Like everyone else I’ve been reading a lot lately about politicians trying to legislate what women can and cannot do with their bodies. I have refrained from commenting on social websites regardless of how ludicrous the legislation and comments from politicians. Mainly because when I hear men debating what a woman can and cannot do with her body the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
I firmly believe that until men can get pregnant and deliver a child they will never understand all of the implications of pregnancy and therefore, are in no position to make decisions on our behalf. I do appreciate and respect men who understand that these bodies that we walk around in are our own and that no man or woman on the face of the earth has the right to impose their morals or beliefs on our bodies.
There are so many red herrings around this issue. There’s the one that goes like this: women cannot decide by themselves to end a pregnancy because the father of that pregnancy has rights too. Then there’s this one: that woman went out and slept around and now she’s pregnant, she has to learn to take responsibility for her actions. And that one fits very nicely with: women should only have sex when they want to get pregnant, if they use birth control they’re just sluts. There are, of course, many more, but I’ll stop here.
Red Herring #1
I think anyone would be hard pressed to identify a couple in a functioning, healthy marriage/relationship where the woman has gone off and ended a pregnancy without first discussing it with her mate.
I also think there are women who are in dysfunctional, abusive, held-together-by-a-string relationships who find themselves pregnant and know that they will be solely responsible for the child that could result from that pregnancy. She will be responsible for providing a home, food, healthcare, education and moral compass, for the next 18 years, all while working full-time in order to make enough money to keep it all together. And, if she already has children, just multiply that anxiety by the number of existing children. I believe any woman in that situation has the right to make her own decision.
Red Herring #2
We often hear indignation about women who have become pregnant outside of a committed relationship, women who some feel have to learn the lesson of responsibility by continuing the pregnancy. Yet, somehow it’s only indignation toward her. “Somewhere” there is a man who had a brief sexual fling that resulted in pregnancy too. Ahh, but here’s the catch, his body doesn’t get pregnant. Do the men who sleep around call the women they have had sex with a month or two later just to check to be sure they’re not pregnant? Not likely. He just walks away and if that act results in a pregnancy, he simply does not care, and if that pregnancy is terminated, he simply does not care. No gut wrenching decision for him ... don’t know, don’t care.
So that means, he doesn’t have to learn to be responsible for his actions by telling his family he’s pregnant and doesn’t know who the mother is, carrying a child to term, birthing a child, putting his career and social life on the back burner in order to accommodate being a single parent. Nope, no life-changing, gut wrenching decisions for him. But her, there are people telling her now that she has to fight for the right to have the option to make a decision.
Red Herring #3
I’m not spending much time on Red Herring #3. Any living breathing adult knows how ludicrous it is to expect grown men and women to have sex only when they want the act to produce a child. To call a woman who is responsible enough to use birth control a slut is simply irresponsible. All women and men should have unconditional access to birth control which should always be a personal and private decision.
Abortion is a scary word. And the person who is scared the most by that word is:
· The 14 year old girl with the 14 year old boyfriend who has just found out she’s pregnant.
· The woman who has been raped and sodomized by a smelly, brutal man on a dark city street who has just found out she’s pregnant.
· The love struck, naive 21 year old who was seduced by a player who disappeared when he found out she was pregnant.
· The battered woman, who along with her 3 children lives in hell every day, who just found out she’s pregnant.
· The well-heeled businesswoman who had a brief fling with a guy she met on a business trip who just found out she’s pregnant.
· The woman who is in an unhappy marriage that needs to end, who just found out she’s pregnant.
Considering an abortion procedure with all of its medical and psychological ramifications is scary for women. It is not a solution, it’s a decision that women carry with them the rest of their lives, and while there may be some women who use abortion as birth control, I have never met any of them.
Would I ever have an abortion? That’s none of your business. As your personal decisions is none of my business. Which is precisely my point here; as a society we need to get off our soapboxes and be realistic about sex. How can we as a society possibly get to the point of respecting each other if we believe we have the right to tell each other what we can and cannot do with our own bodies?
When we were kids, my siblings and I always went to bed early on a school night, 9 o’clock at the latest. On Friday and Saturday nights we were allowed to stay up a little later, maybe until 10. I used to force myself to stay awake; there was something about the weekends that was so special.
Saturday morning I was up at dawn, creeping downstairs to raid the Freihofer donuts that were just delivered, and grabbing the glass milk bottles out of the milkbox on the back porch. Fortified, I would make myself comfortable on the parlor floor carpet, turn on the small TV and wait for the test pattern to change so the Saturday morning cartoons could begin. There were six of us, including my mom and dad, living in our apartment, so it was a treat to have the parlor and TV to myself.
Around 11 o’clock on Saturday mornings my neighborhood friends would knock on the front door, “Can Janice come out and play?” they would ask. So I’d run upstairs and jump into my “play clothes,” put on my “play shoes” (which were usually old school shoes that were too scuffed to wear to school) and rush outside. The rest of the day, with a brief break to scoff down a sandwich, we would play baseball, roller skate, jump rope, onsies/twosies (a game played with a ball thrown against a wall) and ride our bikes. If it was winter we would build snow forts, sleigh ride and even ice skate if there was a large enough patch of ice in the neighborhood.
When the street lights came on we’d all go home, eat dinner, watch TV and try to stay awake after all that fresh air, but it was not easy. I can remember sitting on the coach watching TV with my whole family at 10 o’clock Saturday night and I would be sound asleep and my mom would shake me and tell me to go upstairs and go to bed and I would say, “I wasn’t sleeping!” I went upstairs.
Sunday morning we got up and walked the mile to church for 9AM mass which was the “kids mass,” which meant all the kids that went to my catholic grammar school were there. After church we walked the mile back home and mom cooked a huge Sunday dinner. Most Sundays after dinner the six of us would climb into the car and go for a ride. Sometimes we’d ride all the way up to Schaghticoke and make a quick visit at my aunt and uncle’s dairy farm. Then it was back home, baths for everyone, our hair would get washed, we’d jump into fresh pjs and then go downstairs to watch The Ed Sullivan TV show. After Ed it was back upstairs and into bed, me usually falling asleep wishing I had actually finished all the weekend homework that had been assigned.
As we grew older the house rules were pretty much the same. Early to bed, same Sunday night rituals, except the older we got, the longer we spent primping in the bathroom. A household with three teenagers and one bathroom was a challenge for all of us.
Then I spent Friday nights at school dances, Saturdays at school football games and Saturday nights at basketball games. Instead of finding peace and quiet in front of the TV on Saturday mornings, I slept later, and my neighborhood friends and I spent our Saturday afternoons styling each other’s hair, trying our first cigarettes, spinning 45s or record albums on small, portable record players with lids that closed with a latch, or listening to Boom-Boom-Brannigan, a DJ on our local radio station.
There is a magical period of time, at least for girls, between the ages of 11 and 14, before serious dating and broken hearts, when sleeping parties are a part of our lives. Hair curlers the size of small water pipes, bobby pins, lipstick, blush, eyelash curlers, music, pizza, soda, dancing and laughing, lots of laughing.
