Characters: Morgana, Gwen, Arthur, & Merlin; minor appearances by the rest of the Camelot crew; featuring, er, the Green Knight
Word Count: 2,783
Spoilers: general season 2
Summary: In the thrilling continuation of our tale, Morgana, Gwen, Arthur, and Merlin set off on an epic journey to find the Green Knight, and mostly just find annoyance. Featuring ogres, cloak thievery, and a whole lot of singing.
Author's Note: Clearly this thing is an epic, because it ain't done yet, folks! Who saw that coming?? Most of this section was inspired by one of my very favourite sections of good ol' Sir G and the GK (is my abbreviation catchy or what? Answer, YES.)--
He had death-struggles with dragons, did battle with wolves,
warred with wild men who dwelt among the crags;
Battled with bulls and bears and boars at other times,
And ogres that panted after him on the high fells.
It really made me sad that adventures that bitchin' are confined to only four lines. Clearly, this chapter is my attempt to Do Something About That.
There’s nothing quite like feigning excitement over decapitation on a days-long, directionless wintertime journey with a couple of morons.
Well, maybe there are some things that are like it. (Death, misery, profound suffering, and so on.)
“I’m sorry,” Gwen mutters to Morgana, getting about as near to her as one can when on horseback. “But we couldn’t let them go off on their own in this state. They need us here to keep an eye on them. And who knows? Maybe we’ll stumble across some kind of solution.”
“I suppose,” Morgana agrees. She can’t help throwing a rather distasteful look up at the boys. They’re riding quite merrily along. They’re also singing.
Something tells her it’s an original composition.
His axe is sharp, his horse is grand,
He’s a swell sight to be seen!
Just because his head comes off
With lots and lots of blood
(That’s green!)” (That bit is provided by Merlin.)
“It doesn’t mean you’ve slain him dead
Or that you ever cud—”
Morgana can’t take it. “Cud?”
“Could,” Arthur explains, turning back and looking at her grumpily. “But, you know, said funny. It’s a near-rhyme,” he adds, with great authority. “It’s completely legitimate.”
“Besides,” Merlin throws in, “Who appointed you the new royal bard, anyway?”
“It’s the spell,” Gwen intones with composure that Morgana is becoming more and more convinced is inimitable. “It’s the spell, it’s the spell—”
“Oh, I’d like to give them a spell right now,” Morgana glowers, fondly recalling the time she exploded that nice vase of flowers with the power of her eyes alone. She’s much less attached to Merlin and Arthur, at the moment, than she was to that vase of flowers, which was picked by Gwen and arranged with great aesthetic skill and attention to detail.
Gwen frowns, confused. “What?”
“Nothing,” Morgana says hastily. Blasted secret powers.
To give his neck a whack
(I did!)” (Arthur this time.)
“He did it brave and did it true
But the Knight beat that attack
For he is big and he is green
And he is glorious too
And if you chop his head right off
He’ll chop the head off you-oooh-oooooooo-ooooohhhhhhh—”
“Oh, God,” Morgana moans. “They’re harmonizing.”
“They’re trying,” Gwen corrects her.
Which is a much more accurate summation.
When an ogre comes out from behind a tree and attacks them, it is profoundly and inexpressibly welcome.
They slay the ogre, in the end, but not before it’s eaten roughly half of one of the horses.
“Well, that puts us at a disadvantage,” Arthur says, frowning thoughtfully. The four of them stand in the bloodied snow, surveying the three remaining steeds.
The fourth one’s just the back of a steed now – it’s a bit awkward, but Gwen, in a desperate attempt to maintain some optimism, figures that at least they don’t have its dead horse eyes staring at them this way.
So really, everything’s quite lovely.
“Guinevere,” Arthur says, “why don’t you ride with me?”
