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Chapter 1
Chapter 2


Written by Xenokattz
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 2

Whistling a merry tune, Remy made his way into the Round Table room. He gave the apple boy an extra silver piece for the fruit on his cart and cheekily winked at the chambermaids as he jogged up the stairs.

"Are ye ill, Remy?" Christopher emerged from another hall, his brows cocked in intrigue and his beard twitching with laughter. It was easy for one love-lorn man to recognise another. "Mayhap wi' a disease o' the heart?"

"May God strike me if I ever speak against love again!"

Christopher let out a sharp bark of laughter. "Welcome to the ranks, my friend! May ye and yer lady live a long happy life together." He nudged his friend conspiratorially. "And who is this fair maiden who made magic upon ye and trapped yer rogue's heart?"

A softer smile touched Remy's lips. "Her name is Lady Aurora of Shallot."

"Hmm." Stroking his beard, Christopher commented, "I dinna believe I've heard o' her or her family."

"It matters not. She is brave and beautiful and strong and sweet as a dew-kissed rosebud."

Christopher snorted. "Why, Remmiange, I didna know ye were a poet either."

Remy reddened. "Never call me that."

"Mayhap ye should turn yer sword into a plow and make a living as a bard along with yer fair Lady Aurora."

"Who is Aurora?" inquired Arthur. The two knights made the perfunctory bow before Christopher answered, "The woman who has finally captured this rogue."

"What did she do? Hunt him down with a poisoned arrow? Drugged him into impregnating her?"

As his two good friends laughed, Remy scowled. "One would think that I was the first of you to fall in love."

"Not the first, Remy," Arthur corrected, "But certainly the least likely. I'd sooner thought a wolf to graze."

Before Remy could protest again, Christopher added, "'Tis not that yer hard-hearted, mon. 'Tis just because ye've never sought to fall in love, never truly wanted to be devoted to a lady."

"I've never met a lady worth being devoted to."

The High King smiled benevolently, knowingly. "And this lady is worth it?"

"That and more."

"Then I wish you all the luck in the world." Arthur sighed contentedly. "A marriage union made is love is the greatest of all of God's gifts." His glance strayed wistfully in the direction of his queen's chamber. Christopher and Remy exchanged knowing looks. Arthur was a good king but sometimes he was blind to the faults of the people he loved the most. The last thing on Guinevere's mind right now was her husband. Most likely it was too full with Lancelot's kisses. A dejected sigh came form Christopher's lips. It would ruin Arthur if he ever found out. Which was why all the knights took pains to keep it from him.

"When will we meet this sorceress who has accomplished the...ah...near impossible?" Arthur was asking.

Remy's visage became serious. "I...That is the reason why I sought you out, my liege," he began slowly, "Lady Aurora has been...most vilely wronged."

The statement brought a frown to the king's face just as Remy knew it would.

"What is't? Is there any way we could help?"

"I only request that you permit me to go on a quest to free her from her enchantment," answered the Round Table knight.

"Granted," said Arthur immediately, "You may leave as soon as you are prepared. And may all the blessings of God and St. Michael be upon you and your fair maiden."

"My thanks, your majesty." Remy bowed low at the blessing, feeling strengthened. "As soon as we have broken out fast, I'll hie me to Shallot and--"

"Shallot?!?" Arthur echoed loudly, his tone filled with horror and--dare he even think it?--fear. "Your lady is trapped in the Island of Shallot?"

His two knights stared at him in wariness. "Aye," replied Remy, "She is Aurora of Shallot."

A minute shudder went through the king's great frame. "Then she'll be under heavy enchantment indeed. The Island of Shallot holds a witch most wicked within its tower.

"Now that ye mention it," Sir Christopher commented, stroking his beard, "I seem tae recall a wee tale about the place. Something about stolen souls."

Arthur nodded firmly. "The witch steals souls to keep herself young and powerful. 'Tis said that a mere touch will send her victim into eternal sleep, the heart beating, the lungs taking in air but no mind or soul to shake him from his enchanted dreams." The King placed a pitying glance towards Remy. "If your lady be at Shallot, then you must be prepared to

battle this witch."

Remy's hands clenched at the thought of his love under the spell of one so evil. "I'll save her," he swore, "And free the others as well."

"'Tis a bold task ye set yerself tae," Sir Christopher stated bluntly, "As I remember it, it took Merlin and two of his ilk tae trap the witch in the first place."

"Their powers were taxed by the effort," added the king.

Undeterred, Remy announced, "Well, I've something much stronger than wizardry behind my back on this quest?"

"Love?" Arthur suggested.

"Well, that too," Remy admitted with a leer. His companions laughed.

Sir Christopher shook his head, his eyes merry with humour. "Och, and I thought ye were going to become serious as I."

