Characters: Morgana, Gwen, Arthur, & Merlin; minor appearances by the rest of the Camelot crew; featuring, er, the Green Knight
Word Count: 3,127
Spoilers: general season 2
Summary: In which the Green Knight proposes a beheading game, all the men in Camelot go bonkers, and it is, at long last, Gwen and Morgana’s turn to save the day.
Author's Note: ... hahaha, I don't know. I don't know! I haven't written in ages, and then all of a sudden, completely randomly, in the middle of doing Virginia Woolf homework, I just started, and ... there was this? Clearly, reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for Brit Lit I touched me very deeply. But just because Sir G isn't around yet -- well, why should that deprive us of zany Green Knight adventures? Also: I'm pretty sure this is cracky, cracky, crack fic, but it's hard to tell with Merlin. You guys, Uther had sex with a troll.
Also: I kind of feel like the Green Knight and his shenanigans are like the medieval equivalent of Jackass. The menfolk are powerless to withstand him!
The knight who interrupts the holiday feast is very big and very green.
“Does no one else find this suspicious?” Morgana demands.
“Apparently not,” says Gwen.
They stare, with varying degrees of pity and exasperation (most of the pity Gwen’s and most of the exasperation Morgana’s), at the boys. The boys – the term ‘boys’ here encapsulating every man in the castle dining hall, from Sir Leon to Merlin to Gaius to the Prince and King of Camelot themselves – are all gazing up at the very green knight and his very big axe with dopey-eyed grins. As such, they don’t notice the staring.
“Who wishes to strike me a blow, and thus prove the lasting glory of much-renownéd Camelot?” the big green knight booms.
Morgana’s mouth falls open in disbelief as the men erupt in a chorus of “Me, me!”s, clamoring for his favor like lovesick young maidens.
“Oh dear,” Gwen murmurs.
“A merry game we shall make of it!” the Green Knight continues. “First you deal me any manner of blow you choose, and within the sennight, I shall return the favor.”
“Tra-ap,” Morgana sing-songs under her breath.
“But suppose,” Uther mutters to Gaius; both of them look quite starry-eyed, “one dealt a fatal blow to the Green Knight?”
“Then I suspect,” Gaius replies, “one would have found a way to win the game, and ensure true glory for Camelot.”
“Oh, goody,” Uther grins.
“Excellent idea, Father,” Arthur says, gazing raptly at the Green Knight, a look of great determination on his face beneath the many levels of rather sappy awe. “I’ll just be borrowing that.”
“Really now, Arthur,” Uther chastises, frowning. “I’m the one who thought of it. Not to mention that I am the king of Camelot. And as such, I—”
“Milord,” Morgana interjects pointedly, “don’t you think this seems rather … trappish?”
“You know. Traplike. Like a trap.”
Uther’s too busy staring at the Green Knight to even glance her way.
“It’s a trap, milord,” Morgana snaps.
“Eat your potatoes, Morgana,” Uther says distractedly.
“Yeah, Morgana,” Arthur says. “Eat your potatoes.”
Morgana imagines it to be a Pendragon man’s head, and stabs a potato with flourish.
In the end, it is, unsurprisingly, Arthur who receives the honor of chopping the knight’s head off. He does quite a good job of it, too: one swift blow, and the knight’s head falls to the floor, the metal of his helmet thundering against the stone. A fountain of emerald blood gushes from his rather abandoned-looking neck; most of it winds up splattering Merlin’s face, which is the way these things tend to go.
The only difference is that this time, Merlin looks positively thrilled.
The inhabitants of the hall look down at the big, green, bodiless head in one moment of perfect, stunned silence.
Then the knight’s body – which hadn’t bothered to fall over – makes one jerking motion that sends all its armor creaking. Then it stands up a bit taller, and walks across the hall to retrieve its severed head. It’s got quite a bit of swagger in its step, too.
A woman screams. Morgana and Gwen both gasp.
The knight’s body picks up its head and tucks it rather affectionately under its right arm.
“Prince Arthur Pendragon of Camelot,” the head says (rather smirkily), “thou hast one week to find me, so that I might return the blow that was bestowed upon me. If you fail to carry out this task, everlasting shame shall befall Camelot.”
“I told you it was a trap,” Morgana groans to the room at large. The Green Knight’s eyes flick briefly over to her; perhaps it isn’t the wisest of actions to anger large green supernatural beings who don’t have much of a problem with decapitation, but she can’t help it. She glares at him.
It doesn’t matter much, because the room at large ignores her enlightening remark. Instead:
“Everlasting shame,” Uther repeats, aghast.
