1964-03-22 - The Lady of the White Hands
Summary: The Green Knight and Taliesin confront the Lady Isolde, and learn how deep this plot for resistance goes.
Related: Arthurian Cycle I: Don't Turn Your Back
Theme Song: None
mordo strange wanda 

The discussion of tyranny and the queen's court's role in that will not be performed when one of their own — or several, in fact — must be buried, others tended for injury, and the smoldering brush stamped out. The shouts to organise have something to do with the character of the camp, suggesting it's not merely a motley crew of bandits preying on the odd sheep. In fact, the absence of livestock is fairly noteworthy if these were mere cattle raiders. By settling the knights some, Lady Isolde retreats to her modest tent shared by another lady or two, and insists upon meeting with each of the party individually. Refusal is an option, of course, but the young healer displays her open hands and The Green Knight, at least, knows Oshtur's emblems from study at Kamar-Taj when he sees them, no doubt. Another guard placed outside the tent clearly comes from the English rebel stock.


The fellow in the emerald armour and cloak of leaves actually puts off his meeting with the Lady Isolde for a while, opting to spend some time in the woods — claiming to be patrolling the perimeter, etc. Now, having left his elk-mount to feed happily, he approaches the lady's tent and steps inside.

He is still in full armour and helm.

"Thou hast called, my lady," says he with a curt bow, and lifts his bearded chin inquisitively. "How may I be of assistance?"


The elk certainly will have nothing to do with harming the healer, at the very least, and it chews on the very few opportunities to munch on fresh vegetation. They are too soon into spring for that to be a possibility.

The tent is small and terribly cluttered by the various detritus of living, though many of these comforts are clearly intended for the benefit of patients, not the occupants. Herbs hang from the tent poles and the scent of rosemary lies strong on the air, along with precious camphor and fat. A folding table, humble in design, carries a pestle and mortar to accompany a jar of rendered, purified fat to which any salve is likely to be prepared. Crystal cut canning jars stand on a shelf, out of place, a vague whisper of the real world. Isolde sits on a campstool, canvas slung over a simple wooden frame.

"Sir Knight," she says, rising, her robes rippling and her kirtle falling to the ground in a modest show. "I bid you welcome to mine humble confines, such as they may be. I am not given overly to public shows. Such would be vulgar discussions, when so very many are at pains to reclaim health and spirit. I surmise that you wouldst have questions for me, and I may to you. My good father, well intentioned though he may be, knows naught of the plight of the people outside Caerleon, or even greatly those afflicted by the sorrows of their hardships. I lament he sent you forth on a noble endeavour, mistaken for my absence."


"Sent was I to ensure a good lady is safe," replies the knight.

A pause.

"A lady is safe."

Another pause.

"Thou hast defied thy father then, to tend to the needy? Commendable. But what next, my lady? Thy safety is but a feather caught in a hurricane — here for one moment and gone the next. What becomes of thee when we go our separate ways?" He does not move, but his eyes track Isolde, studying her.

"…if the Ancient One could see me now…" he murmurs to himself, not quite aware of what he is saying.


"I am well." Isolde folds her white hands in front of her, and sits down once more. "I came upon my own, but my father will not endeavour to reason. It is an affliction not of his making. You have, I believe, understood we live in a place both glorious and flawed? Hast thou perceived that which should not be, as a waking dream?"

She pauses for an answer, and then murmurs, "The Romans called it a fata morgana. So do those learned men of distant Italia. I beseech you, look about you and take counsel with these men called ruffians, whom your thorns rose against. They too have discerned something is not well with our land, when its people suffer so. The peasantry labours under attack from all manner of fell and queer beasts. Dangers prowl the woods and the very roads the legions proclaim are safe, and I do not think our good queen's court even knows. I have seen, good sir."

Indeed she has, turning those grave, wise eyes upon him. "I will not return. Nay, any attempt to transport me so will see me only striving to return anon, where I may do the best good for all. Avalon has blessed this, my Lord. You, too, may do good in Avalon's name, carrying its favour and sanction. The Lady permits me say as much, in an offer."


The knight frowns, then slowly raises his hands to his head and removes his helmet. The face beneath is almost hidden by a veritable mane of verdant hair — just like his beard — but his skin is also a pale shade of green.

His eyes, however, are a deep, earthen brown.

"Men do not bleed in dreams, nor feel pain;" says he simply. "If this is a dream… then it is of unnatural origin. Or thou art simply mistaken. The world is flawed regardless; some deem it better to work with those flaws than against them. I…"

The man hesitates and frowns deeper. "I only know the Land needed a champion, and I answered. If aiding thee aids the Land…" and he leaves the sentence hanging.

"Who will bring word to thy father then?"