Then somewhere along the way Saturday night became date night and we all had high school steadies, some steadier than others. Sunday night hadn’t changed much yet.
After high school I took my first full-time job and while still living in my mom and dad’s house, suddenly I’m allowed to stay up as long as I want, wear the clothes I want, and go to clubs and drink and dance and meet all kinds of people as opposed to the white, catholic people that populated the first 17 years of my life.
Friday nights were girls’ night out. Not all of us had cars so five or six of us would pile into one little car at 10 o’clock at night and hit two or three clubs, usually ending up at the Excelsior House, our favorite club where our favorite band, The Knickerbockers, played every weekend. Saturdays were spent recuperating from Friday night and getting ready for Saturday night which was basically a repeat of Friday night.
At some point I met my first husband and Friday nights were pretty much the same, but Saturday night and Sunday night were date nights. As time went by the small group of gals dwindled as we all became involved in exclusive relationships and began to plan our weddings.
As a newly married woman working full-time, my weekends were no longer my own; grocery shopping, laundry, housework, entertaining, trying to satisfy two families, my own and now my husband’s, it was exhausting and a good thing I was young.
Still working full-time, but now in my late 20s and early 30s and divorced, I was living in my own apartment and living alone for the first time in my life. While I still had to take care of all the details that kept my life together, the weekends were fun. I could just stay home and do nothing, or go to a movie and diner with a close circle of friends. Not much club hopping, but plays and concerts and always Friday night happy hours at Ogden’s, a great little restaurant near where I worked.
In my mid-30s I remarried and the weekends were still fun. Two adults with good incomes doing whatever we wanted. When our son was born, my weekends changed again. I was a stay-at-home mom for the first four years of my son’s life so the weekends weren’t hectic; the household chores were taken care of during the week. The weekends were filled with trips to pumpkin patches, apple orchards, Chuck-E-Cheese, ice skating rinks, soccer games, baseball games, and always a house filled with the neighborhood kids. My son had a best friend when he was 7-8-9 years old that lived two blocks down the street. That little boy got off the school bus with my son every Friday afternoon and spent the entire weekend at my house. He didn’t go home until Sunday afternoon. He came with us wherever we went.
When my son was 12, I became a single working mom and boy did my weekends change; back to doing all the household chores on the weekends and now trucking my teenager to the local YMCA and all of his friend’s houses. Then my son became a drummer. So for the next few years there were rock bands practicing at my house on the weekends. When I decided to send my son to private school, I took a second job so in addition to the weekend chores and a fulltime job, I worked every Saturday. During that time my social life on the weekends consisted of falling asleep in front of the TV.
When my son was in his late teens, I was still single and working full time but finally started to get time for myself. My weekends were spent going to concerts and plays and movies and dinner with people closer to my age, people who were not teenagers. I even got to take real vacations and see the ocean again.
Then I was laid off and since I was collecting a pension, I thought I’d try retirement. The best part about retirement is that every day is the weekend. After two years I went back to work full-time because I’m used to living a certain lifestyle, certainly not the lifestyle of the rich and famous, but I like to have more money than I need, rather than less money than I need. That’s where you find me today.
I absolutely love the weekends now. Working full-time defines the weekends very clearly and I dole out those weekend hours very carefully, spending them with friends, family, or even just staying home and relaxing. Like I did when I was a kid, I force myself sometimes to stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights just because I can. Even though my mom’s not here to wake me and send me off to bed, there are times when I wake up from a nap in my den at 11 o’clock on a Saturday night and I still refuse to go to bed.
Unfortunately, there are no Freihofer's donuts or bottles of cold milk in a milkbox on my back porch on Saturday mornings any more, but since donuts just go to my waist and whole milk has long been deserted for 1% milk, I have a new Saturday morning ritual. Now, instead of sitting and staring at the TV test pattern, on a sunny spring Saturday morning you’ll most likely find me sitting on my back deck with a cup of warm tea watching the morning birds and critters in the forever wild area beyond my back yard.
Sir Galahad woke that morning feeling more hopeful than he had in a very long time. He washed in the cold water from the deep bowl on his nightstand and quickly dressed in his freshly laundered forest green leggings and gold tunic. Before leaving his chambers he pulled on his robe-like white surcoat and tied it at the waist, the gray and red image of Excalibur painted on the front. He tied his great sword around his waist and closed the chamber door behind him.
Galahad took the stone spiral stairs leading down to the great dining hall two at a time hoping to catch Catherine still at breakfast, although he refused to admit Catherine was the reason for his new-found optimism. The big, strong, fearless Knight’s stomach tightened when he walked into the room and found Catherine alone at the table. Self-consciously he bowed and said, “My Lady, I hope you had a restful night.” Catherine smiled back at this new and improved version of Sir Galahad and replied, “Good morning, Sir Knight.” After a moment of silence, she pointed to the assortment of foods on the stand next to the table and said, “The food is still warm, won’t you join me?” “As you wish,” Galahad replied bending from the waist, a killer smile on his face when he straightened up.
After breakfast, if you could call it breakfast, neither one of them eating more than a mouthful or two, Sir Galahad invited Catherine to walk with him down to the water’s edge to see the view of the Loch from the gatehouse. Anyone watching the dashing, handsome Knight and the lovely red-haired damsel dressed in a rust-colored gown would have been impressed by how compatible they appeared to be, so comfortable with each other.
And there was someone watching them, or rather … something.
The castle gatehouse was built at the water’s edge. The location of the gatehouse allowed the defenders of the castle to see for miles up and down the Loch in either direction. On that sunny spring morning, 200 feet from shore, a mammoth dark shadow floated just below the surface. As Sir Galahad and Catherine admired the view, the dark shadow circled and moved slowly toward them. Catherine and Galahad were too wrapped up in each other to notice when the top of the monster’s head broke the water 50 feet from where they stood. The monster’s huge webbed feet were already standing on the floor of the Loch, a few steps forward and the monster would be revealed.
At that moment, shouts came from the highway leading to the gatehouse. The couple turned to see Sir Jonathan and Lancelot charging toward them. As soon as they were close, Jonathan jumped off his horse and ran to Catherine. Ignoring the rules of chivalry, he hugged her and said, “I can’t believe you’re here.” Turning toward Galahad, our young Knight asked, “Where did you find her?” Startled by the interruption, the frustrated monster sunk down under the cover of the water.
Sir Galahad answered all of their questions while surreptitiously watching Catherine’s reaction to Sir Jonathan. She appeared embarrassed by the young Knight’s exuberance rather than flattered by his attention. As they stood on the shore listening to the story of Lionors’ demise, the monster was listening also. In the over 200 years she had lived in Loch Ness, she learned the strange language spoken by the humans.
She had heard stories of the Knights of the Round Table. Dragons avoided them when possible. They were ferocious warriors. Yet she feared that if she let the woman and light haired Knight go now, she would not have another chance for revenge. The gatehouse guards were not in the tower so she would have to defeat just the three Knights on the shore. The red-haired woman would not be a problem. Ignoring the advice of her herd, she swam cautiously toward the shore. Still underwater, she began walking up the sandy Loch bottom.