And the thing is, Gwen does like Arthur very much. In fact, most of the time it’s a bit of a torment, how much she likes him, when one considers that nothing can come of it so long as Uther lives, and that quite a lot of the time he’s still a gigantic prat. But she can’t help suspecting that her continued poise is the only thing that’s keeping Morgana from murdering someone who is not an ogre at the moment, and she’s not entirely sure how much longer said poise could be maintained if she was forced to bear very, very close witness to the thirty-seventh verse of Arthur And Merlin’s (Sappy, Sappy Love) Ballad to the Green Knight.
“Oh, I couldn’t, milord,” she says, which is Demure And Ladylikeian for ‘I don’t want to.’
Arthur’s frown this time definitely has a dash or two of pout in it. “Why not?”
“If you’re to protect us, I fear my presence would only encumber you,” she invents, wondering precisely when she got so good at this. “I couldn’t bear it if … if your skills in battle were compromised by my presence. Sire.”
That breathy pause really is starting to become quite handy.
Arthur gives a weary sigh. “All right then. Come on, Morgana.” He pats his legs briskly in what Gwen guesses is supposed to be some kind of ‘get ready to sit on me’ gesture.
“Me?” Morgana asks, making a face. “Why do I have to? I mean—” she amends after a glance at Gwen, “—that I’m a lady as well. Surely I need just as much protecting as Gwen.”
“You just impaled an ogre with a tree branch,” Arthur says shortly. “I don’t think you’re in much danger.”
“But it was a smallish ogre,” Morgana protests, gesturing in its corpse’s direction. “Really. Look at it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was still a baby. Which brings up another very troubling matter, in fact. I kill baby ogres. That suggests terrible underlying darkness, don’t you think? It’s probably dangerous to be that close to me—”
“I think it would be most practical if Merlin did it,” Morgana says bluntly.
Arthur and Merlin throw panicked looks at each other. It seems a bit rich that they’re suddenly deciding to turn macho about things now.
“Merlin?” Arthur spits. “For God’s sake, why?”
“Thanks for that,” Merlin mutters.
“Shut up, Merlin. This is for your own good.”
“He’s just as thin as I am,” Morgana says practically. “Probably skinnier. So really, it would be the wisest solution to—”
“Morgana. That is not. Going to happen. Ever.”
“Oh, as if it’d be so awful,” Morgana says, and can’t resist a slight eye-roll. “The two of you are already the best of pals, making up your little duets—”
“Hey! Those are manly, courageous fight songs! We’re going into battle!”
“His shield is so shiny and pretty, the plume on his helmet so fair, the fact that it’s not mine’s a pity, for how splendid it’d be to wear—”
Arthur scoffs. Rather too scoffily. “We didn’t say pretty! We said … ferocious.”
“I don’t know,” Morgana said. “The last time I checked, ferocious didn’t rhyme with pity—”
“ROYAL BARD,” Merlin coughs.
Morgana looks like she might punch him, which seems especially unfair given the recent mention of their slight size discrepancy.
“All right,” Gwen says briskly. “I think it’s time for us to continue on, don’t you? After all, the Knight’s probably waiting for you.”
“D’you think so?” Arthur asks, immediately turning anxious.
“Oh, yes,” Gwen says with a big, slow nod. “So we should probably just – sort out the little horse problem, and get a move on—”
The shriek comes out of nowhere, or maybe everywhere. It echoes through the (seemingly) empty woodlands, loud and dissonant, sort of growly and screechy all at once.
“That was weird,” Arthur says, his brow furrowing.
The horses fidget nervously. This seems like a wise course of action, at the moment, so the humans do too.
“Maybe it was some sort of … of squirrel, or something—” Morgana is just beginning to theorize, when—
And with that second, louder, growlier, screechier cry, something falls out of one of the trees with a thud.
It’s a man.
A very withered, very old-looking man. He gets up only to prove that he’s quite hunched over, and short enough that he barely reaches Gwen’s shoulder. He’s so skinny that he makes Merlin look downright portly. He’s dressed in nothing besides an odd assortment of old animal skins, stitched crudely together. Gwen feels a flicker of pity.
