|The Curse of Shalott
Author: Irishlass18 PM
She weaves by night and day but they say not how she came to be,the Lady of Shalott.As she weaves the tales of knights bold and maidens fair,she longs for a tale and knight of her own.Then unexpectedly,one by one,they come to her isle and her heart is torn.She entreats them to alter their fates but will they listen?Will she continue to weave alone,with love out of reach?Multiple/OCRated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Chapters: 5 - Words: 12,286 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 04-18-13 - Published: 02-08-13 - id: 8989673
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The ground beneath her suddenly dropped but she was ready. With agile movements, she compensated the abrupt change in terrain and slid down the steep leaf-strewn hill, her bow still steady in her hands. The stag continued to thunder through the brush across the stream, desperate in its attempts to flee her. She paused long enough at the bottom of the incline to note the direction of the stag and took off on a parallel course. This hunt, one that she took only once a season, was part of what kept her sane. The thrill of the chase reminded her of what life had been before the loom.
She had not bothered to count the days since she'd first come to be the Lady of Shallot but she knew how many webs she'd weaved. Twenty tapestries, each hanging from the great hall of her castle, had been completed since her arrival. Ornate depictions and full of interweaving stories, each had taken great time and many candles through the night. They were full of destruction and despair mostly, very little happiness or peace was to be found in the stories that passed by her isle.
Though time had obviously passed she noted that her appearance and health had remained the same. Not only was her loom enchanted, then, but she herself had become an enchanted being. The Merlin, as the old man called himself, had only visited a handful of times since her first arrival, once bringing with him a woman of regal countenance who called herself the Lady of the Lake. The Lady of the Lake did not seem to approve of her presence on Shalott but had apparently conceded to the plans of Merlin.
There was war upon the land from vicious outsiders but more than that there was upheaval among the ranks of those within the borders of the kingdom as well. Even as she weaved the tales that came to her in the night as dreams and visions, she longed to escape her isle and set things right. She alone could see the fatal mistake each made and more than once death could have been avoided had she been able to aid those in her weaves.
She rushed around an oak in front of her and leapt across a bend in the stream. She knew the stag would soon find itself cornered, the cliffs of the island at its front and right and her on its left. She had mere moments to close in on its position before the stag had opportunity to flee in the direction it had come. Her heart pounding in her chest and her lungs burning, she threw herself through the shrubbery until she was standing a few yards away from the cornered stag.
She quickly took aim, not naïve to think that the stag would not attempt to rush her—she'd learned that lesson two seasons before. Her aim was true and the stag fell to its knees then slumped over on its side, her arrow protruding from its eye socket. Quickly shouldering her bow she approached the animal and set about gutting it, knowing she only had moments to do so before the meat began to pickle itself in filth.
With no hesitation she removed the innards, setting aside the heart especially, and proceeded to slice through the major arteries of the animals before she started with the skinning and quartering. This was a process she'd had to learn through trial and error and while it was messy and smelly she found solace in following the steps. Perhaps she'd grown hard-hearted living here for so long alone, as she found a thrill and perverse pleasure in ending the life of an innocent animal.
Satisfied with her work thus far she laid aside her bow and knife and unsheathed her sword. The head would be mounted on her wall with the others. As she kept all her weapons in pristine condition—she'd found an armory in the castle and was thankful for the limited though varied supply that'd been there—it was quick business to separate head from body.
Uncoiling the rope that had been tied around her torso, she tied it around the antlers of the stag and quickly threw the other end over the branches above her. She'd retrieve it later. It was more vital that she take the meat back to the castle and place it in the smoker or salt for preservation first. With only a little awkwardness, did she wrap the desirable meat and lash the bags to her back. She gathered the innards and heart into a separate sack and headed back towards the castle.