“God,” Sir Leon says, “how embarrassing.”
“It’s all right, men,” Arthur says in his princeliest of tones. “I’ve got this covered. There’ll be no shame befalling this kingdom.”
“Oh, thank goodness,” says Sir Leon.
“One week, Arthur Pendragon,” the Green Knight intones. “One week, and you will answer to my axe.”
“That,” Arthur says, “sounds damned sporting to me, Green Knight.”
The room erupts in a choir of manly, testosterone-fueled cheers. The Green Knight climbs back onto his big green horse (which has been, to its credit, rather polite and mild-mannered throughout the whole affair), then gallops right on out of the hall. The cheers become quite deafening at his glorious exit.
“You’re my hero, Green Knight!” calls out one particular voice, only just audible over the din.
It sounds a whole lot like Merlin.
“I suppose it’s on us to fix this, then, isn’t it?” Morgana says blandly, taking in the scene.
Gwen glances at Gaius. He is currently in the middle of an enthusiastic reenactment of the decapitation, one starring a dinner knife and a potato. He makes a little “schwinggggg!” noise as the dinner knife ‘axe’ falls down.
“Yes,” Gwen says, resigned. “I think so.”
“Bloody marvelous,” scowls Morgana.
Merlin surreptitiously licks a bit of green blood off his finger. It does much to bring back to Morgana a belief she’d held most ardently at age ten: boys are disgusting.
Morgana and Gwen follow Arthur and Merlin down the hall on the way back to Arthur’s bedchamber, careful to stay quite a few steps behind.
“I’m coming with you,” Merlin is saying quite forcefully.
Gwen feels a flicker of hope. She’s heard that tone before – it’s the one that tends to come out when things get dire, but Merlin’s determined not to give up hope. Maybe he’d just been pretending back there to be under whatever weird spell the Green Knight’s cast over everyone, and now he’s going to really sort this all out. As for the green blood licking – well, maybe Merlin’s just a really good pretender.
“Yeah, ‘course you are,” Arthur agrees with him easily. “Because it’s going to be incredible! The stuff of legend.”
They triumphantly bump their fists together.
Never mind then, Gwen thinks sadly.
“Maybe everyone should come,” Merlin theorizes gleefully. “It’s going to be the greatest thing that’s ever happened, after all. You don’t want just me seeing that. All of Camelot should be there!”
“Good point,” Arthur agrees. “How hard d’you think it would be to take the whole kingdom along with me on a solitary quest?”
“Maybe a bit tricky, but I reckon we’ll be able to puzzle it out.”
“Good. Very good.”
“D’you – d’you think I could help?”
“Merlin.” Arthur stops walking and stares at his (anxiously bouncing) manservant with much gravity. “How. Are you going to help me. Get my head chopped off. By a big green knight.”
Merlin gives a nervous laugh and a little shrug. “I dunno, I thought I could hold onto your shoulders. Or pick up your head afterwards, or something. Make sure your hair looks tidy, and you’re not making a weird face or anything like that.”
Arthur is quiet for a very tense moment.
Please, please, please snap out of it, Gwen thinks, watching him hopefully.
“Sure,” Arthur says then, a big grin breaking out on his face. “It’s a deal.”
Apparently just slamming their knuckles together isn’t enough to convey their excitement this time – they both jump up and down rather stupidly for a bit, then leap into the air and sort of clumsily … slam their chests together.
“You must be very proud right now,” Morgana says innocently. “Y’know. To have snogged both of them.”
“Oh, very funny.” Gwen rolls her eyes.
(Maybe, secretly, at the moment, she’s a little ashamed.)
Confrontation seems like the logical next step. Maybe they can talk, or slap, a little sense into them before it’s too late.
The slapping is Morgana’s idea.
Gwen insists that they ought to at least try talking first.
“Arthur, listen to me,” Morgana says. “You’re under some kind of spell. It’s obvious.”
“The only thing that’s obvious, Morgana, is that you’re jealous.”
“What?” Morgana cries. “Jealous? Can you even hear yourself, Arthur Pendragon? You’re even more mad than usual!”
“Or maybe you’re jealous of him,” Arthur says smugly, quite lighting up as the idea dawns in his thick skull. “You’ve wanted to chop my head off for years, and now he gets to.”
