A/N: Here's another that came into my mind whileI was napping. I know, I'm pathetic. I know there is going to be romance in this story, however I haven't decided whom Arabella should fall for. I'm torn between Arthur, Lancelot, Gawain, or Galahad. I have plans for both Tristan and Dagonet. (that don't include death!) I'm torn I tell ya! I have new chapters I'm also working on for One Way Ticket, and Dancing in the Dark.
Bella leaned back against the mildewed stone wall and tried to cry. She was so thirsty and hoped the taste of her salty tears would help. However, the tears would not fall. She looked across and saw the girl staring back at her with empty eyes. Bella had been in the cell for three days now, and didn't know how long she'd survive. The torturer stood between the cell-like alcoves, and she was sure he was going to begin his ministrations once more. Suddenly there were loud voices and more men came down the stairs. Bella tried to shrink further into the corner. She bit her lip to keep from crying out as one of the men ran one of the torturers through with a sword. What kind of Hell had she ended up in? The armored men began looking into all of the cells and she began praying. She didn't know if she was praying they'd over look her, or they'd find and release her.
"Check for survivors." She heard a strong masculine voice speak.
Moments later another man spoke, "By the smell they are all dead."
One man cried out as he found the boy in a small circular stone container, and the first man found the girl who'd been across from her. A dark shadow fell over her prison and she whimpered slightly. Something was struck and she heard the lock snap off and the bars swing down. Arms reached in and pulled her from the cell. Bella shivered and laid quietly in the man's arms as he carried her outside with the others.
"Water!" someone was bellowing.
She closed her eyes to the sudden onslaught of light. When she felt that they were becoming acclimated she opened them slowly. The man carrying her was a dark haired man with a trimmed goatee and dark eyes. "Desidero la mia madre ed il mio padre!" she begged him, not realizing she'd slipped into the language of her youth, Italian.
"I do not understand this language Lady." he murmured staring down at her.
There was an imposing man on horseback with braids covering his eyes. "She's Woad." he said looking at the girl who'd been across from her. Then he looked at her. "I know not what that one is." He perused her thoroughly taking in every item she wore; her sandaled feet, khaki corduroy pants, rust colored camisole, and long brown sashed sweater. Her clothing was torn and filthy at this point, but it was still easy to see it was different from theirs.
"I want my mother. I want my father." she pleaded again with only a touch of accent on her tongue after so many years in America. Her body ached from the touch of the torturer just hours before.
The man who'd carried the other girl out was screaming at a man in robes who was lying on the ground. She hadn't been paying attention so she didn't know how he'd gotten there. The dark knight who'd carried her out moved slightly and she caught a glimpse of something familiar behind him. Fear tightened in her belly, but she moved her head to look in that direction. As soon as her eyes made sense of what she was seeing the screams came.
Arthur had just sheathed his sword when the woman Lancelot had carried out began shrieking. All of his men looked to where she sat staring and Arthur felt bile rise up in his throat. Two people, a red-haired man and a woman with the oddest shade of violet hair, obviously dead, were strung up on wooden posts and disemboweled. They were in a manner of dress almost similar to the woman's and he assumed she must know who they were. "Who were these people?" he hissed to Marius.
"My guards found the three in the forest. Those two tried to flee, the woman was easily captured. We found strange symbols upon those two so they were executed for heresy and witchcraft. The woman was with them. She wears the cross around her neck. It is the only thing that saved her from death." he said dismissively and almost earned another punch from Arthur.
"Che inferno e questo posto? (what hell is this place?)" She sobbed. The dark knight used his body to hide the bodies from her, but she knew the vision would be imprinted in her memories forever. Every time she closed her eyes she'd see them. Bella struggled and pulled away from the man. She managed to crawl several feet away and wretched miserably into the dirt. Bella moved into a fetal position and remembered….
"Hello? This is Arabella De La Rossi, with The New York Monitor. We're looking to do a piece on paganism in the twenty-first century and were hoping you'd agree to do an interview. Would you be interested?…You're having a circle this evening?…I would be honored to join you. Would you mind if I brought a photographer with me?… Excellent, so I'll see you at six at Lawford Park." Bella hung up the phone and chuckled. With this piece she would finally get her by-line that she'd been working so hard for the past two years. Maybe The Monitor wasn't The Times, but it was closer than she'd been before.
