, your majesty.  You must be starving.”

“If you untie me, I can feed myself?”  Arthur said, hopeful.

“And you could also throw this hot soup right in my face, couldn’t you?”

“But, I am just a girl, and a lady, as you have noted. Surely, you do not fear a woman?” Arthur smiled and batted his eyes. It’s worth a chance, he thought.

“You can eat my way, or you can starve. Which is it going to be?”

Arthur’s tummy was, indeed, grumbling. “Your way,” he said, dropping the smile and the pretense.

The soup turned out to be boiled greens– solid peasant food, which Arthur had not had in some years.  It reminded him of his younger years, before the sword in the stone, before he became King, before Camelot. The taste of the traditional soup sent waves of nostalgia through Arthur, a balm of bitter-sweet memories and a simpler life from long ago.  Some of the soup dribbled down Arthur’s chin, and Killmack wiped it with a rough cloth.

“Thank you,” Arthur said.


His belly full of food, the stress of his day began to take its toll, and Arthur’s eyes grew heavy, blinking, blinking shut as sleep over took him.  His last sight was Killmack, sharpening his sword.

Arthur woke sometime in the night, initially panicking–where am I? What’s happened? Before the events of the day came back to him and he remembered being taken captive. The room was dark save for the orange light pouring from the embers still burning in the stove. The night was filled with the steady hum of insects, an owls hoot– and the sawing of Killmack’s snores.

Arthur saw a pair of beady little eyes across the room from him, orange in the firelight. What the devil?  But then he realized it was just a rat, scrounging around looking for food. For a moment Arthur wondered if he might find a way to get some food onto his ropes, lure the rat into gnawing them off?  But, when he tried to move, he realized as he slept Killmack had tied him to the base of the bed. “Here ratty rat,” he whispered, nevertheless. “Here little ratty.”

The rat paused to sniff the air, then went back to foraging.

I suppose if I were a girl I would be screaming right now, Arthur thought to himself. Women were such emotional creatures, and so easily frightened. H’d even amused himself as a boy by catching rats by the tail and running about, wagging the rat at the girls, who always shrieked and run away. I suppose those girls might have a laugh if they saw me now.

Girls. Screams. Maybe I can use this to once more show my capture what a frail and dainty lady I am?  Arthur thought. If he could convince the man he was just another silly girl, perhaps he would let his guard down? He resolved to scream and play the maiden.  “Here we go!”

Nothing came out. It shamed him, come right to it, to act like a girl. He was a man, and this was a man, and how could he let himself be a maiden? It was not honorable.

And yet?

Come on now, Arthur, he thought to himself. Be a man and play the maiden.

He took a deep breath, and mustering all his will, he screamed!

“What? What is it?”  Killmack shouted, torn from his slumbers. He rolled from the bed, grabbing his sword.

Arthur screamed again, and then whimpered, “Rat!  There’s a rat! Help me!”

Killmack looked just in time to see the rat scurrying away.

“For the love of all that lives in the forest,” Killmark said, shaking his head. “He’s more scared of you than you are of him.”

To his surprise, Arthur found tears rolling down his cheeks. “He was going to bite me!” Arthur gasped through sobs.

“Women!” Killmark spat. “This is why I live alone now. Go back to sleep.”

“I was scared,” Arthur said, glad he was facing away from Killmark, as he was struggling not to smile, amused at his own acting.

“If you wake me again,” Killmack said. “Well, there will be, um, er, no breakfast! Now be quiet.”

No breakfast? Arthur sighed. Truly, he knew that men often treated women as children. And, though the whole thing had been an act, it made him just a bit cross to have Killmack dismiss his feelings so callously. Just like a man, Arthur thought, aware of the irony and loving it just a little. I go through all the trouble of drawing tears and he is scarcely moved!Still, Arthur felt, he had, indeed, conveyed what he’d intended. Killmack now thought him just another girl, and that could prove useful!

The Lady Arthur Chapter 5

Chapter Five

In which the quest begins, and falls into peril.

That night, Arthur sat as the barber cut his hair.  By request, he trimmed it in a rounded, pageboy style.  “You must remain silent regarding my husband’s look,” Guinevere explained.  “Speak to no one as to how you cut his hair, nor how he looks now.”