This flicker is quickly extinguished when the man sets his eyes on Arthur, takes a deep breath, lets out the most bone-chilling “GYEEEAHHHHHHH!” yet, and runs head-on into him.
“I think,” Merlin says, “we’re being attacked again.”
“Nerughfhfhffff!” says Arthur from the ground.
In the end, they don’t have to kill the screechy wild man, which is a plus. He gnaws on Arthur’s ankle for a little while and tries to eat Morgana’s hair, but eventually, they’re able to reason with him enough that he settles for the horses and Morgana’s very pretty purple cloak in exchange for their lives.
“What in the world is he going to do with three horses?” Arthur demands as they watch him and the horses disappear into the distance.
“Looks more like three and a half,” Merlin points out.
Turns out, upon further inspection, the wild man is in fact dragging along the ogre-eaten half-horse by one of its hooves with a level of ease that should probably be worrying.
So indeed it does.
“Huh,” says Arthur.
“What are we going to do now?” Morgana snaps. She’s begun to shiver; Gwen wraps her arms around her. It seems a bit futile, but it’s worth a shot, and she’s quite sure that Morgana wouldn’t react too kindly to one of the boys cozying up to her right now. “We have no idea where our destination is, we’re in the middle of nowhere getting attacked over and over, and now I’m set to freeze to death.”
“We should have killed him instead of giving up the horses,” Arthur says. “A journey like this is impossible on foot.”
Arthur casts a significant glance Gwen’s way.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Gwen says, allowing herself to get the slightest bit prickly. “I was under the impression you wanted him to stop eating your leg.”
“I had it under control,” Arthur says.
“Maybe,” Arthur speculates pensively, “one of us could ride Merlin.”
“What?” Merlin sputters.
“You are my servant,” Arthur says, in his most spoiled princely of tones. “As such, I’d say it’s my right to ride you when the occasion calls for it.”
Morgana lets out an insuppressible bark of a laugh, which of course sets Gwen giggling.
“What?” Arthur and Merlin demand in unison.
“You two really don’t listen to yourselves talk sometimes, do you?” Morgana says.
Merlin and Arthur frown, puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“Never mind,” Morgana sighs.
Things are beginning to look a bit dire by the time nightfall hits. Wandering about in the dark and the snow without any definitive direction is getting very, very old. Not to mention scary.
Not that Morgana plans to admit that last part to anyone.
Her thoughts are starting to head in a decidedly morbid direction (at least at the end of it, the people I care about are at my side. And Arthur, but I suppose that can’t really be helped. It’s a bit of a shame that I never got to say goodbye to Uther. Then again, he did imprison me that one time. And strangle me a bit that other time. And kill Gwen’s father. I’m certainly never forgiving him for that. But he also got me that lovely cloak for my birthday. But then that awful little man did steal it, so I suppose that doesn’t really matter in the long run—) when quite suddenly, there are lights in the distance.
“Are those … are those windows?”
Arthur and Merlin cease their singing, which has taken a quieter (thank God) and more melancholy tone over the last few hours. (“I solemnly swore / He could cut off my head / but now Dread Fiend Winter / shall first slay me dead / Oh, to think that he might choose / Some new prince instead…”)
“I think they are,” Gwen says breathlessly. “Oh, thank God. Surely they’ll give us shelter for the night.”
“It seems oddly convenient, doesn’t it?” Morgana can’t help saying, much as she wishes she could drive the thought away.
“No doubt,” Gwen agrees, her eyes warm with concern as she looks at Morgana. It’s the only kind of warmth Morgana has at the moment, and she cherishes it. “But milady, we must get you inside. If there are obstacles beyond that, we’ll face them when we need to.”
Morgana squeezes Gwen’s hand.
“A warm fire,” she can’t help but rhapsodize. “A good meal … in fact, I’ll take a bad meal quite happily at this point.”