Sighing she looked down at her outfit. Well, it would have to do because it was already four forty five and she didn't have time to run home and change. She belted her brown sweater more tightly around her and went looking for one of the photographers. 'What was one supposed to wear to a pagan circle anyways?' She smirked to herself. She spotted one of the men quickly, "Hey Tommy, you interested in taking some pictures of crazy people in the park today?"
The nice looking, lanky, redheaded man smiled at her, "Sure, not doin' anything else. McKensie gave the bank robbery pictures to Mulligan."
They walked out side by side. "That sucks." she sympathized. "Brad Maddox got the story."
Tommy shook his head. "God damn teacher's pets." The two left chuckling, and headed for Arabella's VW Bug…..
Bella watched from the back of the wagon as they pulled away from the stone building where she'd been kept prisoner. Her eyes strayed to the small specks of red and purple as they drew further away. She hadn't spoken again, and so far no one had questioned her. Bella took in her surroundings slowly. The men wore different variations of armor; their leader was in Roman armor; that much she remembered from her college history courses. Romans, armored men, serfs; it was all surreal. The leader moved into the wagon and was speaking to the man with shaved head who was helping the little boy.
The man introduced himself as Arthur, and Bella tuned out his conversation with the other girl, Guinevere. Her mind was racing. Arthur and Guinevere? What kind of bad dream was this? The man, Arthur now sat looking at her. "How are you?" he asked softly.
Bella thought at first she wouldn't answer. Ignore it long enough and it would all go away right? But her curious mind didn't let her. "I'm Arabella…Bella for short."
"Where are you from Bella?" he asked as he felt her forehead.
She giggled nervously. "Manhattan. I have a brilliant little apartment not far from my parents."
He was frowning. "I have never heard of Man-Hat-an."
Bella choked on her laugh. "That's because it doesn't exist yet." she whispered.
"Her imprisonment and torture has driven her insane." the large man caring for the boy spoke.
"No." she said. "No." this time she spoke stronger. "I'm not crazy. This is all some sort of bad dream, and when I wake up I'll be in bed with my cat Oliver, and my morning coffee will be ready."
"Calm yourself." Arthur soothed. "We will get it all resolved. Soon we will be at The Wall."
Bella looked away from the man, and didn't look back. Soon the shaved head man approached her. "I am Dagonet. Where are you injured lady? It is easy to see that they dislocated the girl's fingers, and broke the boy's arm."
She wasn't stupid, she knew if she didn't tell him, then her wounds would fester and possibly kill her. Especially in this time before antibiotics. And though she was sure she was dreaming, and none of this was real…still, it wouldn't hurt to be safe. Looking the man in the eyes she raised her shirt to show him the horrible bruising where they'd cracked her ribs on either side. At his gasp she continued and turned slowly to show him the round burn marks where they'd shoved burning sticks into her shoulder blades.
"We shall have to wait until we stop for me to care for these wounds." he murmured. She nodded mutely.
"Are you really from the future?" Guinevere asked her.
"Yes." she told the woman, staring her in the eyes.
Guinevere nodded. "I do not think you insane. My father is a powerful man. Perhaps you will meet him. I think he would like to see a traveler from the future." she said dreamily.
"Bully for him." Bella muttered under her breath. It didn't take long for her to fall into a light and fitful sleep….
"Are you sure this is the right place?" Tommy asked for the third time.
"The north side of Lawford Park." she told him…for the third time.
"I guess I just expected more people." he shrugged, and they stepped out of her car.
"The lady I spoke with, Mistress Celeste, said it was only a circle for special members of the coven." she murmured as a woman with purple hair started towards them. "Great, she's a fucking nut-job."
Tommy hid a snort, "Oh yeah, we got a live one."
"Greetings Ms. De La Rossi." the woman said and inclined her head to them. "And who is our handsome friend?"
Arabella put on her reporter's smile, "This is the photographer I was telling you I'd bring, Tommy Chandler."