“Of course, your majesty,” the old man did say, scissors flashing and clicking as he cut Arthur’s luxurious locks, which did fall to the floor all about him.  When he finished, he gathered the hair in a cloth and shoved it into his robe.  “With your permission, my lord and lady, I would like to use this hair to fashion a wig.”

“A wig?”  Arthur said, getting up and looking in the mirror, rubbing his hand across the back of his neck, enjoying the feeling of freedom he once more enjoyed, freed of the long, womanly hair he’d endured this past day.

“You will NOT make a wig of the king’s hair,” Guenievere spat.  “It is uncouth, and you should not even think it.”

Arthur raised a hand.  “What would you do with such a wig?”

“Forgiveness, but there is a young lady who has lost her hair due to a rare ailment.  I but thought that would make a lovely wig, quite suitable to her complexion.  I should not have thought it.” He removed the bundle of hair from his robe and held it toward Arthur.

“Keep it,” Arthur said.  “I cannot deny such a gift to a lady in need.”

Guinevere winced.  She did not like the idea at all, and yet she admired her husband’s nobility, and so she acquiesced, only adding, “But let it remain a secret that this gift comes from Arthur.”

“Yes,” Arthur said.  “Of course.  Such a gift must be offered without any desire for thanks.”

“Yes,” the barber said, bowing and leaving the room.

Once the barber left, Guinevere went to her husband, brushing the bangs from his forehead.  They each knew this was to be Arthur’s last night in Camelot before leaving on his quest, and that knowledge cast a bittersweet mood over them both.  “Oh, Arthur, my love,” Guinevere said, staring into his eyes.  “I do worry so.”

“You need not worry,” Arthur said.  “I will return to you, and once more I will be the man you love.”

“You are, Arthur.  I have told you.”

“You did not worry about me so when I had yet my manly frame.”

They moved to the balcony together.  The night was cold, and a full moon hung above Camelot in a cloudless sky.  Arthur took Guenivere’s hand. He squeezed, and Guenivere squeezed back. “Tell me you believe in me,” Arthur said. 

“I believe in you,” Guinevere said.  She put her hand over her heart, and felt it beating, even beneath the now soft swelling of his maidenly bosom. “But you must promise me.  You must, that you will remember that though you are still a great warrior, and a man amongst men, that you wear a damsel’s shape, and there will be times you must think not as a man, but a woman.”

Arthur put his hand to Guenivere’s soft cheek. He understood his wife’s concerns.  Indeed, her warnings about his reputation and the need to protect his– virtue– he almost choked even thinking the word– had made him consider that he would need to be careful of situations a man need not consider.  “I shall, and I accept your counsel.  Until the spell is broken, I will seek to act as Christian man, and Christian woman.”

“I will pray for you each morning and each night.”

“And I will pray for you.  I know you govern Camelot with grace and honor in my absence.  It must be said, though, you are not the only one who will worry.  I shall think of you always as I journey on my quest.”

“Arthur!”  Once more, their lips met, and then the ladies Arthur and Guenivere did hold each other tight, warming themselves in the chill beneath the cold light of the moon.

Arthur rose before the dawn.  He dressed by candlelight, donning the suit of chainmail he’d found to fit his new body.  He belted on his weapons– a short sword and a dagger.  Indeed, he’d found a long sword unwieldy with his slender arms, but felt he could fight well enough.  On his back, a smaller wooden shield. Finally, a hooded cloak.  His clothes hid his shape, and with his haircut in the manner it was, he thought he would pass as a boy– a very pretty boy, but a boy nonetheless.  None the lass, the thought, with a chuckle.

Finally, he gave sleeping Gueinivere a kiss, and slipped out of the castle and to the Old Gate, where Gawain waited with his steed, upon which had been bundled a bedroll as well as food and water. “Godspeed, my King,” Gawain said.

“Be at the Queen’s service.  Protect her should danger call,” Arthur said, and the two clasped hands, as men do.  Arthur climbed upon his horse.  He felt bigger, of course, than he had seemed to Arthur previously, but he was certain he would get used to it.  It was now pre-dawn.  The sun had not yet risen, but the coming of the sun had cast the world in a purple light.  Gawain watched as Arthur rode off, heading down a narrow, disused path into the forest.