The Sorceress' Triad revealed itself that day in Aurora's mirror. The ripe, golden fields of wheat melted away into pitiless blackness. From the darkness, the sorceresses stepped forth. The Sorceress of Destiny stood behind, covered head to foot in grey with a grey cowl covering everything but her crimson lips. The Sorceress of Souls floated just before her, flaming tresses and emerald gown waving in the windless space. At the fore was the Sorceress of Masks wearing her favourite blue-skinned,

raven-haired facade. A small skull was embedded in her forehead.

"We felt a disturbance, child," the third sorceress stated, sounding neither angry nor saddened.

Aurora stared, gape mouthed. They hadn't visited for so long, she'd thought they had forgotten that she existed. "My...my ladies, forgive me. I have done naught but look through my mirror and weave as you have commanded me."

:Don't be impudent, child!: The mistress of souls said this without rancor. :You are here for your own good, to keep the evil within you from escaping. You must not have contact with the outside world!:

"But, I did not--"

The masked one held up a hand. "Have we not given you all that you need? Your pantry is forever stocked. You've instruments galore in your chambers, aye, and some that play themselves."

:Books that the monks would envy,: added the soul-mistress.

"Sumptuous clothes, one for each hour."

:A mirror that shows you more worlds than the average man could ever dream of.:

"But I am so alone!" cried Aurora. Paying no heed to the perplexed and distressed looks that the sorceresses were giving her, the lady continued, "I keep company with the dust motes and thread-skeins in my basket. I hear but no one listens. I speak but no one replies. I shout and no one berates me. I cry..." She bit her lip to hold back the sob. "...and no one

comforts me."

In reply, the Sorceress of Masks snorted most ungraciously. "Save that rogue of a knight--"

"Aye, save he!" Aurora went on her knees before the mirror. "Please, it must be a sign, gloriannas. No one has been able to break the spells of the tower until now. Sir Remy is a good, dedicated knight. Mayhap he can break the curse!"

:Or mayhap loose it upon the gentle Earth,: retorted the Sorceress of Souls flatly, :Nay, we cannot risk that.:

"Gracious ladies," Aurora implored, "I beg of you--"

But the Sorceress of Masks held up both hands, implacable. "Ours minds are made up."

Her sister nodded, red hair undulating in a serpentine manner. :He will not find his way into Shallot.:

A sudden wave of anger burst upon Aurora's heart. She had been denied companionship all her life. She could not even recall when, if ever, she had last been held in an embrace. "I will see Sir Remy again," she promised to herself and her guardians, "will you yea or nay."

"So be it on your head," hissed the masked one scathingly. Her eyes had become monstrous, yellow and cold. "Look out into that window even once to aid your knight errant and you will kill him, as surely as though you had cut his still-beating heart form his chest."

:Are you so selfish,: added the Sorceress of Souls, :That you would condemn a gentle and perfect knight to his untimely grave for want of a companion?:

"I--" Aurora began, starting to become uncertain.

"Are you so sure it is you he loves?' asked the Sorceress of Masks, "Or are you but another prize for him? To be known as the slayer of the Witch of Shallot is a great title indeed."

"Nay!" Aurora exclaimed passionately, "he would not--"

:Do the souls within you not quench your thirst?: And suddenly, they were all there, screaming inside her head, cursing her and her hell-born power, shrieking their pain and beating upon her head with their claws. Aurora drew back in horror.

"Or perhaps she would want him to number among them." The masked one said this thoughtfully, tapping a red-nailed finger on her perfect red lips.

"Nay," Aurora said shakily, "I...I would not have him...caged...cursed by my hand."

Fires leapt from the eyes of the Soul Mistress. :Then look you not from your mirror. Harden your heart to his cries. Close your ears to the sound of the outside world.: Her voice softened. :You are safe here, child. No one can hurt you and you cannot hurt others. But out there...:

Her hands clenched and held tight to her chest, Aurora nodded stiffly. "I understand."

She did not watch them fade away and even then, the image of warm sun upon the wheat failed to warm her.

A kernel of doubt had grown root in Remy's mind. That morning, he had visited the font where he met his enchanted lady. He had not expected to see her, of course, but he had hoped. When she did not appear, he tried to put the thought from his mind but he took a good look at his surroundings. Because the garden was hidden, it was horribly unkempt. Or perhaps it was

the other way around. Vines wrapped themselves around each other, strangling each other in a vain attempt to find sun among the riotous weeds. The trees were crooked and brown-leafed with mould. The only spot of colour were the deadly nightshades that thrived in one corner. The fountain seemed to be the crown of misery. Green scum floated on water that was too rancid for fish to survive in. What he had thought to be a cherub in the previous night was really a grotesque, snarling away any adventurers. It was not an auspicious start.

