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.