“I certainly want to chop your head off right now,” Morgana growls. “But we’ve got bigger issues on our hands—”
“I mean, don’t get me wrong, Morgana. I like you. I care about you a lot, in fact. You’ve been in my life for ages. You’re – really, you’re like family. You’re even – hey, you’re very pretty. But when it all comes down to it, we just don’t have that thing, you know. I guess you could call it a spark. And just because you mean a lot to me – and that I definitely mean a whooole lot to you – doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the one who’s meant to chop my head off, you know. And the Green Knight … there was just something about him the first time I saw him. I just knew that if, y’know, I was gonna take that step, then … it had to be with him.” Somewhere in the middle of this insipid excuse for a speech, he’s switched from haughty to … swoony. “Say, Morgana,” Arthur continues, a little sheepishly, “do you think he liked it? When I hacked his head off? I mean, I’ve decapitated loads of monsters before, but he was the first time where I really wanted it to – to mean something, y’know? To be more than just slaughtering. So, do you think I … did okay?” He looks at her, eyes bright and earnest and hopeful.
“AAAAAAAAAAAUGHHHHHHH,” says Morgana.
“Your turn,” Morgana says, storming out of the room. “And so help me, Gwen, if you don’t talk some sense into him, I am going to decapitate him. And he’ll be very pouty about it too, since it’s just me, and not somebody special who’s decapitation-deflowering him.”
Gwen blinks. “Deflowering?”
“You’ll see,” Morgana assures her darkly.
“Oh, hurrah,” Gwen says.
“It isn’t your destiny to do this, Arthur,” Gwen says gently. (Although really, she’d quite like to snap at him a bit. That starry-eyed look is getting ridiculous.) “You’re meant to be a great king someday. Camelot needs you. We can’t lose you now. Not to this stupid quest for honor. Surely – surely in your heart you know that it isn’t meant to end like this.”
And then, because it seems the most effective course of action, she lifts a hand to his cheek. His skin is cool and soft to the touch, welcome and a bit missed (though she shouldn’t admit it), and his eyes soften looking into hers. Oh, thank God. She knew she hadn’t lost him for good.
“Guinevere,” he says, his voice low, his gaze so fixed on her.
“Yes?” She smiles a little.
“I—” He pauses, takes a breath, and she knows that now that they’ve got Arthur on their side, they’ll find some way to fix this. “—want you to be there when it happens.” Gwen stares at him the way one stares at a madman. Because he is one. Oblivious, he brushes his fingers against her face. “I promised Merlin he could be the one to, y’know, straighten my head out and stuff, after it’s not attached to my body anymore, but I’d like you to.”
He starts to lean down nearer to her, his eyes fluttering closed.
Gwen takes a big step backwards, and leaves him to a nice round of kissing with the air.
“Wait,” he says, brow furrowing as he opens his eyes (but not ‘til he’s spent a couple of seconds snogging nothing, which she finds strangely cathartic to witness at the moment). “Weren’t we going to—?”
“No, no,” Gwen says. “I think I need some space. And time. And so I – will talk to you later. Bye.”
“If it was Lancelot,” Arthur says glumly after her, “you’d straighten out his decapitated head.”
“I trust you, Merlin,” Morgana says. She makes sure to look as vulnerable and quietly anguished by a life of magical secrecy as possible. She also sticks her chest out a bit more than usual, and lets her breathing become conducive to a little more heaving than strictly necessary. It’s allowed, she reasons, when it’s for the sake of saving the day. Tossing her hair over her shoulder, she continues, in solemn and lilting tones, “You’ve kept my secret, and you’ve been a true friend to me. I know you’ll do what’s right.”
“Arthur says,” Merlin replies, beaming, “I can help. When he’s being decapitated. Isn’t that great?”
“I’m getting decapitated by the Green Knight at the end of the week!” Arthur announces proudly to the royal court. “And you’re all invited! As soon as we find out where he is, I’ll send Merlin back, and he’ll bring the whole lot of you along to watch!”
“Huzzah!” cries everybody.
Except the women, who mostly just look rather confused.
It’s a bright, clear winter’s morning when Arthur and Merlin set off on their journey to find the Green Knight. They’re just about to climb onto their horses when they’re accosted by Gwen and Morgana.
“You had your chance, Guinevere,” Arthur says coldly. “Merlin’s sorting out my decapitated head now.”
“Yeah,” says Merlin.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, it isn’t that, Arthur,” Gwen says, exasperated.
“Then what is it?” Arthur demands.
“We just want you to explain to us why you’re doing this,” Morgana says. “Tell us why, plain and simple.”
“Uh, it’s not like it needs explaining.” Arthur and Merlin exchange rather conspiratory ‘ha ha ha, oh, silly simple-minded women’ glances that are very, very annoying. It’s surprisingly easy to feel nostalgic for the days when he was forever ordering his long-suffering manservant to polish his boots.