"'This be no dream, unless a dream gone awry. For the princes and great lords assemble to bring justice and goodness to all lands." Isolde's knowledge is sound enough; the very nature of Caerleon supports that, a tradition of fair and equitable laws the rival of all kingdoms in the known world.

"The land requires a champion, sir knight, and mine are but hands for a greater cause. 'Tis not aiding me, but the land itself, and they who guard it. Fear not, I shall dispense of a hawk to beseech my father's patience and goodness. I am only lady of Llydaw; I am not its queen and heir." Rightly not. Ladies don't inherit, lest they are the queen, or regnant without a partner.

The air shimmers vaguely, a brushing of shadows upon the dim interior, banishing them back somewhat to make space. "Sir Bredbeddle, as you be known in lands far from mine, and beyond the circumscribed city of legions, know you the presence of the Lady of Avalon. 'Tis but a projection, but know thee she is a benevolent speaker."

The young woman's take on a sheen of fairest robin's egg blue, and she holds out her hands, allowing for a widening oval of light radiating from behind her to take form.


"Sir Bedbreddle…" the knight repeats as if tasting the name for the first time. "'Tis but one of many names. Surprise catches me as a deer in the long-grass that you should know it… Few do. I prefer Bercilak de Hautdesert… still."

He shrugs and tucks his helmet under his arm.

"Thou spake of the Lady of Avalon… are we to meet her?" His eyes track towards the shimmering in the air, and he arches a green eyebrow. "Or… she is here? This magic is strange to me."


Confidence gets one many places. Worn like the scarlet-cloth cowl about his neck, Taliesin takes full advantage of it now, especially in light of the fact that a certain otherworldly presence has made itself known abruptly.

One at a time, the fair Lady Isolde said. Nope, not now, not after the brush of sweet Mystical energy against the side of his cheek, a familiar gesture. Rising to his feet and fully abandoning the rest of the band, he strides across the open space to the tent in question. The guard at the tent flaps doesn't stand a chance.

"Sir, you were not — "

"Do not question me." It's the low rumble of a man incapable of tolerating any further waste of his time and perhaps sprinkled with a hint of eldritch energy. Or maybe it was the side-glance given to the guard with inhumanly-bright eyes of frosted-violet. Regardless, the Pencerdd enters the tent without further delay and immediately affirms the familiar bluebird-blue light.

"My Lady." The deep inclination of his head and courtly bow is for the radiant figure beyond Isolde primarily. "Lady Isolde," he adds, gaze resting upon her in noble formality. "Speak plainly, please, as I asked before."


The lady of Avalon, or at least one among their senior number, does not cut an impressive presence at a mighty height of five feet nothing. Ribbon banded braids fall clear to her knees, the dark chestnut streaked by silver threads. Her pale, undyed wool robes drape off her shoulders, girdled lightly around the waist by a bit of pretty embroidery displaying abundant apple leaves and the odd fruit. Crows feet mark the corners of her eyes and mouth, putting her on the upper end of childbearing years, and she radiates a certain matronly quality. Matron with a spear, at that, given how sharp and keen those dark eyes of indistinct colour are. The projection stabilises well enough to see the moon tattooed on her forehead, its echoes in the corners of her eyes.

"Sir Bercilak," she acknowledges him thus, while Isolde holds to a frozen trance, her hands spread before her. "Fear not for Lady Isolde. Hers is a generous spirit and her heart true, else I would be unable to speak." The magic may be strange indeed, scented by apples and fresh leaves, buoyed up by the underlying whispers of water. "Ye be known to us, sir knight, and what oath binds thee to the cause of the earth doth please us of the Isle."

But then the bard blunders in through the tent flap and protest all he likes, the guard following makes an entirely horrified sound upon finding two women, not one. Immediately he bows, hand over his hand. "Lady! Ladies… I… praythee spare the intrusion, he would not listen."

Plaintive protest, then, as the petite woman lifts her milky eyes, the snowy sheen of her braided hair stirring around her wrinkled face. Still, her voice is clear. "Lady Isolde mayst not speak for herself, when she permits me speak through her. Such arts be well beyond her, as do you know, Gwion ap Elffin, child of Ceredigion. Though mine words should be as hers, as we bid you to aid of the people of Caerleon and all under its banner. For theirs is a lot deprived and pained, fallen to creeping shadow. Have you seen naught the wyrms or the deep fae come to curse them? The balance is lost. It is my wish that we may restore this balance, but only those brave and true may withstand the tests."

The poor guard makes a sign with his hands. "Lady Viviane…" Her smile silences him, that of the crone, for she shifts through aspects of the three phases of womanhood as easily as the men draw breath.


The Green Knight bows.