As they grow nearer to the miraculously convenient castle, the boys’ singing veers back into cheery territory. (“Oh, Green Knight, you know that my promise is kept! / This decapitation will oh so sweet be / If I would have missed it then I would have wept / My head on my shoulders has no worth to meee / You’ll chop it off swift, and you’ll chop it off true / And finally Merlin’ll have something to do / He’ll straighten my hair / (I’ll straighten his hair!) / And make sure I’m not making an embarrassing face—”) Fortunately, Morgana’s so enamored by the prospect of shelter that she can’t even bring herself to much care.
When they reach the doors, there is no need to reach for the knocker. They swing open at once, and standing before them is a very tall, very cloaked figure.
“Ahoy, me lads and lassies!” it booms. “And what’re ye doin’ out on this cold winter’s eve? Come in, come in! Sit by me warm fire and defrost yer bones!”
Beyond the rather bewildering (and inconsistent) accent, the voice is strangely familiar.
Not to mention the unusual levels of tallness.
Still, at this point, an invitation to come inside certainly isn’t to be refused. And so the four of them file their way in. The doors slam shut behind them with an ominous boom that Morgana vows to ignore until she’s warmed up and had something to eat.
“I am Arthur, Prince of Camelot,” Arthur is saying meanwhile to their host. “Pray lower your hood, good benefactor, so I might look into the eyes of the man I thank.”
(It really is a convincingly royal display, considering he was thinking up rhymes for ‘lovely and green and glinty’ a half hour ago. Arthur Pendragon, Morgana reflects, is a bit of a wonder after all.)
“Oh,” says their good benefactor, “no thanks.”
Even in his current dunderheaded state, that clearly reeks of suspicion to Arthur. “Why not?”
“Alas, I suffer a very unflattering skin condition. You would not wish to behold something so hideous.” Morgana’s just begun reflecting on the fact that the accent has mysteriously vanished when their host rather awkwardly throws in, “Ay, egads, ye … timorous … beastie …”
“Sure I would,” Arthur says, taking a step forward. “Let’s see, then.”
“We have mead!” exclaims the big tall cloaked fickle accented man.
Hah. As if that feeble distraction could work on anyone.
“Ooh, mead,” Arthur says, going a bit googly-eyed.
Oh, for God’s sake, Arthur. Still, the transition’s so abrupt that Morgana’s mind can’t help shifting to the notion of magic.
“And grog!” the big tall cloaked fickle accented man adds.
“Grog!” Merlin says. “Excellent!”
“And wenches!” their host exclaims, getting into the enthusiastic spirit.
“Wenches!” Arthur and Merlin cry in jovial unison. Then they look back at Morgana and Gwen. Quite guiltily.
“Er,” Arthur says, clearing his throat. “Of course, we have no interest in wenches.”
“No,” Merlin agrees quickly. “None.”
Somehow, even though his face is hidden in folds of black cloth, Morgana knows that their host is arching a knowing eyebrow. “Oh, is that the way of it with ye, laddies?”
“Not like that,” Merlin chokes out.
“Yeah,” Arthur says quickly. “I’m not riding him anywhere.”
A very awkward silence arises.
“You said,” Arthur says at last, his voice rather higher than usual, “you have grog?”
“Aye! I have grog! Follow me, good sirs and ladies!”
And so they do.
Morgana makes sure to linger a few steps behind with Gwen so they can do a bit of private, sensible-people talking.
“That’s the Green Knight under there,” she surmises in a murmur.
“Oh, absolutely,” Gwen agrees.
“And this is obviously the next part of whatever ridiculous test Arthur’s being put through.”
Gwen glances up at the backs of the boys and the (rather-lousy-at-deception-for-such-a-fo
They pause thoughtfully. Up ahead, Arthur and Merlin are regaling the Secret Green Knight rather proudly with the tale of their journey.
“Of course, we could have kept going,” Arthur is saying. “Harsh climes, difficult terrain – none of that’s anything to us. But on account of the ladies there, we had to take it slow. Keep our natural abilities in check.”
“They’re quite dainty,” Merlin adds.
“Exactly,” Arthur says. “Dainty.”
“Let’s hold off a bit,” Morgana decides.
On to Part 3!