Nerd Girl!

A bad boy to dorky girl TG tale!

It’s my latest and greatest! Nerd Girl tells the story of a rude, entitled rich kid who loves to pick on nerds. When his antics draw the attention of the wrong goddess. he finds himself transforming into an awkward, clumsy and oh, so adorable nerd girl! This story has a lot of fun transformation moments as well as a lot of humor and even some heart.

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The Lady Arthur Chapter 8

Chapter 8

In which the mysterious Unknown Knight does join Arthur’s Quest!

Killmack’s hand had been raised above Arthur’s backside, ready to deliver another slap, but it froze in the air, midspank as a voice called out, “Unhand her, you brute.” Arthur, for his part, winced. While having the humiliation end was desirable, at the same time being the “her” in such a cliche, storybook rescue of a maiden was a new and equally unwelcome humiliation. 

Killmack turned to see a stout knight adorned in pure white armoe, his face hidden behind a visored helm. What was not hidden was the way the edge of his steel blade flashed in the cool forest’s gloom.

Killmack shoved Arthur from his lap, sending him tumbling to the ground. ‘Ow!” Arthur wailed, as he slammed into the Earth.

 “Villain!” The Unknown Knight growled, advancing.

In a quick movement it was little more than a blur, Killmak plucked one of the knives from his belt and hurled it at the Knight.  It tumbled through the air, heading directly for the slit in his visor, but the Knight swung his mighty sword and batted the knife away, sending it to stick into a tree, pommel shaking. Killmack’s eyes went wide. Not only was this knight huge and physically powerful, but quick as lightning and skilled with his weapons. He looked down, thinking to grab Arthur and use her as a hostage, but she had already rolled to her feet and run to take a position behind the knight.

Throwing three more knives, Killmack turned and plunged into the forest. The Unknown Knight slapped them all away, then stood, staring at the space in the undergrowth where the man had vanished. “Do not let me see you again!”

“What are you doing? Go after him!” Arthur screamed. “He kidnapped me! He struck me!”

 “I am here solely to protect you, er, um, milady. I am at your service. Yet, I cannot pursue your attacker without leaving you alone and undefended here in this dangerous wood.”

It must be noted that even a man such as Arthur, now with a maiden’s form and a girl’s heart, couldn’t not help but find himself flustered by the sound of this manly fellow offering protection, devotion. Indeed, his cheeks blushed slightly and he cast his eyes downward, overcome with this strange new feeling. “What is your name, brave knight?” Arthur asked, in a silvery voice. “That I may thank you?”

“I am the Unknown Knight.”

“My thanks, Unknown Knight. And how did you know I was here? Indeed, may I ask if you even know who I am?” Arthur did not relish the idea of this mysterious man knowing that the maiden he’d just rescued from a most ignoble spanking was actually Arthur, King, but he was unsure who the knight was, and even if he could trust the man. Indeed, Arthur was rapidly developing a maiden’s instinctive insecurity as to the intentions of the male population.

The Unknown Knight paused, scratching the bottom of his helm. “I choose not to reveal how I knew you were here. Further, I prefer to keep any knowledge I may possess as to your identity a secret.”

“Truly?” Arthur said. “And would you do me the honor of showing me your face?”

“We must move from this place,” The Unknown Knight said, changing the topic. “The Huntsman may have allies.  I have your horse and your gear. I will serve as your protector, milady, and join you on your journey, if you will have me, of course.” With that the knight took Arthur’s hand, and began to lead him back toward the Huntsman’s cabin. 

Arthur pulled his hand free. “Do not be too familiar,” Arthur said.

“Of course,” The Unknown Knight answered. “I beg your forgiveness.”

As the Knight led the way, Arthur took in his height, his frame. It was clear the man was disguising his voice, but Arthur sensed he knew the man. Indeed, Arthur was discovering another advantage of his new sex, as his woman’s intuition began to assess the situation. For one, he felt certain he could trust this man and need not fear for his virtue. And another, well, it would only be a matter of time before he knew this brave gentleman’s name! He was clearly a true knight, and there were few who matched this man in strength and skill.  

As they made their way back to the clearing where the Knight had tied up their two horses, Arthur filled the Knight in on his quest. He mentioned only that he needed to capture a unicorn and was heading north to meet a druid he thought could help, but not why he needed to do such a thing.

The two rode north the rest of the day, a ride which took them out of the forest and into a country of rolling fields.  As the sun set, it lit up the neat rows of wheat once more in a golden light, and little plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the chimneys of the little farmhouses that dotted the countryside. “Perhaps we should seek shelter from these good farm folk?” The Unknown Knight suggested.

“I prefer to travel in secret as much as possible,” Arthur answered. Then, plagued by a sudden new impulse to be polite and considerate, he added, “But I do thank you for your suggestion, good sir.” Arthur, it seems, was developing a maidenly sensitivity to the feeling of others he quite lacked as a man.

“I see a place that will suit us nicely, then.” The two were not at the top of a large hill that looked down on a wide valley, and as the man pointed, Arthur saw a burnt out barn on the edge of the settlement, in an isolated nook near a creek.

“That does look most excellent,” Arthur said.

They made their way down the hill, among a twisty series of disused trails, and then came to the remains of the barn, which amounted to little more than charred beams sticking up out of the earth. The sun had set by the time they’d arrived, but a big, bright moon had risen, casting all in wondrous silver light. 

The Knight went about making a fire.  Arthur, meanwhile, was delighted to find some hay left over that was still good, and he brought it to the horses, who happily munched, neighing with pleasure.  Arthur smiled, petting their necks, and even found himself giving his horse a kiss behind the ear.  As a knight himself and an avid horseman he had always appreciated a good, healthy steed of superior breeding, but he found himself now rather falling in love with this beautiful horse. A feeling many a girl can identify with, and few men! “You are so pretty,” he whispered. “Such a beauty!”

The Unknown Knight’s horse whinnied, and Arthur went over to show him some love as well. “Oh, you are, too! I love you both!”

What did I just say? What am I doing? The man Arthur had been backed away, terrified and ashamed of the feminine outpourings he’d just displayed, and had not even questioned. I feel I am becoming quite a damoiselle, Arthur thought, fretting over it. I must remember I am a man!”

A tidy little fire crackled merrily when he returned to the little camp they’d made, and the Unknown Knight sat there, propped on his bedroll. He’d laid out some jerky and dried fruit on a cloth next to Arthur’s bedroll. “Eat,” he said. “You need your strength.”

“Strength?” Arthur said, looking at his slender little arms. “I am afraid I am quite helpless. I thought I could defend myself, but that foul Huntsman quite easily overpowered me.” Famished, Arthur grabbed a piece of the jerky and began to munch on it.

“You are a slender and petite woman,” The Unknown Knight. “But perhaps not as helpless as you think.”

“What would you know,” Arthur answered, his mouth full of food, “being so big and strong? It seems women are not meant for lives of battle.” Even as the words left his mouth, Arthur remembered saying the very thing himself while still a man.  It didn’t strike him as so simple and just now.

“And yet when I was a boy, I bested men twice my size.”

Arthur narrowed his eyes.  Not only did the statement give him some hope for himself, but his woman’s intuition clicked all the little clues he’d gotten into place. He laughed, a sweet, woman’s laugh, full of pleasure at his discovery.

“Why do you find that humorous?”

“I am amused, Unknown Knight, because I have fathomed your true name!” Arthur said.

“Oh? And what is it?”


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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.”

“What?”

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!”

Whap!

“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.

“Course.”

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.

“Crack.”

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.

“Delectable!”

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.

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.”

“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?”

“Indeed.”

“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!