“Ah, yes, of course,” Morgana says, “because heading off to certain doom for no reason and acting as though it’s the most exciting thing in the world makes absolute sense.”
“Precisely,” Arthur says.
Morgana glares at him. It’s a special kind of glare – one she doesn’t make use of very often, because she understands the power of saving it for these kinds of occasions. Once upon a time, she’d reduced Arthur to tears with the power of this glare alone.
He’d been twelve.
“Fine,” Arthur sighs, masking his nervousness quite well. His horse whinnies anxiously. “It’s because it’s Camelot’s honor at stake here, Morgana. What’s more important than proving the honor of our kingdom?”
“What about going off to be killed says anything about honor?”
“Well, you know. It’s fighting. It’s cool.”
“How’s it fighting if you’re just going there to lose?”
“Did you see that axe? Morgana, that’s the biggest axe I’ve ever seen in my life. And he’s green.”
“And tall,” Merlin contributes helpfully.
“And tall!” It’s obvious that, to Arthur, this puts the matter to rest. “Now, get out of the way so we can get a move on.”
Morgana resorts to the glare again. The horse seems most disinclined to budge.
“Arthur,” she says, locking her eyes with his, “you’re under a spell. This is magic at work. This isn’t you acting like this.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Arthur orders.
Morgana lets out a huffy laugh. “Me!”
“Morgana.” Arthur sighs. “I didn’t want it to come to this, but, well – it’s really very simple.”
“Oh, is it?” Morgana demands icily.
“It is,” Arthur says, not cowed in the slightest. “The fact of the matter is … you’re girls. You don’t understand things like dying for honor, and excellent fighting, and really big axes. I know that, in your …” He turns to Merlin, brow scrunched up thoughtfully. “What’s a nice word for puny?”
Merlin ponders for a second. “Dainty?”
“Dainty! Yes, perfect. Thank you, Merlin.” He turns back to Morgana. Who is going to kill him, and if that means Camelot losing its honor, then too ruddy bad for Camelot. “In your dainty lady brain, you can’t quite figure out those sorts of concepts. But it’s all right; you don’t have to. That’s what we’re for. So you just go back inside and embroider something, and Merlin and I’ll set off on our magnificent death-defying adventure.”
The snow within Morgana’s general radius seems in very real danger of melting from hot, unrelenting rage.
“Arthur Pendragon, this had better all be the damned spell talking, because I’m going to—”
“Spell! Seriously, Morgana, what’s all this nonsense about spells? I—”
“Arthur, you’re right.” Gwen’s voice rings out loud and clear through the air of the courtyard, drowning out Arthur and Morgana’s squabbling.
Morgana stares at Gwen, her mouth falling open.
After a few seconds, Arthur grins. “Yes! Thank you, Guinevere. Knew you’d understand. Because she, unlike you—” He gestures to Morgana, “—is a lovely, sensible girl.”
“I think it’s very admirable, what you’re doing,” Gwen continues, tone growing sweeter with every word. She begins to gaze up at Arthur with very dotty, unGwenlike adoration. “Brave and bold, and absolutely brilliant for Camelot.”
“Exactly!” Arthur smiles down at her.
“Oh, no, Gwen!” Morgana hurries closer to her friend’s side. “The spell’s got you, too, hasn’t it?”
Gwen ignores her.
“And I know that it’s our place back inside,” she continues demurely, “embroidering things. But, honestly, Morgana and I would like nothing more than to come along with you.” She shoots a quick, pointed glance Morgana’s way.
Morgana’s eyes go very big for a second, and then she nods slowly. “Oh! Yes. Yes, we would.”
The corner of Gwen’s mouth twitches, just a little.
“Well, I don’t know,” Arthur says, quite mightily. “It’s very dangerous business. Not really a place for women.”
“Absolutely,” Morgana agrees, nodding slowly, her voice quite higher than usual. Perhaps even suspiciously so. “And, while I beat you up numerous times when we were children, I’m quite certain that, should disaster befall us, we’d have no means of defending ourselves at all. On account of being so dainty. But—”
“But,” Gwen interjects smoothly, “I do so want to be there to be there to catch your head when it falls, and make certain your hair isn’t mussed. Sire.”
“And then maybe,” Morgana adds, “we can weave a tapestry of the scene afterwards.”
This quite cinches the matter for Arthur. “Merlin, fetch two more horses. The ladies will be joining us.”
And this is how the Lady Morgana, Gwen, and two stupid enchanted idiots begin their quest to find the Green Knight.
On to part two! (Ooh, ahh!)