“He looks so small,” Gawain thought.  His heart fluttered.  He felt a mighty desire to ride after this maiden king, to offer her his protection, as a knight was called to protect women, but he had his orders.  “I must remember, Arthur is not a girl,” he thought.  “He can defend himself.”  Yet, Gawain like all the others had seen the king’s narrow shoulders, and his lithe arms.  The memory unnerved him.

Arthur’s heart raced as he rode off into the forest. It was not fear, but excitement.  It had been many years since he had gone on a quest, and many more since he had gone off without a retinue of knights around him. More, he’d woken with none of the aches and pains that he’d become accustomed to as an older man and a warrior.  Indeed, this young body of his seemed a bundle of energy and vibrance.  This, combined with the sense of total freedom he felt, made him feel young, as indeed his body was young, and it could only be said that he was thinking only of adventure, optimistically expecting nothing but success as he sallied forth.

He followed the paths through the forest as Merlin had described them, the sun rising, warming the cool air.  Sunlight now cut through the branches of the ancient trees like pillars, and the air filled with the songs of morning birds. Arthur found himself thinking of the plan.  He would meet Merlin at the Lost Pond, and they would journey to Northumbria, to the village of Pittenween.  There was a druid there named Colban, who according to Merlin, would know where to find a unicorn.


Arthur reigned in his horse.  He glanced behind him.  Had he heard something?  Was he being followed?  He waited, but heard nothing more.  “I am being ridiculous,” he decided.  “I am not going to start acting like some silly girl, jumping at the least sound.”  He began riding once more.  “Forests are full of cracks and creaks, and animals often make for suspicious sounds.”

Several times more, he thought he heard sounds, but each time a glance showed nothing, and eventually he stopped worry about it at all.  Finally, sometime around mid-day, as the sun hovered directly above, Arthus came to the Lost Pond.  It was a lovely spot, surrounded by the swaying branches of willows, reflected back in the still blue waters of the pond.  The sound of croaking toads filled the air.  Arthur dismounted, tied his horse to a branch, and stretched.  Looking about, he wondered– where is Merlin?

Wizards, Arthur thought. Never on time.  With nothing else to do, he found a soft spot in the shade, tossed down his bedroll, and closed his eyes.  He did not mean to nap, but rather just to rest his eyes.  In moments, though, he did sleep.

A shadowy figure moved about in the brush, creeping to a place where it could watch the maiden king sleeping.

“You’re sure?”  Mordred said. He wore a leather mask, and made a gruff voice to disguise his identity.

Killmack, the hunter, who was crouched low to the ground, his hand in the soft soil of a leafy, woodland path, nodded.  “A horse passed here, and I will vouch it was this very morn.”

“Very well.  I would have you follow this horse.  You will find a girl.  Take her prisoner.  Make sure no harm comes to her in her capture.”

“Who is this girl?”

“You need not know,” Mordred said.  He’d chosen this hunter because he knew the man had never met Arthur, so the spell would not reveal her true name.  “She will, likely, make various claims as to her name.  Ignore her.  You need only capture her, take her to your cabin, and hold her there until I come to claim her.”

“As you wish,” the hunter said, bowing.

“Do this, and you will have a cure your daughter.”

“She will live?”

“She will,” Mordred said.  “Now, go!”   


“Wait,” Gurgen, the goblin said. “Do you smell that?”

Fundyn sniffed the air.  “Girl flesh!”  He grumbled, greedily.

“Delectable and sweet!”

“Let us sneak up on her!”  Lumpy and green with warts and boils over their faces and bodies, goblins are hideous beasts that dwell in the wilds.  As wicked as they are ugly, goblins love nothing more than to boil humans and make of them great stews turnips and weeds.  Indeed, they preferred most of all to boil naughty children who sneak off into the woods without their parent’s permission, but second only to children was their delight in making stew from girl flesh.  Men, yes, they would eat if they must, but they found men often tasted sour, almost as if they were made of puppy tails and besides the meat was tough.

Gurgen and Fundyn now moved with stealth, for goblins could slip amongst the forest as silent as cats when they wanted, and they found their way to the edge of the clearing that surrounded the Lost Lake. Gurgen, crouching, pushed a branch aside, and gasped as he gazed upon Arthur’s sleeping form.