"Splendid! You can't begin to imagine how pleased we are to have you with us this evening. Hopefully, seeing how we interact you'll be able to show the positive lights to paganism. There are so many who think badly of us."
"Well, I'll certainly do my best Mistress Celeste."
The wagon jolted to a halt and Bella awoke. Dagonet was leaning over her. "Lady Fulcinia is going to help you bathe. Then we shall tend to your wounds." All she could do was nod.
As painful as it was, the bath was something she'd needed to feel more normal. "You have such lovely hair." The Lady murmured to her and she washed it gently. "I feel so ashamed of what my husband has done."
"I do not blame you."
The bath was over far too quickly for Bella's pleasure. She knew the painful part was coming. Dagonet entered the tent with two other men in tow. "These are the knights Galahad and Gawain. They are going to help me in your aid." he explained to her patiently at her fearful look. "Neither of these men will hurt you, do you understand?"
"For the ribs I must have you completely still, and you will not want to stay that way. Galahad, hold her legs tightly. Gawain, hold her shoulders down, again tightly." he instructed.
Bella lay on the ground and trembled. The man, Galahad, took her legs as gently as he could, but she could feel his strength. Gawain held her shoulders down, and Bella chose him to focus on. He looked down at her with apology in his eyes, and she felt the steel in his arms. Bella focused on his blue eyes never looking away. Not once did she scream during the process. Tears streamed down the sides of her face, but she gritted her teeth. Soon he had her ribs bound, and she breathed in relief for the first time in days.
"Now, on to her back." Dagonet sighed.
Gawain looked at Dagonet and saw by the set of his jaw it would be unpleasant. "I will stay and assist if needed." When Dagonet peeled the shift away to reveal the wounds Galahad gasped and turned green. "Galahad, go. I will help Dagonet." Galahad nodded once and left. "Grip my hands Lady; perhaps it will lessen the pain?"
"I don't think anything would lessen this pain except for some morphine or a bottle of vodka." she gasped and Dagonet began cleaning the wounds.
"I do not know what those are." he seemed perplexed.
"Morphine….is a pain reliever..um…a very strong pain reliever, sort of like laudanum. Vodka is a strong alcoholic beverage similar to wine or ale, but has a stronger and faster effect on people."
"Interesting. So a man could get drunk quicker with this vodka?"
"If that's the desired result, then yes." She was panting now the pain was so great.
"And where you're from, is there a husband?"
"No." she laughed. "Never had the time to find one, although there was a boy down the street my parents were overly found of. However, I was not so fond of him, so I had to explain to them it wasn't going to happen. I don't go out a lot. I've been too busy working to spend time with men." Dagonet's treatment was winding down.
"And what type of work do you do?" he asked looking over her shoulder at Dagonet's work.
"I write articles for a newspaper."
"You write?" this seemed to amaze him.
"I'm actually quite good at it." she assured him.
"Normally the only people I've met who know their letters are clergy, or nobles."
"I am done Lady." Dagonet said lowering her shift.
"Please, stop calling me Lady. Call me Bella, or Arabella, but Lady sounds so strange to me."
"Of course Arabella." Dagonet smiled at her slightly. "You should rest now."
"I am very tired." she told him trying to keep her eyes open. Bella laid back and was pleased that there was no sharp sting of pain to greet her. She was asleep within moments. She slept deeply, and dreamlessly.
Bella woke to someone pulling her legs roughly. She slid across the ground as Marius dragged her into a standing position. He clenched her face roughly in one hand. "Demonspawn!" he hissed at her.
She slammed her foot onto his instep, and he howled in pain which woke Dagonet up. Marius backhanded her and she went flying to the ground onto her side. Gasps of pain shook her as her ribs bore the brunt of the fall. Marius had grabbed the boy, Lucan, and now stood with a weapon to his throat. His henchmen held their weapons on Dagonet who stood crouched behind her. She lay sprawled on the ground in between the two.
Bella spit bloody saliva out of her mouth. She heard a noise and looked over in time to see Marius drop to the ground with an arrow sticking out of him. Arthur called out for the henchmen to lower their weapons, and while they did seem to take a moment to consider the request, when the other bald man rode up with a yell they did so quickly. Dagonet held the small boy to him, and the Lady, Marius' widow now, moved to help Arabella.