Now, looking up into the impervious island, Remy was once again attacked by doubt. He was but one knight and it had taken three wizards of Merlin's strength or more to defeat the witch. Mayhap Aurora was simply a simulacrum sent to wile men away to feed her unholy hunger. Amazingly, Remy felt his hands tremble.

Yet, if she wasn't...

Remy's throat tightened at the thought of gentle Aurora at the hands of that mistress of evil. God only knew the vile things she'd had to witness. She needed him. No had ever needed him before. True, he had been victorious at Maisonwaithe, Kendrick and Garde Jaune but that was simply because he had been thrown into the role as captain of the army that Arthur, Christopher

or Lancelot commanded. He had not seen the people he had saved much less speak to them. That someone who knew nothing about his history and base their hopes on his worth alone...Remy's trembling ceased and, clear-eyed, he forged onward to the edge of the beach leading to Shallot.

"I am Remy Debeaumont!" he challenged, "The True-Flying Lance of Camelot! I bid thee to release the Lady Aurora or face my wrath!"

To his surprise, it was his own Aurora who called back. "Leave this place," she commanded in an unfeeling tone, "You have no place or power here."

Unthwarted, he told her, "Have no fear, my lady. I will see you free or die trying."

A noise that sounded suspiciously like a sob reached his ears.

"You?" Aurora said nonplussed, "Defeat the Witch of Shallot? A foundling with neither a father nor a mother to recall a proud parentage? The commonest-born knight with nary a touch of magick running through his veins? You would kill she whom Merlin could not defeat?"

Remy's jaw clenched. "I may not succeed," was his terse retort, "but I will try. I will go to hell and back for you, my lady, and if my death is needed to free you, then so be it." He nudged his steed forward.

"I tell you go away!" Aurora screamed, "There is nothing here for you! Nothing but...coldness."

Halting in his stride, Remy countered, "Would that I could but look into thine eyes one last time, touch the softness of thy cheek and steal a kiss from thy rose-born lips afore I die and I shall call myself a blessed man and go to Eternity forever warmed by thy regard."

Her answer was cold but not her tone. "So be it. I will not help you in suicide."

As she promised, Aurora curled up in her bed and ignored the sounds that wafted in from the tiny window. Strangely when once it had filtered all but the loudest of noises, the window now allowed every excruciating detail pass through. The hissing of the dragon's blood that filled the moat and the stench of burnt flesh and wood crept in as the knight rowed with all his

might. She heard the steed's final, noble shriek as the shifting sands sucked him deep into the bowels of the earth. Every curse, grunt and exhausted breath that came from Remy's mouth was sent to her ears. The cold winds howled, the thorns rent flesh and the blood crackled into red ice yet she remained in her bed. Stay and let him fight and the island's wards would tear him to pieces. Lean out the window to help and surely he would be lost. Aurora clutched her knees to her chest and shuddered. He was tiring now; by her estimation ithad been a full day and a half since he had begun his quest. He had not

slept for fear the island would do away with him while he rested, had not eaten since the living forest had snatched his food and had not drunk in case the water was poisoned, which is was. His would not be an easy death. But...

Would the death she brought upon him be any easier? What would the sorceresses do? Strike him with a lightning bolt? Send a basilisk to devour him? Throw him bodily into the moat?

"Aurora!" The hoarse voice was astoundingly near. Aurora lifted her head, baffled.

"Aurora," Remy repeated, leaning wearily against the stone tower. His left arm hung useless at his side, his right dragged against the ground. He had tied the sword around his wrist to prevent losing it. He dared not turn his back to the island but he had to let Aurora know he had succeeded in part.

"Aurora let me enter."

Aurora sat stiffly in bed, her hands curled tightly on the pallet. "I...I cannot."

The thorned limb from the dark forest crept towards the knight. Remy slashed at it. It drew back but was joined by several others. "I beg of you, my lady, let me just look upon your face and I shall be strengthened."

Unconsciously, she had made her way to the middle of the room. The window curtains billowed beckoningly. "If I look out at you, you may be cursed to die," she claimed sorrowfully, "I cannot do that to you." She turned away from temptation.

"If I do not see you," Remy panted, "I surely will die cursed." The vines were upon him, looming up ready to engulf him in a deadly embrace. Without warning, the mirror came to life. And Aurora saw the vines, saw Remy's pitiful advances, saw the way one arm was burnt beyond repair and the gaping wound on his leg. The enchanted thorns wove above him, preparing to

encase him in his painful coffin. With a gasp, she spun around to keep the ugly vision from her eyes. Remy had said his final Ave Maria. He was ready to face his Maker. To think that two days ago, he had shaken his head in bewilderment and shame that

men would throw their lives away for a skirt. He, who had been crowned Prince of Hearts too many times to count, hadn't even been able to coax a simple buss from his lady-love. Mayhap God did have a sense of irony. The vine closed in for the kill. Remy lifted his sword. He would die fighting.