“She looks tasty!”  Gurgen whispered.


Fundyn started to rise, meaning to race down and seize the maiden, but Gurgen grabbed his arm and pulled him back.  “Wait,” he hissed.  “Look.  She does have a sword.”

“A girl with a sword?” Fundyn said.  Looking, he saw that Gurgen spoke the truth.  Indeed, the girl did sleep with her hand upon the pommel of a sword. Goblins are cowards.  It is their nature, and so the thought of any sort of fight was to be avoided at all costs.  “We must sneak down and catch her while yet she sleeps.”

Neither of them noticed a shadowy shape moving through the woods towards them from the right.

Killmack, for his part, had also come to the lake.  He now crouched to the left of our goblins, gazing upon the sleeping face of Arthur, admiring the sleeping maiden’s beauty. Who is this girl?  He wondered.  He had never seen a maiden so fair, and he felt drawn to her beauty.  However, his hunter’s ears had picked up the murmuring of the goblins, and he hesitated, glancing through the woods, trying to pinpoint their position.  He had not counted on having to deal with such foul creatures.  Of course, as always, his mission seemed to have become more complicated than expected. He decided to knock his bow, wait for the goblins to emerge from the woods, and then shoot them down once they entered the clearing.

Fundyn and Gurgen had just started to sneak forward, when they heard a great shout from behind.  “Flee, creatures,” a man shouted. “Or fall on my sword!”

The goblins turned, brandishing their clubs.  From the forest rose a warrior dressed all in white, his face hidden behind a great helm.  I have already told you goblins are cowards, and so they did consider running.  But the scent of the girl had made their tummies growl, and their greed as well as their advantage in numbers gave them courage.  Gurgen hissed and charged, while Fundyn circled behind the warrior. “Grrrroook!”  The goblins howled. “Grrroook!”

Killmack, hearing the commotion, seeing the trees and branches sway, the sound of battle, swung his bow back over his shoulder and bounded from the woods, closing in on the girl.

Arthur, hearing the sounds of battle, sat up with a start, instinctively drawing his sword.  As he got to his feet, head still cloudy with sleep, he saw a man charging toward him. “Hold!” Arthur called, brandishing his blade.  “Come no closer!”

Killmack chuckled at the sight of the maiden and her sword, drawing his own blade and closing the distance between them. He decided to try to fool her. “Do you not hear the sound of battle? Come!  I will take you from harm’s way!”  He reached out his hand. 

“Come one step closer, and it is you who will be harmed!”  Arthur shouted.

“I only wish to protect you!”  Killmack could not help but chuckle.  This girl did have some spirit!

Arthur glanced at his horse, thinking to make a run for it, but the man’s smirk and condescension enraged him.  He took a fighter’s stance.  “I have warned you.  Leave now or face my steel!”

“Very well,” Killmack said.  He knew he had to take the girl without hurting her, so he resolved to disarm her.  He swung his blade, and was surprised when the girl did parry his stroke with ease.

“Surprised?”  Arthur said.

“A little,” Killmack said.  Now seeing the girl had some skill with her weapon, he focused more intently, now attacking her with a flurry of blows all meant to meet her sword and knock it from her hands.

Arthur parried the blows.  The huntsman was poorly skilled.  He telegraphed each swing, and all were sloppy and inefficient.  But each also shook his small arms as the clanging of steel rang out, and he found himself being driven backwards.

Arthur tried to circle, but he found now that he struggled with his footwork.  It was the chain mail.  It was too heavy for him, and it slowed his movements.  The hunter now attacked with a sweeping motion, and Arthur saw too late what he intended as their swords locked at the pommels. Arthur pushed with all his might, but the man was too big and heavy.  “Fool girl,” he said, and Arthur felt himself thrown backwards, overpowered.  He fell to the ground, and before he could recover the huntsman fell upon him, twisting the sword from his grip and then pinning his arms to his sides.

“Get off me!”  Arthur gasped, struggling helplessly beneath the man’s weight. 

The huntsman, now eager to get away with his prize, covered Arthur’s mouth and nose with a cloth.  Powerful herbs filled Arthur’s lungs, and he felt himself growing faint.  “No!”  He gasped as he sunk into darkness.

The huntsman lifted the girl and carried her from the lake, vanishing into the gloom of the forest.