Lancelot and our young Knight had their back to the Loch, Galahad and Catherine facing them. Lancelot knew something was wrong when he saw Galahad push Catherine behind him and slowly draw his great sword. Without asking any questions, Lancelot pulled his great sword from his waist and turned around. Watching the other two Knights, our inexperienced young Knight hesitated and when he did the monster lowered her great jaw and clamped it around Jonathan’s waist, carrying him into the air.
Galahad and Lancelot charged forward their swords pointed at the soft underbelly of the monster. She quickly turned to the right, her 150 foot tail sending the two Knights into the air and landing them 20 feet away in the highway. Picking themselves up, they charged again but she was on the move. Lancelot and Galahad reached the water’s edge just in time to watch her sink below the surface, our young Knight’s limp body dangling from her jaws.
When Lancelot was 21 years old he met Margaret Brody. She was a beautiful peasant girl of 17 who lived outside the walls of Camelot on her parent’s small farm. He was a brash new Knight of the Round Table. The first time he saw Margaret he was returning to Camelot from a hunt with King Arthur and 14 other Knights. Whenever the Knights returned, all the young girls of Camelot lined the roadway and watched as they rode by; all except for Margaret Brody. She was indifferent to the parade of Knights that evening as she strolled down the dirt road, swinging a half filled milk can and singing a song Lancelot could not hear. She was a tiny wisp of a lass, her long curly auburn hair disheveled and hanging in front of her face and what a beautiful face it was. A small, full mouth and tiny nose complemented the biggest and deepest blue eyes in England.
It took Lancelot a week to find out who she was and where she lived. For the next few weeks he rode by Margaret’s house in full armor almost every day, but the few times he saw her, she didn’t even lift her head when he rode by. Giving up on that approach, Lancelot began taking early evening walks down the dirt road in front of Margaret’s house dressed in his best leggings and tunics. Once he saw her walking from the house to the barn but again, she didn’t seem to notice him.
Finally one day out of desperation, he caught the Brody’s sheep dog and carried it to their house pretending he found the dog a mile away. Margaret answered the door. While Lancelot was telling his lie, Mr. Brody came out of the barn and invited the Knight into the kitchen for a cup of milk. Lancelot eagerly accepted. As he talked with Mr. Brody, Margaret poured warm milk into a cup and placed it in front of Lancelot. Then, to his horror, she excused herself and went outside. As soon as he could, Lancelot thanked the man for his kindness and went looking for Margaret.
She was standing in the shade of a big oak tree near the barn, waiting for him. She smiled when he walked to her. It turned out Margaret was very aware of Lancelot and knew he had been trying to get her attention but she was afraid he was too worldly for the sweet, innocent farm girl that she knew she was. For the next six months they were inseparable and for the first, and last, time Lancelot was in love.
The day Margaret planned to tell Lancelot that she was pregnant; she was happy and thought that he would be too. Her world crashed around her when Lancelot balked at the idea of being a father. He told her he was a Knight and would never marry. He told her he loved her and did not want their lives to change, that he knew of a woman that could end the pregnancy. Suddenly Margaret saw the truth about the man that she loved. Broken hearted she turned away from him and never looked back. Three days later when Lancelot returned to the Brody house to beg her to forgive him, her parents would not talk to him and no one knew where she was. Margaret was gone from Lancelot’s life forever.
When her son was one year old, Margaret married a gentle man named Michael Burroughs who raised her son as his own. When her son was ten years old, Margaret Brody Burroughs died and her husband and son returned to Camelot where her husband remarried and her son, Jonathan, grew to manhood.
King Arthur included the above paragraph in the letter that our young Knight handed to Lancelot that sunny day when they first met by the sea in Ireland. At the end of the letter, King Arthur wrote, “The young man that hands you this letter is your son, Jonathan, from Margaret Brody. He does not know that you are his father.” Lancelot wanted to tell Jonathan he was his father, Lancelot planned to tell Jonathan he was his father, but at first he was shocked and caught off guard and by the time he was ready to talk, he and Jonathan parted ways and there never seemed to be a right time.
As Lancelot stood on the shore of Loch Ness and watched his son being dragged into the depths something snapped inside of him. “I failed your mother,” he shouted, “I have failed my King, but I will be damned if I will fail my son.”
Running now, toward the gatehouse tower, Lancelot yelled over his shoulder to Galahad and the dozen other soldiers that had raced to the shore when they saw the monster, “Do whatever you have to do to turn that beast around, make it come over to the tower.” As Lancelot raced up the stone steps of the gatehouse, Galahad and the soldiers waded into the Loch, yelling at the monster, daring her to return.
Hearing the ugly humans taunt her, the monster swung her head and looked up at the shore through a foot of water. Angrier than ever, she circled around and her great head broke the surface, Jonathan’s lifeless body still clenched in her jaws. The men ran toward the tower, the monster on top of them. She didn’t see Lancelot until it was too late.
Perched on the ledge at the top of the tower, his great sword pointed downward, Lancelot waited for the beast. He watched the monster swipe at two of the soldiers and toss them into the Loch. Within minutes all of the men were standing at the foot of the gatehouse and the monster was glaring at them, her long neck bringing her head to within a few feet of the crouching soldiers.
That’s when Lancelot pushed himself off the tower and lunged, his sword thrusting downward, at the back of the monster’s head. Sensing Lancelot more than seeing him, she began to lift her head but the great sword caught her between her eyes and she was dead before her body hit the shore. Sir Jonathan dropped from her mouth and rolled along the water’s edge. Galahad ran to Jonathan and found he was still breathing. A moment later, Merlin appeared on the shore, picked up Jonathan’s body and carried him to the castle.
Sir Galahad, Lady Catherine and the soldiers searched until dark for Lancelot’s body but it was never found.
Ten years later …
When Catherine came into his life, King Arthur was revived. Once again he became the great leader and peacekeeper of his youth. His health returned. He spent most of his days training his two young grandsons to become Knights and he slept peacefully every night.
Catherine grew to love her natural father, King Arthur, as much as she loved the father who raised her. She quickly mastered all of the skills necessary to rule Camelot. It was obvious she was a natural leader, the citizens loved her and they respected her as one of their own. She had been a dedicated nurse to our young Knight during the two years of his recovery. She was very much in love with her husband and together they were raising their two charming sons, the Princes of Camelot.
Finally, Sir Galahad was content with his life. He loved his wife, Catherine, more each day and the two red-haired sons, Arthur and Jonathan, which Catherine had given him. Although King Arthur still attended the Round Table, Sir Galahad was now the man the Knights followed into battle. He was also the only remaining original Knight of the Round Table.
Our young Knight
Sir Jonathan was bed ridden for two years and then surprised everyone when he began to walk again. Shortly after walking, he started riding and shortly after that he resumed all of the duties of a Knight of the Round Table. He was fully recovered from his brush with death, except for a barely discernible limp and a very nasty scar on his forehead. During his recuperation Jonathan and Catherine renewed their friendship. As the days went by it became clear to both of them that they were destined to be friends, and he stood beside Sir Galahad as his best man on the day Catherine and Galahad married. Five years after the death of Lancelot our young Knight resigned unexpectedly from the Round Table and left Camelot.
