Mostly Dead Knights:
A/N: What comes of watching too many movies in one night, a King Arthur/Princess Bride crossover.
Disclaimers: Clearly, I own neither the Princess Bride nor King Arthur, so please don't let Mssrs. Morgenstern or Bruckheimer get me. Flamers will be sent images of Rupert Murdoch in Spandex, so just don't send flames. I don't want to have to do that. Anyway, hope you enjoy.
Tristan and Lancelot were dead. They had been dead for some hours, and yet still Bors could not grasp the idea. Galahad and Gawaine slowly approached and the three knights gazed at the fallen friends before them.
"They shouldn't be dead – but they are." The hollow-sounding voice was Gawaine's.
The three knights sat somberly on the ground, and Gawaine swore as he jolted the new wound in his shoulder. Galahad helped his friend to remove his blood-crusted leather armor, and tended to the wound without comment. He began to think as he ripped Gawaine's shirt into neat strips in order to bandage the wound. He looked up briefly and noticed that rather than making for the village, Tristan's hawk, Myrddin, was making her way toward the small hovel on the outskirts of the village. Suddenly he had an idea. "Do you see that small hovel there on the outskirts of the village?"
"This would be as opposed to a large hovel?" Gawaine asked dryly. His humor was an attempt to distract himself from the pain of the situation.
"Don't mock me. My mind is on other things besides semantics. There's a strange old couple living there, with a strange sign over the cottage. It says 'Miracle Max;' maybe he can help us with Lancelot and Tristan. It's worth a try in any case."
"If we bring them back dead, Fenora'll kill me." Bors said resignedly. "I say we try."
"Arthur might well kill himself if he convinces himself he's let them down." Gawaine's comment ended with a sharp hiss as Galahad removed a bit of the crossbow bolt left in his shoulder.
"Sorry," said Galahad, "That's the last of it." He placed the pad he had made of Gawaine's shirt against the wound and secured it with the rest of the strips. By mutual consent, the three men rose and lifted their two fallen comrades onto their horses.
"You know," Bors remarked conversationally, as they continued toward the small house, "I'm not sure the girl'd let Arthur kill himself, she's got other plans for him."
Gawaine considered the comment for a moment. "Well after all her torture, and his years spent commanding you, I'd say they've earned what pleasure they can get from one another."
Bors aimed an affectionate buffet at his comrade, taking care to avoid the wounded left shoulder. The tension eased as the three men continued to walk.
When they reached the edge of the clearing in which the hovel was situated, they heard the voice of a man singing, "If I were a rich man, Daidle daidle daidle daidle, Daidle daidle daidle dum. All day long I'd bidle bidle-"
The singer was rudely interrupted. "Max, would you tone it down a bit? They can probably hear you back in the shtetl."
"No, Valerie, you're thinking of your screechy voice not mine."
"Screechy voice! Do you want to sleep on the floor?"
The three knights exchanged glances as the debate between the two inhabitants of the hut became more heated.
Warily, they approached the cottage. Sure enough, the sign read "Miracle Max: Miraculous Miracles and MLTs (Mutton Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches)." With a muffled "hmph" Gawaine pounded on the door.
Abruptly the squabble over whose singing voice was worse ceased, and a pair of suspicious eyes glared out of a peephole-slat in the door.
"Um…we're looking for Miracle Max." Gawaine offered tentatively
"Why?" The voice was as suspicious as the eyes.
"We need a miracle." Gawaine spoke simply.
"We're closed." The slat rammed shut.
Gawaine lifted his hand preparing to knock again; Galahad forestalled him with a hand on his arm and mouthed, "Let me try." Gawaine nodded his assent; Bors grunted and announced, loudly, "All right, but if he won't open for you, I'm using Dag's battle axe."
Galahad rolled his eyes and began to speak. "Look, they've already given you a miracle. These men died because they fought against the Saxons. The Woads and six knights fought off a Saxon army of thousands so you may sleep safely, but our commander, who won this battle for you, will consider this victory to be a defeat if these men don't return to him."
The slat opened again. "What's in it for me?"
Bors grinned, "Well, first off, I won't hit you with the battle axe, and second, if you play it well, you might get a job as Artorius's official miracle worker."
Miracle Max's eyes gleamed, "The man who kicked out Marius? That schmuck tried to torture me when I refused to mix meat and cheese. Why didn't you say it was for Arthur? I'm open for business." The slat closed, but this time, the door opened. "Bring 'em in."
Hurriedly the knights complied, Bors laid Lancelot's body on the table while Galahad and Gawaine propped up Tristan's until Miracle Max's wife, Valerie, could clear a space for it. The miracle man prodded both men's chests before moving to a workbench covered in strange paraphernalia; he hummed under his breath as he worked.
Finally, Bors expressed his doubts. "Can you really help them, old man? Dead is dead."
Max was unfazed. "Look at the shnook with the battle axe who suddenly knows so much. It so happens, nu, that your friends here are only mostly dead, and mostly dead is a little alive." As Max spoke, he had been rolling two small balls of mysterious herbs. Now Valerie was painting the pills with a strange gooey brown substance.
"The chocolate covering makes it go down easier." She confided.
"What's chocolate?" Gawaine asked with a frown, calling attention to the author's second deliberate anachronism (Cookies and a kiss from the knight and/or Woad maiden of your choice for anyone who picks out the first.)