The mysterious white knight, meanwhile, found himself battling not only the two goblins he’d originally assailed.  Their calls of “grrrrooook” had brought a dozen more, and he spun and slashed and smashed them with his steel gauntleted fist, slaying 9 of the infernal beasts, and scattering the others.  Blood now staining his white armor, gasping for breath, exhausted, he pushed his way through the trees and down to the lakeshore.  Looking about, he saw Arthur’s horse, and his bedroll, but Arthur was gone.

The knight sank to one knee, looking for tracks. A confusion of foot prints.  There had been a battle!  He looked and looked, and then he found the steps of the hunter.  He looked to the sky in despair.  The sun was setting, and it would soon be too dark to see well enough to follow the tracks.  He would have to wait until morning.  “Arthur!”  He cried out in despair and concern.  “Arthur!”

The Lady Arthur Part 4

Chapter Four

In which plans for the quest take shape, and the Friar doth offer most unwelcome counsel.

Arthur felt himself spinning, felt his body changing, found himself plucking at the skirt of a dress, saw himself in the mirror, but not himself, the maiden he had become. He woke with a high-pitched shout, put his hands to his smooth cheeks.  Images from the previous day swam in his mind, the face in the mirror, the body. 

Bright, morning sunlight poured through his window and across his bed, bathing him in a golden light.  He rubbed his eyes.  He was still a woman.  Well, there was nothing to be done but to prepare for his quest.  Merlin had gone back to his cave to gather some supplies and to tell Nimue of his decision to join Arthur.  Arthur, for his part, needed to gear up as well.  None of his old armor would fit, but he was not shorter than some of the knights, now standing the same height as Guenevere, who was not short for a woman.  He would also need a new sword.  That he would be travelling from Camelot without his trusted Excalibur did unnerve him.  Had someone taken the sword?  Had it been taken away by some angel of the lord, denied him as no longer worthy?

He remembered his own decree that no woman could serve as a knight.  Had he sealed his own fate, declaring himself unworthy now due to his sex?

He made his way to the sitting room where he, Merlin and Guenevere had met the night before only to find his wife sitting at the table, busy with needle and thread.  There were piles of clothes all around.

“My dear,” Arthur said. “Did you not sleep?”

“No,” his loving wife said, eyes on the needle she pulled through a tunic.  “As much as a fear for your safety, I know you will not be dissuaded from your quest, and so I am adjusting your clothes so they will fit.”

“I am so fortunate to have you,” Arthur said.  He went over and put an arm over her shoulders, and he began to lean down to offer her a kiss of gratitude on the mouth, but Geunevere turned so his lips landed instead on her cheek.

  The move puzzled Arthur and made him feel a sting of rejection, but he pushed it away, focusing instead on being grateful for his wife’s efforts.  He picked up a pair of trousers, and saw that they had been shortened.  “Marvelous,” he said.

“I am glad you are pleased.”  At the moment, Guenevere was busy stitching darts into the sides of one of Arthur’s tunics, making space for his newly shapely bust.  She did not mention it, as she felt her husband did not need to know.  

There was a knock on the door. “Sir Lancelot to see you,” the footman said.

Tension immediately rose between the husband and wife.  When Arthur had learned that his wife and best friend had had an affair, it began the darkest period of his life.  He had never even considered that either one of them would betray him in any way, and it had shaken his faith in people, and in God.  When he learned that their affair had been known throughout Camelot, and that he, alone, seemed unaware, that had added humiliation to the already soul- deadening moment.

He and Guenevere had worked hard to repair their marriage after that, and he had even forgiven Lancelot and welcomed him back to the roundtable.  But the trust and friendship they had once enjoyed had not returned.

Arthur glanced at Guenevere.  “I wonder what he wants?”

“You should ask him in and find out.”

Arthur felt troubled by the thought.  This man had lay with his wife, cuckolding him. Would they be tempted to lay in each other’s arms once again now that Arthur could no longer be husband?  He thought of the way Guenevere turned her head when he’d tried to kiss her.   But, with a sigh, he decided to let Lancelot enter.  “Let him pass,” Arthur called.