Even if Lancelot survived the beast, he could not have stayed in Camelot. Even if Arthur could have forgiven him, Lancelot could never forgive himself and every time he looked at Arthur his guilt would have been overwhelming.
There is an old English legend about Two Knights in the time of Camelot who traveled the country championing the innocent and slaying dragons. One of the Knights was an old man who fought alongside a young Knight who had a slight limp and a scar across his forehead. There were rumors they were father and son. To this day, the Legend of the Two Knights is whispered around campfires in the English countryside.
Catherine picked up her feet so that Lionors’ head could roll by without stopping. Galahad stepped behind her and used his great sword to cut the rope that bound her. Stepping in front of her he knelt on one knee, bowed his head and said, “Lady Catherine, I am Sir Galahad, Knight of the Round Table. Your father, King Arthur, sent me to find you and bring you back safely to Camelot.” Catherine was raised a peasant, she did not know how to respond to this Knight kneeling before her.
She had heard the women in the village speak of Sir Galahad as though he was a forest god, the thought bringing a smile to her lips as she looked at the blood spattered, disheveled man kneeling before her in his underclothes. Gathering her thoughts, Catherine said, “Rise, Sir Knight. Thank you for saving me from that wicked person.” Galahad stood and looked down at her, a smile passing over his face. That’s the moment Catherine began to understand the Sir Galahad the women spoke about at the riverside.
Galahad interrupted her thoughts with, “My horse is outside, My Lady, if you wish we will travel the short distance to Urquhart Castle where you can sleep comfortably tonight. Tomorrow we will leave for Camelot and you will be with your father by nightfall.
Suddenly, everything that Catherine had experienced during the past months closed in on her. Now that she felt safe and was beginning to let her guard down, she was exhausted. When she tried to stand, her legs would not hold her. Sir Galahad reached out and swept her into his arms before she fell to the floor. He walked the few steps to the door and kicked it open, carrying Catherine out into the chilly night air. Catherine lifted her head to look up at this strong Knight who had saved her, but, overcome by exhaustion, she let herself nestle into his broad chest and closed her eyes.
Galahad gently laid Catherine down on the soft damp grass while he dressed in his armor and attended to his horse. When he was done, he woke Catherine long enough to pull her up into the saddle in front of him. She quickly adjusted to the gait of the animal and fell back to sleep surrounded by Galahad’s strong arms.
In the morning, while Catherine slept comfortably in a large, airy chamber at the castle, Lionors’ “pet” thumped across the highway and up to the cottage where its mistress lived. Curious as to why its friend did not come out to greet it as usual, the “pet” lowered its large head enough to angle its eye so it could look inside through the window. Every creature within 100 miles of that cottage with the ability to hear stopped what they were doing when the grief stricken Loch Ness Monster let out a mighty roar.
Meanwhile, our young Knight and Lancelot made their way to the nearest village to commandeer a horse. It took some time to convince the owner of the horse that Lancelot was indeed a Knight of the Roundtable and that he would return before the winter to pay for the animal. While they were negotiating with the skeptical horse owner, a traveler came to them when he saw Jon’s armor and told them he had seen another Knight of the Roundtable the night before in Inverness. Lancelot asked how old the Knight appeared and judging by the answer, they knew it was Galahad. The traveler told them the Knight left Inverness for Urquhart Castle, about 20 miles away from where they stood.
The Knights decided the best course of action was to ride to Loch Ness, meet Galahad and together they would come up with a plan to find Catherine. As soon as the new horse was saddled, they galloped off toward the castle.
All morning long the monster walked around Lionors’ cottage alternating between whimpering and roaring. The grieving dragon was almost as tall as the cottage, and twice as long, its green scaly hide fit tight to its bones and the half dozen humps that ran down its back. Its face was the face of a snake; great black eyes screwed into slits on either side, two more slits for a nose and a huge gash of a mouth filled with hundreds of sharp teeth. When the monster saw a disturbance in the water it quickly lumbered down to the Loch, recognizing the signal that its mother was searching for her baby.
As anyone who has been a mother, or has known a mother, will tell you, mothers do not like it when their babies are hurt. The dragon in Loch Ness was no exception. When she sensed her son was sad because his friend was murdered, someone had to pay. Besides, mom liked the crazy old human that treated her son so well.
TO BE CONTINUED ...
Changing from one reality to another in less than ten seconds gave Catherine vertigo. Every time she opened her eyes the room would spin. When she was finally able to stand on her feet she couldn’t keep her balance and had to reach out and press her hand against the cold wall for support. She didn’t know where she was. The last thing she remembered was standing in the stream of water cleaning Shadowmere.
Catherine jumped back and gasped when her eyes finally adjusted to the dark room and she saw the witch sitting on an old, once white, wicker chair in the dark corner, blood dripping down the side of her face from a huge gash on the top of her head. The sun was going down somewhere and dark shadows were creeping across the room and piling up in the corners. “Hello, dearie,” the old hag croaked. “We finally meet.” “Why are you doing this?” Catherine yelled through her panic. “Just leave me alone.” “I’m sorry, dearie,” the old crone said sarcastically, “Am I upsetting you?” “Yes, yes you are,” Catherine snapped back. “Well, aren’t you a feisty one,” the witch said sweetly, and then less sweetly, “You’re just like your mother.” “Don’t you talk about my mother,” Catherine shot back.
Catherine was tired, abused, frustrated, angry and at the end of her patience. She simply did not care anymore. She had enough of the old hag. “A pox on you,” Catherine cursed at the witch and turned away from her. “You better be careful, dearie,” Lionors replied with a threat in her voice, “You don’t want to get me angry.” Catherine spun around and yelled at the witch, “You don’t understand you stupid hag I’m not afraid of you, I’m not afraid of your stupid wolf-men or any other dark creature you can think up. I know you can’t kill me because if you do your precious son dies too,” Catherine finished, and then another thought popped into her head. “You’re a wizard.” Catherine said, “Do you think if I take my own life your son will die too?” Seeing the look of surprise, then panic on the witch’s face Catherine got bolder. “Maybe YOU had better be afraid of ME,” Catherine spat at the witch.
Lionors stood up and shouted, “Enough.” Catherine was too much like her mother for Lionors’ liking. “Stop talking,” the old hag ordered. She was trying to think through the horrible scenario that Catherine had just presented. Catherine was too far gone to think reasonably and she just forged ahead, “No,” Catherine yelled back, “I will not stop.” “You have held me captive, forced me to live like an animal, allowed my friend to be murdered and eaten before my very eyes. At any moment the Knights will be at your doorstep and they will kill you. Your only hope to continue your miserable existence is to leave now and crawl into the first hole that you encounter.”
