For this post we have gone back to Arthurian Legend. Here we have a different perspective on the court of King Arthur in its final days. That of his disgraced queen, Guinnevere.
In a hard chair on the balcony above the Table Round sat a stately woman in dark green brocade. No smile graced her face as silver began to weave its way through her reddish gold hair. No one sat on either side of her. On this day she sat alone with her noble head bowed, blue eyes closed in contemplation of her sad state.
It was only now becoming clear to her the price she had paid for her folly. No longer was she respected. She was a queen in name only.
After her treachery Guinevere had concluded that a return to the court was the best she could hope for. Her new position allowed Guinnevere to relish the unease on her detractor’s faces. She enjoyed watching their bafflement. For some reason that Guinnevere couldn’t understand, they were having trouble accepting the fact that Arthur would keep her as his wife. After all, they caught her breaking her vows.
That bothered her enemies the most, that they caught her. Guinnevere knew that there were several other nobles doing the same thing that she had done. The difference between them and her was the fact that they caught her. Her enemies knew what they would have done had they caught their spouses with another and they couldn’t figure out why the king wouldn’t do the same.
If Guinnevere ever reached her dotage, she would treasure the memories.
Ever since Arthur allowed her to return to Court, Guinnevere watched its key players closer than ever. Guinnevere brushed off the lessons of her youth and followed the instructions of her dame. She never thought that she would need the lessons that she learned as a child in Caledon.
Guinnevere was present at the last three sessions, and judging from what her ladies-in-waiting told her there was more happening than her husband knew. After the meeting scheduled for that day, she planned to tell him all. There was no way that she would allow the kingdom to fall any farther than it already had. Arthur wouldn’t allow it when he discovered her infidelity and she wouldn’t allow it to fall when Mordred was trying to commit treason. Trying was the key word because she highly doubted the boy could accomplish anything if he tried. She saw him try his hand at many things, all of which generally failed – unless his dame was at his side.
That day the knights were more restless than usual; especially Seraphim. On the few occasions that she had seen the Lady Champion, she was like a simmering stew pot ready to boil over. She had been like that for almost a month, and to anyone who knew her that was never a good sign. Most people found that it pointed towards a foolish idea of Arthur’s; more often than not, they were right and his ideas were foolish, if not plain stupid.
It felt good to be able to call Arthur husband and mean it. It had been far too long since she was able to do either. It simply meant that some things reverted to the way that they were supposed to be with time.
Guinnevere knew her husband was contemplating war against his nephew. The treacherous boy was attempting to destroy the Table, bent on Camelot’s destruction.
Guinnevere knew that his actions were partly her fault. There was no way she was fully to blame for it, but she readily admitted that the signs of war that were beginning to show were partly her fault.
However, Guinnevere knew that Morgause was more to blame than anyone else was. Guinnevere knew that if Seraphim had any ideas on how to accomplish such a feat, than the deed would already be done. Knowing Seraphim, she did but they were not practicable due to the amount of blood that they would shed; and everybody knew that you weren’t supposed to shed royal blood. Such an action would inevitably force Arthur into war and that was something that he did not want if he could help it.
Guinnevere, like everyone else, was unsure when the attack was scheduled. True, her sources weren’t as good as they once were, but they were better than most other people’s sources. After all, she was still a queen, and frankly, they were not.
The opening of the thick wooden doors to the great hall pulled Guinnevere from her wandering thoughts. Arthur walked in followed closely by Seraphim. The expression on the Champions face – or rather the absence of one – told the queen many things. None of which she liked.
Seraphim escorted Arthur to his seat and then took her own. The stiffness of her posture indicated that the meeting would be an explosive one, and at worst, it could spell destruction to all they knew. There were many spectators for that day’s gathering of the knights. All present seemed to know that it would be a very important meeting.
When Arthur took his seat, the noise in the hall ceased and silence reined for a brief span of moments. Guinnevere had the impression that would be the last time anyone in attendance would hear silence of that profound a nature.
“My knights, for more than a generation we have lived in peace. That changes this spring. For when the snows melt and the land dries, we march against Mordred and those who follow his banner.
“You know as well as I, more than a few of those with him used to sit at this Table. I regret that I must order you to fight against those that you have called friends and brothers. If we are to survive, I have no choice. Just as I have no choice in giving another unbearable order, one by all rights that I shouldn’t have to give.” There he paused and then turned to look squarely at his Champion.
“My Champion, I forbid you to fight in what is most likely to be our final battle.” Stunned silence followed his statement.
At the beginning of his speech, Arthur’s tone was grave; by the end of it, his voice was as hard as Excalibur’s steel. His tone told everyone present he and his Champion already had that argument and they were about to have it again – in public. Those knights closest to the two surreptitiously moved away from them. They knew what happened when those two argued and they wanted no part of it. Actually, they wanted to be nowhere near the danger zone but at present, they couldn’t leave so they opted to move further from the immediate vicinity. Even a small distance from the two contenders would offer a minor degree of protection.
“Milord, you cannot give me that order. To stand by your side in battle is my God given right as your Champion!” Righteous indignation filled Seraphim’s tone. Every member at the Table agreed with her – yet none would speak against Arthur. They were Knights of the Round Table, but they were not that brave.
None of them held any illusions of the upcoming battle. They all knew the caliber of the knights they would be fighting and they knew the likelihood of their survival was slim. They also knew that without her on the field they would have one less ally on their side. At least their memories would live on, hopefully not too tainted by her version of storytelling. Assuming that she decided to mention any of their names at all, that was.
All could hear the determination in her voice and all knew that this was one battle Seraphim was destined to lose. They only hoped she could accept what was likely to be the loss of Camelot. Because she was the one who had believed in it before it existed. She was the one chosen to see the dream die. It was a fate none of them envied.
“Nonetheless I am giving you that order. And as a loyal subject you will follow it.” All could tell he truly did not wish to give her that order but they knew as well as he did someone had to survive, and that unlucky lot fell upon Seraphim. For many generations the women folk had persevered in the face of adversity and they all knew if Camelot were to be remembered, she would have to carry the torch.
“I will not. My place is by your side when danger threatens. And there is no place more dangerous than a battlefield!”
“You will stay off the field and you will tell the world the wonders of Camelot or you will face my displeasure!” With Arthur’s last statement Seraphim’s jaw snapped shut. There was no one at the Table who would risk his displeasure. Not even Seraphim.
Without another word, she rose from her seat and stormed from the great hall. That was the last time anyone saw her in Court…