She'd long since learned all the nooks and crannies of the island. She knew where every deer herd preferred to feed, where the streams emptied out into the river, where the birds nested, and where the scattered rocks gave way to cliffs and then the river. She'd made this isolated island her home in every way she knew how. She had a garden of herbs and vegetables; she'd cultivated an orchard of apples; she had set up routines and traditions to stick to in order to create some semblance of normalcy.
It was one such tradition that she was fulfilling by diverting to the stone circle at the greatest height of the island. After every kill she took the innards and heart to the circle and left it there for whatever animal wanted it. This was the place where her blood stopped and her enchanted life began; it was only fitting that this would be the place where she'd leave the evidence of another life stopped there as well.
She dumped out the contents in an unceremonious fashion and did not pause for any special rites. The deed was done, no use in making a big flourish of it. She carried on down towards the castle content with her kill. It was when she was almost upon the drawbridge that she noticed him. Far below, in the breakers that crashed around the moat that separated her castle from the main part of the island, was a man. She leaned over the rock wall and peered more intently, trying to discern if he was alive or dead. When she saw his arm jut upwards to brace against a rock she jerked back as if stung.
She hurried into the castle and set aside the meat and her bow and quiver before rushing down the steps that lead to the dungeon and through that the door that led to the rocks by the bottom of the moat. Her sword was still strapped to her side, her knife also there; she did not know who this man was and as he was the first man she'd met aside from Merlin she did not know what to expect.
The door protested against her movements but she wrestled it open and stepped out onto the slippery landing. The man continued to fight against the surf only a few feet from her, unaware of her presence yet. Bracing herself against the unknown, she cautiously made her way across the rocks until she was within arm's length of the man. Facing away from her, he still did not know her to be there and she could not alert him to it without touching him. He looked as if he'd been struggling against the tide for some time.
She'd come to understand the ways of the river and her location near where it emptied out into the sea. She was surprised that he hadn't been sucked back into the river and then out to sea. If she did not extend help of some kind it looked as if fatigue would win out and he'd be lost. When she noticed another relatively large wave moving towards him she made her decision. With no warning to him she surged forward and laid hold of his arm. His head turned and his eyes found hers. Fear and intrigue battled in his hazel gaze. She ignored his feeble attempt to jerk out of her grasp and hauled him towards her just as the wave crested over the rock where he'd once been.
As his body fell atop hers she felt the wave reach them. She quickly lodged her feet into the rocks beneath her and wrapped her arms around his body. The water was icy and stole her breath but she kept her hold. His head was cradled between her head and shoulders, his arms pinned to his sides within her embrace. He seemed to comprehend what she was doing and so did not fight her anymore, if he'd even had the strength to do so.
When the wave receded, she opened her eyes and found the man staring at her. His eyes were glazed from fatigue and most likely a growing fever. She wasted no time in staring into the windows to his soul and instead pushed him off just enough to stand. He attempted to stand as well but could only manage to fall back upon the rocks, groaning from the pain his movements caused.
She rolled her eyes at him briefly before she bent and pulled one of his arms around her shoulders. He seemed unsure of her efforts but again didn't fight her when she hauled him to his feet and together they hobbled away from the slippery danger and up to the landing. She let him rest against the wall while she opened the door again. It was slow going up the many stairs. He was panting and shivering from a cold sweat by the time they made it to the kitchen.
She let him drop into the chair she kept by the ever present fire and moved off to find something for him to drink. His head lolled to the side and his eyes started to close as he huddled in on himself, obviously chilled to the bone. She could not help but note that her mundane life of weaving tales just got a lot more interesting with his presence. She was shaking her head to herself when she returned and pressed a goblet of cider into his hands.
After he drank the glass and handed it back he seemed to be revived enough to speak. She grimaced when he first asked, "Who are you?" He studied her carefully, obviously taking note of her breeches, plaited hair and weapons, his gaze sharp though still weak. "Where am I?"
She sighed, the only audible noise she was able to make was breathing after all. She pointed to her throat and shook her head, hoping that he'd understand. It took a moment but when realization dawned on his face she gave a slight smile. Though weak he apparently was not an idiot.