Lionors was taken aback. She had expected Catherine to be docile, afraid; intimidated by the site of her and her black magic. But, no, of course, the child of the two most arrogant people Lionors had ever met, Arthur and Guinevere, would be just like them. She could feel the rage take possession of her and the only thing that stopped her from striking down dead the insolent young woman glaring at her was the safety of her son.
The witch turned to a coil of rope in the corner of the room, spoke an incantation and the rope became a long black snake that slithered toward Catherine. Catherine tried to run from it, but Lionors quickly froze her in place allowing the snake to wrap itself around her ankles, knees and waist then it pinned her arms to her side and slithered around the back off her neck, it’s large head ending up in front of Catherine, flicking its pronged tongue to within inches of Catherine’s face.
Sensing Catherine’s fear, Lionors felt in control again. She propelled an old rickety wood chair across the room and slammed it into the back of Catherine’s legs. Catherine flopped down into the chair, struggling to maintain her balance while trying to keep the snake from touching her face. Now that Catherine was tied securely, Lioniors changed the snake back into a rope and walked to the old wood table where she selected a potion which she carried to Catherine and tried to force her to drink. Catherine resisted and all of her thrashing about caused much of the blue liquid to spill to the dirty floor. Nevertheless, within five minutes Catherine was asleep.
Our young Knight slept fitfully in the forest that morning, tossing and turning on the forest floor, but too exhausted to wake up. When he finally woke he stretched and scanned the forest. Then he blinked, and blinked again, not believing what he was seeing. He quickly rolled over, drew his great sword and pointed it at the naked man sitting on a nearby log. Jon thought he was still dreaming until the naked man spoke: “I can explain,” Lancelot said. Jon just stood staring at Lancelot not able to think of a reasonable explanation for how Lancelot ended up in this particular forest without his horse, without his sword, without his armor, and without his clothes. “Put your sword away, Jon,” Lancelot said, “and throw me that blanket.”
While the men gathered wood and started a morning fire, Lancelot told his story. Like Merlin, Jon had a hard time resisting the urge to laugh out loud but, since Lancelot was no longer an owl but back to his formidable self, he opted to wait until Lancelot’s back was turned before cracking a smile. It was obvious it would take some time before Lancelot considered the story amusing. Jon was relieved that Lancelot didn’t mention the fact that he was the one who threw the stone that knocked Lancelot-the-owl out of the sky. While sharing the last of the biscuits from Jon’s satchel the men tried to decide what to do next.
In the meantime, Sir Galahad was near Moray Firth, and the harbor that leads to the North Sea. He was on his way to Inverness where he planned to spend the night, hoping to talk to the villagers about anything unusual they might have seen. Upon his arrival at Inverness, Sir Galahad was treated as royalty and when word go out that he was looking for a damsel in distress he began hearing stories from the villagers of an odd old woman who was living in an abandoned stone cottage on the shore of Loch Ness, just an hour’s ride away.
Every Scottish man, woman and child, knew of the beast that lived in the depths of Loch Ness and only the farmers who made their living on the land surrounding the Loch were brave enough to build homesteads there. It was most unusual for an old woman to be living alone that close to the water’s edge. Galahad decided to ride to Urquhart Castle at Loch Ness that very night. He would be welcomed at the castle and in the morning he would begin looking for the old woman.
As he rode along the dark dirt highway, Sir Galahad remembered the legends he had heard about the beast. Some believed the monster traveled back and forth from the North Sea to Loch Ness by swimming in the Inverness River, the same river he could hear, but not see, gurgling alongside him. He was not afraid, Sir Galahad had never felt fear, but he was alert to potential danger.
The white smoke against the pitch black sky caught his attention. When he turned the bend he saw a funnel of smoke moving up into the air, it was exactly like every other funnel of chimney smoke except Sir Galahad could not see a chimney, nor could he see a house. The wound from Lancelot-the-owl had taken its toll on the witch. She had put an enchantment on the cottage, hiding it from view, but dozed off before extinguishing the fire in the hearth and now the smoke from that fire was leading Sir Galahad straight to her.
While armor kept one alive in battle, it was not conducive to a sneak attack, it clanked and pinged in the silence, so as soon as he dismounted, Sir Galahad removed his armor and left it beside his horse about 20 feet off the highway. Careful of holes in the ground and tree stumps, Galahad crept toward the smoke funnel, his great sword drawn. The enchantment was a soft mist that hid the cottage; Galahad was able to walk through it and up to the dirty window.
The witch was asleep, sitting in an ancient wicker chair in the corner of the room. She was snoring, her mouth wide open, blood crusted on her filthy face. Movement on the left side of the room caught Galahad’s eye. He had never seen Catherine, but had an image of her in his mind based on Sir Jonathan’s description. When he looked at the struggling woman tied to a chair, her curly red hair flowing down her back, Sir Galahad was thunderstruck.
The Knights of the Roundtable never had any trouble finding female company. Women were drawn to the rugged and mysterious men who swept them off their feet. Yet of all the Knights, Sir Galahad was the most desired. He was not the strongest, but he was the most chivalrous and handsome of the Knights. He was over six feet tall, a thin man but with broad muscular shoulders and a slim waist. More often than not, wayward locks of his long curly blond hair dangled in front of his large brown eyes. On the few occasions when he smiled, there were very few women who could resist him. He was a skilled warrior; Arthur picked him to be one of his Knights when Galahad was just 18 years old, many years younger than the other original Knights of the Roundtable.
Galahad had been with many women, but Guinevere was the only woman he had loved and while she loved Galahad like a younger brother, Guinevere did not desire him.
So this is where the fates had brought Sir Galahad: standing on the porch of an old run-down cottage in Scotland in the pitch black night, looking through a dirty window at the witch that had tortured and murdered his Guinevere and at Guinevere’s red-haired daughter who, while looking nothing like her mother, had already charmed him.
As quietly as he could, Galahad slowly moved the door latch lifting it off of its metal hook. The door squeaked as he pushed it open but the witch did not seem to stir. Catherine on the other hand was wide awake and looked from him to the witch; she seemed to be deciding who presented less of a threat, the witch, or the strange man who just walked into the room in his underwear.
Raising his left index finger to his lips, Galahad shook his head back and forth and with his eyes, pleaded with Catherine not to give him away. Catherine made a choice and decided to trust the handsome, though badly dressed, stranger and watched him creep toward the witch, his great sword stretched in front of him.
In an instant the witch disappeared in a puff of smoke only to reappear five feet behind Galahad. “I remember you,” the witch cackled, “you’re the boy Arthur loved until Lancelot came along.” Galahad swung around and without a word thrust his sword at the hag cutting a long slice of flesh from her right arm. Lionors staggered backward trying to stop the blood oozing out of her by holding her hand over the wound. Sensing it was the right moment, Galahad lunged at the hag again, this time slicing off her head.
TO BE CONTINUED …
A month passed before travelers began stopping at the front gate of the Edinburgh castle with news of a Knight of the Roundtable passing through their village or passing them on the road. It was very rare for a commoner to see a Knight and it was the custom then to report a sighting to the local authorities. As more information was left about the Knights, King Arthur and Merlin were able to make educated guesses regarding their locations.