The door opened.  Lancelot strode in, stopped in the doorway, frozen.  Arthur was wearing his sleeping gown, and his long hair was a delightful mess, framing that radiant, feminine face.  He met Arthur’s wide, sparkling eyes, and he could not stop staring in wonder at this lovely woman.  Seeing her dressed as she was, in a man’s sleeping gown, with that wild hair, she brought to mind many mornings spent with many conquests, and he felt an electric charge pass between them.

Arthur, who had not yet felt the heat of a man’s lusty gaze, put a hand to his heart and stepped back, shocked.  No man had ever looked at him like this before.  He did not like the feeling.  “Don’t look at me like that,” Arthur said.

Lancelot, who’d been acting on instinct, was equally as shocked as Arthur to realize what he’d been doing and thinking and feeling towards his king.  He pulled his eyes away, meeting Guenevere’s.  “My queen,” he said, wanting to break the tension.

Guenvere slit her eyes, appalled but only slightly surprised at Lancelot’s behavior. “Sir Lancelot,” she said, some acid in her voice.  In truth, she was both enraged to see her husband looked at in that manner, as well as jealous.

“I have come,” Lancelot said, now striding fully into the room.  “To offer my assistance in your quest.”

“Your assistance?”  Arthur said, craning his neck back to look up at Lancelot.  Being around Guinevere and Merlin he had not felt small, but standing next to Lancelot now, he felt almost like he’d become a child once more. 

“I would ride with you on your journey and offer my sword to your protection. You are and always will be my King.  I would die for you.” 

The gesture impressed Arthur.  His wife’s comments about his small arms came back to him.  “Perhaps it would be wise,” Arthur said.

“My darling?”  Guinevere said.  “A word?”

“Shall I–?”

“No.  You may remain here.  Can we speak in my chambers, Arthur?”

“Of course.”

Arthur followed Guinever to her room, and she patted her bed.  The two sat next to each other.  “You must not travel into the wilds with Lancelot.”  She said.  

“Why not?”

Guinevere brushed a stray hand away from Arthur’s eyes.  “As you well know, Lancelot has a weakness for maidens.”

“I am NOT a maiden!”

“I know.  I see still the man you were before me.  But you must understand that many girls who swore they would never surrender themselves to him eventually found themselves in his bed.”

“I am not going to lay with a man!”  Arthur got up and stormed across the room.  

“Of course not. But, you must take care for your reputation.  If you go off with Lancelot, there will be rumors.  A woman, and you will be seen by many as a woman now, must guard her reputation as she guards her life.”

That stopped Arthur.  He had not even considered the possibility of rumors, and Guinevere’s concerns struck him as — real.  How would he feel to return from his quest, restored even to his sex, only to have half of Camelot believe he’d given himself to Lancelot?

“That is not something that crossed my mind.”

“It wouldn’t have,” Guinevere said.  “That is why I wanted to offer my advice on this.  For a man to be suspected of laying with a beautiful girl, it is just another conquest.  But for the girl, it can be devastating.”

Arthur sighed, tossed his hair.  “Must everything be so complicated for women?”

“Yes,” Guinevere said.

“I swear,” Arthur said, “I shall be far more understanding of what women suffer in our world after this.  I have only been one for a few hours and already I miss the freedom of being a man.”

“So, we should tell Lancelot,” Guinevere said, getting up.

There was something in her tone– eagerness?  But, it struck Arthur as wrong and brought back all the pain of his wife’s previous betrayal.  An idea struck him as forcefully as a hammer:  she means to sleep with him as soon as I leave the castle!

Arthur seethed at the thought.  His mind went to war. Had she not urged Arthur NOT to go questing?  And yet perhaps that was all part of a clever ruse to throw him off as she planned to romp in the hay with her old lover now that Arthur was but a maiden, unmanned?

“Arthur?”  Guinevere said, seeing him deep in thought. 

“Oh, yes,” Arthur said, going back to the sitting room.

Guinevere followed.  Lancelot, who’d sat down at the table, immediately stood as the ladies entered the room.

“I do not feel you should join me on my quest,” Arthur said, getting right to the point. 

“May I ask why?”

Arthur now positioned himself so he could see both of their faces. “Because I need you to ride to Londinium.”  Arthur was– almost– sure he saw a flicker of disappointment on Guinevere’s face.  Though he couldn’t be sure.  As for Lancelot, he kept his face blank as he assented, though he’d long been trained to accept orders without betraying any sense of his feelings towards those orders.