Valerie, however, ignored the bewildered knight's query as she pushed the pills down the throats of first Tristan and then Lancelot.
"If anything happens to them…" Bors growled menacingly as he gripped Dagonet's axe.
"You mean if they're still dead?" Miracle Max snapped back. "Don't worry, they're not all dead. If someone's all dead, there's only one thing you can do."
"And what's that?" Gawaine asked curiously.
"Go through his pockets and look for small valuables." The knights jumped at the voice, which came from the slab where Tristan lay. The pills had begun to knit his wounds so that they no longer bled, and Galahad quickly moved to tend them.
Suddenly Lancelot, on the other table, gasped. "The Saxon!"
"Dead." Bors quickly calmed him.
"And the girl?"
"Alive as well."
"Good." Now that Bors had eased his more pressing worries Lancelot frowned. "Why can't I move?"
Valerie hurriedly reassured Lancelot. "You'll get your movement back. You've been mostly dead for hours, honey. Now, you shouldn't go swimming for another…oh…another good hour."
"It's not that high on my list of priorities for the moment." Tristan commented drily. "But I would like at least to bathe."
"Of course, sweetheart, once you can move, you can have a bath." Once again, Valerie reassured the knights.
Tristan grinned in response.
Ten minutes later, the two formerly mostly dead knights had regained enough movement to be helped from the cottage and Gawaine had given Max a large purse of Roman coins by way of remuneration. The five men took their leave of the couple, reiterating their promise that they would speak to Arthur on Max's behalf. Then they helped Tristan and Lancelot into their saddles and ignored their insistence that they did not need to be tied to their saddles. Though Lancelot had recognized the necessity of the bindings, Tristan was particularly disgusted.
"We're Sarmatians, Gawaine."
"Yes, Tristan, you are a Sarmatian: a Sarmation who can't move."
"We have a reputation to maintain."
Gawaine sighed wearily. "Tristan, you've just returned from the dead. I think your reputation is secure."
Finally Galahad intervened. "Tristan, how do you suppose it would affect your reputation if you fell out of the saddle, because if we don't tie you there, you will fall off." This silenced Tristan, although he muttered to himself. Galahad and Gawaine grinned at one another. As the five knights finally left the clearing, Max and Valerie stood in the doorway of their cottage waving.
"Goodbye. Have a nice trip back to the castle! Hope you can come back soon."
"Ah," Valerie sighed as they left the clearing. "Such nice boys."
"Yeah," Max agreed, "Completely soft in the kep, every one of them, but nice."
Arthur breathed his seventh morose sigh since he had returned to the castle, and Gwenivere and Merlin exchanged worried glances.
"Arthur-" Merlin began.
"I failed them." The commander stated flatly.
"They knew the risks of staying and fighting with you. They stayed anyway. Arthur, you can't be responsible for all men at all times." Arthur did not respond.
Gwenivere gazed listlessly out the window and blinked at what she saw. That Saxon must have hit her harder than she imagined. She blinked again, but they were still there. "By the Great Mother!" She raced to the gate of the castle. Arthur and Merlin looked at each other in puzzlement and followed her. They reached the gate just as Arthur's knights did.
"How?" Arthur asked. It was all he could think.
"Long story." As Gawaine spoke, he was busy untying the ropes securing Lancelot to his saddle. The knight immediately slid down and Gawine hurriedly caught him.
"It seems," Bors spoke knowingly, "That they were only mostly dead, and mostly dead is partly alive. They're still weak though."
"And we can't go swimming for another hour." Lancelot paused and blinked. "Do I want to go swimming?"
Arthur merely hugged his knight reassuring himself that the man was real. As he turned to Tristan, Gwenivere took one of Lancelot's hands as he leaned against his understanding horse. He stiffened, but did not withdraw.
"Thank you," she said simply.
"I had no choice." Gwenivere began to protest but Lancelot continued quickly. "He loves you."
"I know," she smiled fleetingly, but quickly turned serious again. "I love him." She assured Lancelot.
"Good," Lancelot's smile was forced. "You'll make him happy."
"He loves you too, you know, just not-"
"I know." Lancelot cut her off quickly. Gwenivere released his hand and stepped back. Arthur had released Tristan, and the knights had begun to explain their visit to Miracle Max. Suddenly, Fenora appeared with her hands on her hips.
"Explanations," she said firmly, "will have to wait. You" her gesture encompassed Gwenivere as well as the knights, "are going back in that castle to get those nasty wounds tended to. And you," she crooked a finger at Bors, "come here."
He obeyed grinning. Briskly she slapped him across the face. "You could have been killed! How am I s'posed to raise eleven children on my own?" Finally, Fenora kissed her lover as briskly as she had slapped him to the accompaniment of cheers and wolf whistles from the rest of the knights. She turned to glare at them. "Castle. Now." Hurriedly they moved to obey.
As Tristan, supported by Gawaine and Galahad, made his way to his room, he thought back on the day. He had never been afraid of death, and as he fought the Saxon, he had accepted that he would die. Still, he was content to be alive again. He sighed gratefully as he stepped into the tub of warm standing water that had been left in his room and listened with amusement as Lancelot tried to persuade the serving girl who had brought his own bath to share it with him.
After the girl had left, giggling, Tristan called to Lancelot through the thin wall. "An hour ago, you were mostly dead, and you're already trying to seduce the maids."
"I've always had a good constitution." The other knight called back.
Tristan merely chuckled. Yes, it was good to be alive after all.