"'Tis my honour;" says he as he rises again. "The preservation of balance is — ." The man cuts off mid-sentence, interrupted firstly by the arrival of the Bardd, and then the sound of… a horse 'clip-clopping' along cobblestones outside the tent.

Except that there are no cobblestones there. A glance outside reveals a pair of squires playing — one with a wooden sword, and the other with a pair of wooden bowls, clacking them together.

"You need a sword, Chretien!" one lad exclaims.

"I've already got one!" remarks the other.

The Green Knight rolls his eyes and glares again at Taliesin, as if he were the sole cause of any disruption. "'Twas strange magicks thou didst cast before, Minstrel," he tells the man. "And thou treatest thine instrument as 'twere a living thing. Prithee, is it a love of music thou dost express? Or merely a love of hard wood?"

Then he turns back to the fata morgana and says, "Thou wert saying…"


The Pencerdd acknowledges the Green Knight first with a thin, coy smile.

"A curious one, you are, Sir Knight. I understand that jealousy of great skill is a difficult emotion to deal with, but you wear its colors so finely, I find myself hard-pressed to believe that you don't know each other well. I do hope it's satisfied with your presence…verdant as you are."

The phantom of amusement fractures the stern air around him briefly, a riffle of spring air, before his attention returns to the Lady of Avalon, three-fold gracious woman of diminuitive status and one to never be underestimated for it.

"There have been stirrings, my Lady, and I have been pinning loose ends in my travels. This is the first I have come across active resentment beyond the various riots. It seems that the lack of wheat for bread should be attributed to more than simple rot…" He gets to pacing along one wall of the tent, limned in silver-blue that catches in his silvered temples. A pensive air belies the fact that he's listening — carefully. Never mind if he keeps his peace past this point. The Master-Bardd hears all.


Viviane gazes between the bard and the knight, rheumy eyes doing nothing to impede her ability to see where they are. "Sirs, this be a sanctuary of healing and repose. I wouldst bid you curb thine tongues, for thou art in the presence of a maiden noble born." It probably isn't herself, but the wide-eyed young woman in a trance of which she speaks. "The land suffers under a most troublesome burden, and yet now you observe the divisions and rancour it doth cause. Ours be a kingdom divided whence strength and unity bound us."

She looks then to Taliesin. "Whence hath you ridden forth from the walls of Caerleon to see the lot of the travelers? Hath thou taken leave of the road and its protection to see how the farmsteads and shepherds endure the lasting frosts, the darkness creeping in? Caerleon is a beacon of strength, aye, but the strength in her is an island in a rising tide. Do you see now lords roaming forth from their kingdoms, processions taken across the land? Do the markets thrive, or have all come to shelter in its great walls and fastnesses, refusing to leave?"

The girlish, high voice follows as her hair darkens to a rich shade of mahogany, and her figure softens from the crone's drooping lines. "I didst say, sir knight, the balance tilts. Those most sensitive feel the permutations, yet they become measurable to all, even now. Does it continue, even our allied efforts mayst prove insufficient to right it. Thus, the need to reclaim a relic of great sanctity and purity from its crystal prison, where did the wise ensconce it for such times of need."


The Green Knight goes quiet for a while. Being admonished ruffles his feathers somewhat — well, his leaves, rather. His cloak is made out of them after all — and he glares sidelong at the Bard. However, foregoing the chance to banter with him some more, Bercilak turns back to the Fata Morgana and grunts.

"You wish us to quest for a relic? So be it. Give thou me a destination and I shall ride…" and then he glances again at Taliesin.

"I have no need of the safety of roads."


In her maiden form, Viviane is young and fresh as the first hyacinths blooming in the spring. She holds her hands together, content to wait. Waiting is easy; one must be patient, to be a lady of the blessed isle. She ages in front of him, and the leaves echo her call a little, crisping around the edges as summer comes.

"I do, sir. You have sworn yourself to the land, and we guard the land. I shall be pleased to offer you direction and succor, such as I can. Wouldst thou permit me to instill direction in thine mind?" She asks quite politely, all things considered, back to her forty-something self.

"The nature of the protections upon the cavern doth require a key to enter. I will dispense unto thine party the knowledge needed that you might obtain the source of thy quest, though the path shall be difficult. Those forces of darkness will rally when they discover thine purpose. Such may it be wise to go in care, a small party. Your path shall take thee into the wilds, deep past reach of civilised places. I would warn thee, and thine, to equip thyselves accordingly. Lady Isolde and our companions faithful may offer you some small assistance 'ere they move on again. But I can offer you this, specifically. Meditate upon thy purpose in the grove, and cast forth your impurities. Such will give you strength of mind and clarity, for I know what doth bedevil you."

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