Arthur sent Lancelot away.  “Londinium?”  Guinevere asked.

“Yes.  I will need him to govern the Eastern Province in my absence,” Arthur said.  

Guinevere did not respond, but went back to sewing.

Arthur went off to find armor.

And so it was that same day Arthur did call together his knights of the roundtable once more, and he stood before him dressed in his own clothes, though none in the room could deny that his face was as lovely as any they had ever seen.  Arthur explained that he would journey forth on the quest that had been given him.  He asked all the knights to stand strong in his absence, to defend Camelot and serve the Queen with courage and honor.

“Hear!”  They shouted.  “Hear!”

“Pardon,” a boozy voice called from the back of the room.  Friar Lowbottom strode forth from the shadows.

“I will accept your blessing upon this quest in my private chapel later,” Arthur said. “Thank you, Friar.”

“I will NOT be blessing your unholy quest!”

The room grew silent.  Arthur frowned. “Speak,” Arthur said.  

“You are now a woman,” Lowbottom called out, making the hourglass shape with his hands men often used to suggest a woman’s figure.  “And you may no longer act like a man.  It violates God’s law!”

“God’s law?”  Arthur said.  “This curse was placed on me not by God, but a pagan witch!”

“Be that as it may, nothing happens in this world but by God’s design.  God allowed this to happen.  God chose for you to be made maiden. You must accept God’s will.  You must do your duty as a Christian woman,and serve as a proper example to all the girls of England as to what a woman must do, how she must live her life.”

“And what is that duty?”  Guinevere called out.  She had long disliked the Friar, and to hear him now disrespect her husband, and all women, made her temper blaze.

“It is the duty of all womankind to take a husband and bear his children.”

“Fool!”  Guinevere screamed.

“My love, I can handle–”  Arthur started to say, reaching to take his wife’s hand, but she had stood and charged toward Lowbottom.

“You booze sodden piglet’s waste!  You root of a weed!”  Guinevere raged.  “Do you truly claim that is all a woman may do with her life?”

Lowbottom, shocked by her rage, held his ground, though his voice shook when he spoke.  “The Lady Arthur is a woman!  She must accept her place as a woman and–”

He could not finish.  Guinevere’s foot had planted itself deep into his groin.  Lowbottom immediately sunk to his knees, hands on his aching jewels. The men all winced at the sight. “Get out!”  Guinevere screamed. Grabbing a mug from the table, she dumped the ale over Lowbottoms head, then began to beat him around the ears with it.  “Get out!  Get out!”

Lowbottom crawled piteously to the door, which the doormen, eyes wide with shock, pulled open.  Lowbottom tried to get to his feet, wanting to at least walk out with some dignity left, but as he got halfway up, Guinevere did kick him hard in the buttocks and send him tumbling through the doors.

Guinevere turned.  Every pair of eyes in the room were locked on her.  Also, several warriors who’d lost eyes had their single eyes locked on her.  Even Champ, the old English Bulldog that was allowed into the room to eat the scraps, stared at her, his tongue lolling out on surprise.

“Oh!”  Guinevere said, coming back to herself.  “Goodnes!  I seem to have lost my temper!”  She knew she had behaved in a most unladylike manner, and now with the fever of her rage broken, she felt quite embarrassed.

But then, Arthur cleared his throat.  “Ladies and gentleman,” he called.  “Have I mentioned that Queen Guinevere will be in charge of the kingdom while I am gone?  I do suggest you avoid making her cross.”

The comment broke the tension.  Everyone laughed.  Guinevere rejoined Arthur.  “My love,” Arthur said.  “You are quite amazing.”

“Arthur,”  Guinevere said, and this time it was she who kissed him– right on the mouth. 

Mordred leaned over to Sir Benethor.  “The Friar did make some valid points.”

“Hush,” Benethor whispered back.

Mordred hid his smile behind a drink.  The seeds had been planted.

Morgana, for her part, whispered to Lady Whynn, “His wife does defend him now.  It seems she is more man than he.”

Lady Whynn, like Sir Benethor, deferred comment, but, indeed, the thought was planted in her mind. Truly, Arthur’s wife seemed more a man.