Sir Percivale only made it to Glasgow where he came down with a serious malady that kept him in bed at the village inn for most of the month. Sir Galahad was last seen passing through Dundee while Sir Jonathan had made it all the way to Aberdeen. There was no news of Lancelot.
On a chilly, gray morning six weeks after Catherine disappeared, Merlin was surprised to see a great white owl perched on the stone balcony outside his quarters. His first reaction when he saw the bird was that it was a good omen. Yet, there was something about the bird that made Merlin take a second look.
When a master Wizard casts an enchantment there is no way to identify the object of the enchantment from any similar object. When an apprentice Wizard casts the same spell there can be an occasional, very subtle shimmy to the object and Merlin thought he saw that shimmy just pass through the white owl.
When he stepped out onto the balcony the owl flew at him, it was agitated, flapping its wings and squawking. Squinting his eyes, Merlin took a better look at the bird and became convinced it was indeed a poor soul that had become enchanted by a mediocre wizard. He knew that Lionors had been an apprentice of the Wizard Digano. He also knew Digano drank too much and his spells were less than perfect. Immediately he began to suspect this spell was Lionors’ work.
“Lady Catherine,” Merlin tried, “is that you?” The owl sat still, its great owl eyes growing bigger by the second. Next Merlin tried, “Sir Jonathan, did Lionors do this to you?” The owl sat still. Then, Merlin had an epiphany and trying hard to keep a smile from his face, Merlin said, “Lancelot?” The owl squawked and waved its wings so fast and so hard there were white feathers floating in the air. Merlin could no longer control himself, he had to turn his back to the manic bird and laugh out loud. When he had regained his composure, Merlin turned around to find the bird perched back on the ledge, its great eyes staring into his and for a split second the thought crossed Merlin’s mind that the owl might sweep down and pluck his eyes out.
Shaking his head and doing his best to suppress another belly laugh, Merlin said, “Lancelot, I don’t know how you do it, lad, but you get yourself into more trouble than anyone I have ever known.” The owl sat there, staring into Merlin’s eyes.
Merlin knew that he could break the spell with a simple flick of his wand, but he began to imagine how helpful it would be as they searched for Catherine to have an eye in the sky. Merlin also knew that the spell was weakening and it would only be a matter of weeks at the most before Lancelot was his old self again. That information Merlin decided to keep to himself.
“Have you eaten, Lancelot?” Merlin inquired. “I think I can find a mouse or two around the castle,” he added, knowing he was pushing his luck. The big bird just sat and stared. “Look, Lancelot,” Merlin began, “there’s nothing I can do right now.” The powerful white wings began to flutter. “I will begin researching a solution to your situation right away, “Merlin said “but in the meantime I have an idea.” The big bird sat and stared. “While I’m researching, why don’t you fly around and look for signs of Catherine. If you find out where she is, we can send a message to the nearest Knight.
This time the bird blinked a few times. “My intuition tells me that Catherine is up north, Lancelot.” Merlin said. “Somewhere near Aberdeen, Jon is in that area.” The owl blinked again, then flew in a circle around Merlin and left. Merlin walked back into the castle, chuckling to himself and anxious to tell Arthur about what had happened to Lancelot.
A few days later, Lancelot was flying over the Grampian Highlands south of Aberdeen when sunlight reflecting off of splashing water caught his eye. Looking down he saw a man running through a shallow stream waving at a woman with a horse further upstream. When he noticed the woman had red hair, Lancelot soared down closer to take a look.
The red haired woman seemed to be ignoring the screaming man and began walking to shore. It wasn’t until Lancelot cleared the tree tops that he saw the crone standing on the shore near the water coaxing Catherine to come to her. Realizing the witch must have cast a spell on Catherine, Lancelot tried to reach the crone before Catherine reached the shore. He almost made it. Just as Catherine placed her soft young hand into the veined wrinkled hand of the witch, Lancelot scooped down and took a chunk of flesh off of Lionors’ bald head, simultaneously, Catherine and the witch disappeared.
A moment later, Lancelot was tumbling head over bird’s feet from the air having been struck by a stone thrown by Sir Jonathan who stood helplessly in the stream somehow blaming the big white owl for Catherine’s disappearance. Our young Knight knew the poor bird was not to blame and as soon as the stone left his hand he was sorry for it and went looking for the bird before a predator came along and killed it.
Lancelot was stunned and couldn’t move, but did not lose consciousness. When he heard Jon tramping through the underbrush toward him, Lancelot expected to be killed and thought of the irony of the situation. Lying there he thought that somehow this end seemed right, since he had lived what was a very ironic life. He made peace with his Maker and waited.
When our young Knight bent down and picked him up Lancelot expected that he would wring his neck and was pleasantly surprised when instead Jon gently inspected under the white feathers for injuries. Carefully Jon settled Lancelot into the crook of his left arm then walked back and grabbed Shadowmere’s reigns and the three of them trudged back to the clearing where Catherine slept the night before.
Being young and believing that if he was in motion he was accomplishing something, our young Knight saddled Shadowmere, dressed in full armor, tucked the injured owl into his satchel and began his search for Catherine once again. For the next 12 hours, he rode through the countryside looking for any sign that would lead him to Catherine. The sun had gone down and was coming up again when he finally had to give in to his exhaustion and hunger.
He simply stopped where he was in the forest, took the saddle and blanket off of Shadowmere, walked him to a small pool of water to quench his thirst and then tied the horse to a hedge. The young Knight sat down on a cold and damp rock with soggy green moss creeping up the grey stone from the forest floor then pulled his armor over his head and threw it to the ground.
He had a sad heart.
He also had Lancelot in the satchel next to him, but he did not know that yet.
TO BE CONTINUED …
Low, rolling hills led to the flat terrain surrounding Stonehenge. As the sun rose above the horizon Lancelot could see the stones from miles away silhouetted against the pink and yellow sky. He had to admit there was something mysterious about Stonehenge and seeing it in the morning light, mist still circling through the stones and rising above the tree branches in the nearby forest, he sensed the magic there.
He was exhausted. The last time he slept was during the channel crossing and he and his horse had been in motion since then. He let himself slip off the horse, untied the saddle and tethered the tired animal to a tree branch. Then he removed his armor, laid the saddle blanket on top of one of the large, flat stones and fell asleep.
It had been many years since the last time Lionors saw Lancelot. They were enemies know, but as she stood over him watching him sleep she recalled their time together when they were dear friends and lovers, at least they were in her memory. Lancelot might say she was just one of many friendly women who lived at the castle and were available to the Knights. Yet, to Lionors, Lancelot was the love of her life. He was also the true father of her son, Borre, the man who would be King.
She remembered the night King Arthur discovered Lancelot’s affair with Guinevere, how she had followed Lancelot into the forest hoping to console him and found him sitting on the forest floor, heartbroken and consumed by shame, an empty wine flask at his side. Borre was conceived that night. Lionors did not see Lancelot again until this very moment. Now Lancelot was here to kill her and destroy their son’s future.