"You cannot speak?" She shook her head and he frowned. "Who else is here?" She held up her fingers in a circle and his eyes widened. "You're alone?" She nodded; again glad that he could understand thus far without her having to dance a jig of gestures for comprehension. "How do you manage?" She dropped her head and pressed her fingers into her temples, already getting a headache at the thought of how to describe that process to him. "Never mind, I'm sorry that would be difficult to answer." She gave him a slight smile before moving to the side to retrieve a few more logs for the fire. "You cannot speak and you are here alone, but that still does not answer my question of where am I?" He stayed seated as he watched her stoke the fire before leaning against the stone mantel to face him again. "Do you have parchment? Can you write?"
She tipped her head to the side and frowned. She'd never tried writing before. In fact, she didn't even know if parchment and ink were on the island. When the man suddenly sneezed violently she put aside the thought of parchment and moved forward. She gestured for him to stand again. He did so after struggling against the blanket and she quickly moved his arm to rest over her shoulder. She gave him a slight smile before she began to basically carry him from the room.
He was not light and she too was heaving and sweating by the time she got him to the available sleeping chamber. There was trouble in setting him down on the bed and she ended up falling on him in the process. He only grunted in response before she hauled herself upright again. She held up her hand and indicated that he wait while she hurried from the room.
Back in the kitchen to piled some of the wood in her arms and carried it back to his chamber. When she returned to found him in the same position that she'd left him, hunched over on his side, half on the bed and half off. She left and returned again, this time with some coals to help start the new fire. It took longer than expected but once ignited the fire began to slow process of heating the room to a more comfortable level. She noted, as she stood to face him again, that outside a storm had begun to pound away at the castle walls.
She approached the bed and nudged his foot. He raised bleary eyes and watched as she mimicked the action of undressing.
"You want me to disrobe? Why?" She placed her hands on her hips and glared at him as if he were stupid. "What will I wear in the mean time?" She shrugged before pointing to the bare skin on her wrist. Before he could protest she mimicked shivering and faked a sneeze and cough. "Yes, yes I understand. If you please?" He indicated the door with his gaze and she sighed before leaving.
She stood outside for only a few moments before she heard a curse then a thud. Rushing back in she found him shirtless with his breeches around his ankles, having fallen over after getting thrown off balance. A feeling almost foreign to her as it had been so long bubbled up from her belly and she found, to her great pleasure and his embarrassment, herself clutching her stomach and laughing. It was more of a breathy laugh than usual but still it was a laugh and it felt good.
"Please." He rolled over, doing his best to remain decent by holding his discarded shirt over his lap. "This is difficult enough as it is."
Wiping the tears away from her eyes she approached him. He tried to scoot away but she held up her hand for him to sit still. Doing her best to avert her gaze, more for his comfort than her own, she pulled his breeches off his ankles and held out her hand to help him up. He hesitated, obviously debating how decent he could remain by moving again, before he too sighed and accepted her help. She managed to get him settled under the blankets without seeing much more than his rear—she'd be honest and admit it was nicely shaped—and his chest—also quite nice. By the time all was said and done he was shaking from fatigue.
She made to move from the room in order to make some porridge when his hand catching hold of her wrist stopped her. Once she looked down at him in response he let go of her wrist and retreated to a proper distance.
"Thank you, for your kindness. I am sorry-" she shook her head before he could continue and he gave her a weak smile in return. "Perhaps we will find a way to communicate before too long. In the meantime I am Lancelot." He stopped talking when a fit of coughing suddenly seized him.
She frowned and patted his shoulder before quickly leaving. When she returned with the porridge some time later, having gotten distracted by taking care of the meat and cleaning up her weapons as well as changing into a dry dress, she found him asleep. Loathed to wake him, she stoked the fire again before pulling a chair closer to the bed. She did not trust his health on his own and so settled herself in for a long and very uncomfortable night.