The sound of a dozen whips snapping. An anguished cry strangled. When Remy expected to feel the burn of those foot-long thorns shredding his body, he felt only a heavy weight throwing him against the stones. The strength of it threw his helm off and his skull cracked against the pointed edge. He fell to his knees still clutching...clutching what?

Puzzlement gave way to horror. In his arms was Lady Aurora of Shallot. The wind howled, shrieked like a mother grieving her child. The vines twisted and turned as though in pain. Higher and higher they rose, trying to get as far away from the lovers as possible. From deep within the tower of thorns, fierce yellow eyes glared at the knight.

"Murderer!" screamed the Sorceress of Masks, "Defiler! Was it not enough that you have broken the hearts of every maid in the kingdom? Must you take our daughter away as well?"

Realising he was cowering, Remy straightened. "Had you loved her as I did, you would not have let her light dim in such a prison!"

The moat with its red dragon's blood also spun high, forming a funnel than slipped into the figure of a bird. It hissed, :We were protecting her from harm that ignorance would lay upon her! Her touch was a curse that yon peasants would kill her for. Think you that she wanted to harm? Nay! She was e'er a kind and gentle girl...something that oursiders would never understand.:

With a sinking heart, Remy realised that who the Witch of Shallot was. But instead of revilement, he felt only empathy. He had also been misunderstood. If only he could have come earlier, before they imprisoned her thus, he would have shown her love and kindness that more than made up for all her hurts. Including her guardians' unwitting cruelty.

"You strangled her soul!" Remy shouted back defiantly, "As surely as your vines strangled her--" He could not continue. Bowing his head over his love's body, he held her close to wait for the sorceresses' wrath. It came as the sweet kiss of a spring zephyr followed by the icy fingers that wrenched his face upwards. And Remy looked into the endless blackness behind the cowl of the Sorceress of Destiny. Her thin red lips moved, her voice a harmonious chorus of rabbits chattering, butterflies laughing and oaks howling.

<You are in the right, she said and he could not move away from her bitingly cold hands, <What we named protection became a cage. We but wanted our daughter to be safe from the outside world. Her other hand reached out

to caress the white devil's mark in Aurora's hair. <She was cursed-

"She did not ask for a poisoned touch!" Remy managed to protest, hating the way all and sundry called her cursed.

<Indeed not, agreed the sorceress, <I speak of a different curse, one that I saw upon her birth. That a glance out her window into Camelot would be her downfall.>

Bewildered, Remy looked up at the solitary slit in the tower behind him. It looked out west into the Disputed Lands. Camelot lay to the east. "I do not understand."

Sadly, the mistress of destiny continued to run her hand through Aurora's hair. <You are Camelot, Remmiange DeBeaumont--

"Nay!" the knight began to protest but she went on unheeding.

<You are that which was lost but found its way back. You are the darkness that struggled to become light. You are the unnamed orphan, the foundling, the child that has grown into one whom the most noble born can only strive to be. Aye, she turned her hooded eyes towards him and though he could not see her eyes, he knew that she was weeping, <You are everything that is Camelot.

"And when I called, she looked out the window towards me," Remy murmured.

This time, the tears came unrepentantly. They fell, kissing her cheeks and brow, her lips and chest in a way that he knew he would not be able to. And miraculously, her eyes opened. He moved to wipe the wound on her chest but Aurora wrenched away, gasping.

"Don't...touch me..."

Remy's heart broke. "You've every right to hate me, cherie. I have cursed you."

Surprisingly, she smiled. "Nay," she whispered. Her hand worked to rise and stroke the sadness from his eyes. Remy took it and held it against his chest over his heart, ignoring the burning, suffocating sensation running through his body. "You have...saved me..."

Then Remy smiled, tremulous but straight from the heart. Reverently, he leaned over and kissed her lips. A carol, mournful and holy, filled the countryside loudly and lowly. The birds hushed in respect. The tress stopped rustling to listen and the

flowers bowed in respect as a boat floated silently towards Camelot. Crafted of supple green vines and slender reeds, it carried bore a simple plaque of wood, the ancient runic words burnt into it. A torn cloak served as lining, the red and blue silk trailing through the lilies. Soft petals pillowed the heads of the lovers, chestnut hair against auburn, white skin against

war-darkened, hands forever clasped and lips in an eternal kiss.

Who is this? and what is here?

And in the lighted palace near

Died the sound of royal cheer;

And they crossed themselves for fear,

All the knights at Camelot:

But Lancelot mused a little space;

He said, "She has a lovely face;

God in his mercy lend her grace.

The Lady of Shallot."


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