From the first moment she saw her, Lionors hated Guinevere, the spoiled bride of Arthur who always got what she wanted. Guinevere had prevented Lionors true happiness by tempting her Lancelot away from her, only to leave him a broken man. A sly smile creased the witch’s wrinkled face as she remembered how she made Guinevere suffer at the end. Guinevere never did tell her where Catherine was hidden, but she did suffer.
The sensation of something hard pressed against his mouth and a terrible stench woke Lancelot from his sound sleep. He slowly opened his eyes and it took a few seconds before he remembered where he was. “Wonderful to see you again, dearie” said an old crone just inches away from his face. “I knew true love’s kiss would wake you,” she cackled. Lancelot rolled away from the hag and off the boulder, getting to his feet on the opposite side of the stone.
He looked to his left and then to his right but his great sword was gone. “Is this what you’re looking for, dearie?” the witch asked as she levitated the sword into the air and propelled into a tree trunk 20 feet away. “You don’t remember me, do you, dearie?” the hag teased, a hideous grin crossing her face.
Lancelot looked at the creature standing across from him, her head was bald except for a few patches of white fuzz, her gray eyebrows were long and unkempt, her eyes were yellow, a large red mole grew between her mouth and her nose, the teeth that she had left were black and yellow and gray inside a mouth surrounded by a thousand wrinkles. His thoughts went back to the beautiful woman this creature had been not that long ago, long thick raven hair, and eyes the color of Robin eggs, flawless white skin, soft luscious lips and small, perfect white teeth that flashed when she smiled.
Hoping to throw her off guard, Lancelot said, “How have you been Lionors? Looks like the years have not treated you well.” The witch flinched, “You know me?” she snapped. “We know all about you, Lionors, we know everything,” he replied assertively. “Oh,” she mimicked, “you think you know everything, dearie?” “Have you met your son?” she drooled. Now it was Lancelot’s turn to flinch and she did not let him regain his balance before she spat out, “Sir Borre is your son, dearie, remember the night before you left when we met in the forest?” Honestly, Lancelot did not remember much about anything during that time in his life. As best he could recall, he was drunk for a year and a half.
“I don’t believe you, you old hag,” Lancelot snapped back, although he knew it was certainly possible that he could be Sir Borre’s father. Now he was trying to buy time until he figured out how to escape. “Anyone of 20 men could be that lad’s father,” he said. In terms of consequences, that was the worst statement Lancelot could have made.
Lionors face grew red with anger. She had only been with two men in her life; Lancelot and then with Arthur but only to implement her plan. How dare this man who she spent a lifetime loving denigrate their relationship, a relationship that led to the birth of their son.
Almost without thinking, she raised her hand into a fist and snapped her fingers open in Lancelot’s direction. Immediately, where Lancelot’s mouth and nose had been there now was a small yellow beak. When Lancelot tried to speak he could only make a small clicking sound. The witch cackled at the sight and admired her handiwork. “You want to know who my son’s father is?” she yelled, “You shall spend the rest of your days asking just that question, “who?” and with one more snap of her hand, Lancelot was turned into a large, white owl.
Lionors laughed at the pitiful bird that was staring at her in disbelief. Although he looked like an owl, Lancelot was fully aware of what had happened to him and the witch enjoyed that detail the most. In one swift movement, the hag pulled her dirty, stained cape in front of her and disappeared, leaving Lancelot to fend for himself.
By the time King Arthur and his Knights arrived at the cottage, the battle had ended and Catherine was gone. Merlin had treated the injuries Sir Kay suffered while defending Catherine from the wolf-men and was confident Sir Kay would recover, although he would always have a limp, a badge representing the courage he displayed defending King Arthur’s daughter.
Jonathan walked the moors looking for clues that might tell him where Catherine was taken. At the beach, Sister Ruth’s body was gone and everyone said it was taken out to sea by the tides, at least that’s what everyone hoped had happened to her body.
When our young Knight returned to the cottage, Merlin reached into his robes and pulled out an ancient map of Scotland which he laid on the table. When all the men in their armor squeezed into the tiny room Merlin told them Catherine was still in Scotland and was hidden in one of a thousand caves in the country’s hillside. No one asked Merlin how he knew this; they all learned years ago not to question him. After some discussion they divided the map into three sections, assigning a section to each Knight. Jonathan, Galahad and Percivale began their search for Catherine that very afternoon. King Arthur, Merlin and Sir Kay left for the castle in Edinburgh where Arthur would stay until he was forced to return to Camelot.
If by chance, you happened to be near Stonehenge that day, you no doubt would have spent a good deal of time watching the large white owl as it ran down the open spaces fluttering its wings but going nowhere. You would have been mesmerized as the owl used its beak and sharp talons to climb up a tree, walk to the end of a branch and throw itself off only to sink like a stone and hit the ground hard, losing some of its white feathers in the process. Yet, if you stayed long enough you would have been rewarded by the sight of the large white owl as it finally lifted off the ground, did a few out of control loops in the air and then lifted itself up, up into the late afternoon sky.
TO BE CONTINUED ...
In place of the gold promised for killing the sea serpent, Lancelot negotiated for two strong Irish horses. The horses sailed back to England with Lancelot and our young Knight. As soon as the ship docked and they were able to disembark, they were thundering down the road to Camelot, not even taking the time to send word to King Arthur that they were on their way, he would know soon enough.
An hour into their journey, half a dozen men came out of the dark woods and stepped into the road in front of them. Lancelot yelled “highwaymen ahead, Jon.” They both drew their great swords. The highwaymen knew Knights when they saw them and stepped aside just as the charging horses raced by.
It was well after midnight when they rode into the castle courtyard. Jon and Lancelot handed off the reigns of their horses to a drowsy squire that came running out of the horse barn. They walked quickly across the cobblestones and banged on the castle door. The old servant who greeted them was clearly shocked to see Lancelot again and hesitated when Lancelot told him to wake the King. “Now,” Lancelot roared, and the servant went on his way.
While they waited, Lancelot paced the Great Room, not sure of what to say to Arthur, or what to expect. Jon sat near the hearth, using the walking stick he found leaning against the stone wall to poke at the fireplace, hoping to coax some warmth out of the dying embers and anxious to hear of Catherine.
Lancelot was overwhelmed when Gawain, Percevale, Tristram, and Lionell charged into the room, each speaking his name, patting him on the back and welcoming him home. They joked about the “Lancelot Legend” and goaded him for details, only to make fun of his adventures. Servants appeared with trays of food and drink.
When Galahad entered the room he nodded at Jon, but did not join the others in welcoming Lancelot home. Galahad had always been jealous of Arthur’s affection toward Lancelot and did not understand Arthur’s willingness to bring Lancelot back after he had betrayed him. Galahad wanted to be the Knight sent to kill the witch. Lancelot noticed Galahad keeping his distance and decided to let it be.
When he could finally break into the conversation, our young Knight inquired about Catherine and was told she was in hiding in Scotland, that Sir Kay and a companion were with her and all was well. They explained that each Knight took their turn guarding her and assured him she was safe.
Arthur entered the room and the Knights bowed and stepped away from Lancelot. Lancelot bowed his head and did not look up at Arthur. “Good, you’re here Lancelot, and none too soon.” Was all that Arthur said.
King Arthur turned to Tristram, put out his hand and said, “Your sword Sir Knight.” Then he said, “Jon Burroughs come over here.” When Jon walked to him, Arthur told him to kneel. He tapped the flat of the sword blade on one shoulder and then on the other saying, “In front of these good and noble Knights, for services rendered, I dub thee Sir Jonathan, a Knight of the Roundtable.” Then the King said, “Stand Sir Jonathan. We will not celebrate your knighthood now but will wait until we have our Catherine safely home.” Turning to Sir Gwaine, Arthur ordered him to fetch Merlin and bring him to the Great Room.
What followed was a reunion of sorts, the King at one end of the great wood table, the disgraced Knight at the other, Merlin in the middle. Arthur and Lancelot did not exchange small talk and only acknowledged each other when necessary. Mostly the Knights talked of Lionors, where she might be, the extent of her powers, how best to capture and kill her. Sir Borre, Lionors son, had not been invited to this reunion. He appeared to be loyal to Arthur, but Merlin had counseled against Borre’s attendance.
Merlin told them of an old crone who had been seen walking among the ancient boulders of nearby Stonehenge at night. No one knew her or where she lived. Thinking out loud, Arthur said, “That could not be Lionors, she would be but 35 years now and her beauty would not have faded so quickly.” “I suspect, Sire,” Merlin replied, “that she traded her beauty for black magic.”
“When we find the old witch, how do we kill her?” Arthur asked. All eyes turned toward Lancelot. “I know every witch has a weakness,” Lancelot replied, “Merlin, can you tell me this witch’s flaw?” “I believe she will die if mortally wounded, the difficulty will be in overcoming her black magic to get close enough to kill her,” Merlin replied. “Lancelot, you will have many challenges to overcome if you agree to hunt her.” “I will leave for Stonehenge at dawn,” Lancelot replied.
Suddenly, Merlin stood and pushed his chair away. “Catherine is in danger,” he said. “I leave now.” And in a poof of white smoke, he disappeared. Our young Knight was first on his feet, the rest of the Knights right behind him. ‘If Catherine is in danger than the witch knows Catherine is under my protection, the ruse is over.” Arthur said. “It will take a half day of heavy riding for us to get to Catherine,” he continued, “but I think it best.” “Percivale have my squire prepare my horse and armor, Jonathan and Galahad you will come with me and Percivale; Gwaine and Tristram you will stay and guard the castle.” Turning to Lancelot, the King said, “You will leave for Stonehenge immediately and track down that witch and kill her.” Within a half hour the King and his Knights had left the castle and Lancelot was on his way to Stonehenge.
The strong Scottish wind was blowing through the window cracks of the cottage causing a draft strong enough to change the direction of the flames in the hearth. Sister Ruth got up to pin a blanket over the window. That’s when she saw them creeping closer across the moors. Dumbstruck, she just stared out the window until her brain could register what her eyes were seeing. Finally, she whispered, “Sir Kay …” Looking up and seeing the expression on the good sister’s face, Sir Kay grabbed his great sword and stepped to the window.
At first he thought it was a pack of wolves crossing the moor to get to the sea, until he saw the grotesque image of two of the “wolves” walking on their hind legs, their front legs dangling in front of their chests, their giant paws flopping with each step.
Sir Kay turned to Catherine, “You must follow our plan now Lady Catherine, “he said, “You know what you and Sister Ruth must do.” “But we cannot leave you in danger, Sir Kay” Catherine replied. Raising his voice, Sir Kay yelled, “Move … now … Lady Catherine, go!” The women looked at each other for just a moment then grabbed their shawls and rushed out the back door of the cottage into the dark windy night to follow the path that led to the beach.
Sir Kay pulled on his armor and helmet as best he could. He had fought bewitched creatures before and felt he had a good chance of defeating them. He was not afraid. If he met his fate here on this night on this dark moor then he would consider himself blessed to have died protecting King Arthur’s daughter. Making the sign of the cross he opened the cottage door and stepped outside to meet his fate.
As Catherine and Sister Ruth cautiously made their way down the dark dirt path to the North Sea, the flutter of Catherine’s green plaid shawl against the sky caught the eye of one of the wolf-men. Dropping to all fours he crept away from the pack and began to follow the women.
Meanwhile, the rest of the pack continued toward the cottage but slowed down when they saw the armor clad man with the great sword standing at the front door daring them to come closer. The alpha wolf, the leader of the pack, howled in defiance and ran at the Knight, the remaining four wolf-men following his lead.
The first wolf-man to reach Sir Kay lunged in the air at him and was skewered like a piece of meat. Sir Kay pulled his bloodied sword from the beast’s stomach before it hit the ground. Thinking timing was on its side, another wolf-man swung its razor sharp claw at the great sword trying to knock it out of Sir Kay’s hand. The bewitched claw scraped a long deep hole in the Knight’s armor before it fell to the ground, no longer connected to the beast. That wolf-man whimpered and limped away. “Three beasts left,” Sir Kay thought to himself, not knowing of the fourth beast slinking down the dirt path to the beach.
As wolves do, the three remaining wolf-men tried to circle around the Knight, but he kept his back to the cottage. Slowly, saliva dripping from the sides of their great mouths, their sharp yellow fangs highlighted in the moon glow and their flaming red eyes smoldering, the beasts approached Sir Kay. Sir Kay lowered his great sword, swinging it back and forth in front of the three creatures. They all lunged at him at once.
Sir Kay’s sword too off the head of the beast on the right, spraying the front of his armor with blood and whipping the other two beasts into a frenzy. The larger of the two knocked Sir Kay to the ground and ripped at his armor while the other beast grabbed on to his ankle and began pulling him. Using the end of his sword handle, the Knight hit the beast nearest to him on its temple and the beast fell dead upon him. The remaining beast continued to drag him by his ankle while shaking its great ugly head back and forth, trying to rip off the remaining armor and tear the foot away.
Sir Kay began to lose consciousness as a result of the weight of the huge dead wolf-man on his chest and the pain and blood loss as the other wolf fed on his ankle. Neither he nor the wolf-man noticed the white flash when Merlin appeared a few feet away, picked up Sir Kay’s sword and stabbed the beast.
Meanwhile, Catherine and Sister Rita were carrying the small wood boat down to the water line, Rita holding the back of the boat, Catherine the front. When the back of the boat suddenly dropped to the ground Catherine turned around to find Sister Rita dead on the sand, a grotesque black beast tearing at her throat. Catherine ran to the water as fast as she could but the beast was quickly upon her, grabbing her by her hair. As if everything she had seen wasn’t horrifying enough, Catherine’s knees buckled and she fainted when the creature leaned its head to her ear and whispered, “Don’t worry my dear, I am sorry to say that we cannot eat you.”
TO BE CONTINUED …