Bella limped over to the dead man, and laid a kiss on the cross around her neck. "And so you walk to Heaven's Gates, and pray to be allowed entrance to the hallowed halls, but God will not have you there for you are the evil that veils people's eyes from truly seeing his splendor."
They began their journey after that, and it seemed to Bella that they raced with the devil at their feet. Occasionally she would sit on the outboard with Guinevere and watch the snow fall down. It seemed so different from the snow falling in New York. She supposed that was due to the pollution.
"One would think you'd never seen snow before." Galahad told her with a smile as he rode up beside the wagon.
"Not this clean or pure. Where I'm from we've polluted, or dirtied the world. The air is no longer clean, there aren't as many trees or wild animals. All in the name of progress."
"It doesn't sound like a good place to live."
Bella held out her hand and caught a fat snowflake in it. "Did you know that no two snowflakes are exactly the same." she said, and he was held by the wonder in her eyes. "Every one that falls is different from the next."
"Much like people." Lancelot had ridden up on the other side.
"Yes," she smiled at him. "Very much like people. Even identical twins. They're still two people with two different personalities." she started laughing at that, and her laughter held a tinge of hysteria.
"What is so funny Lady Arabella?" Galahad asked.
"Seems to me I should have chosen to do a story on genetics instead of paganism in the twenty first century." They were crossing a large lake of ice, and Bella held her breath with every loud crack she heard.
"Arthur!" The man, Tristan rode by her and the two knights moved away with him.
Within minutes Arthur, his knights, and Guinevere were staying behind, and the caravan was moving on towards the wall. She watched them from the back of the wagon with great fear in her heart. "I will pray for you." she promised and began to do so as soon as they were out of sight.
It seemed they moved on for hours without any sign of Arthur of his knights. Someone ahead called out the sighting of the great Wall, and Bella moved to catch a glimpse. It was awe inspiring to say the least. It seemed to stretch for ever on both sides and the gates groaned loudly as they began to open. From behind them they heard a cry and she turned back to see seven riders making their way towards them at a quick pace. It seemed her heart stopped beating until she saw that all eight had returned with Guinevere riding behind Arthur.
The boy, Lucan, ran to Dagonet as quickly as possible. A bandage was wrapped around his upper left arm, but aside from that they all looked well. There was an officious looking man there and he was smiling widely and calling out to the boy, Alecto. The boy seemed to want no part of the man and stepped closer to his mother. The man turned his beady eyes back to the knights and began handing them pieces of paper. He was speaking so quickly, and Bella didn't understand what letters of safe conduct were. The knights seemed angry, but they took the letters anyway. Dagonet came and motioned for her to follow him. She tried to stay silent and hidden but the man saw her.
"And who is the woman Arthur?" he asked pompously.
"She is a woman we saved along with the serfs. She was injured. My people are seeing to her."
A woman with long reddish brown hair had replaced Dagonet by her side. "Come along love, we'll get you somewhere away from all these prying eyes." they walked quickly and Bella didn't look back. "I'm Vanora, Bors woman."
"I'm Arabella. Please though, call me Bella."
"What a lovely name." Vanora led her to a room which held a bed, small table, and chair. On the table was a pottery candle holder, and several thick white candles. "I'm just going to pop off and get you something to wear. You make yourself comfortable. When you've changed we'll go down to the tavern and get you something to eat."
Bella barely had time to walk around the room before Vanora was back with a dress. It was a deep amber color, and was loose and flowing. It was fitted more through the bust with loose sleeves which fell off her shoulders. With her olive skin tones, deep chocolate brown hair, dark chocolate brown eyes, and classical Italian beauty the dress seemed perfect for her. Vanora provided her with some soft leather boots, and then the two made their way down to the tavern. Vanora chatted the entire time while Bella took everything in.
The knights were celebrating their freedom in the tavern that was mostly outdoors instead of indoors. When Vanora made to leave her Bella clutched her arm. "Might I help you Vanora?" she pleaded.
Vanora looked and saw that the girl was scared. Poor lamb, the kind hearted woman thought, doesn't know a soul. "Of course you can. Though you should be resting with all you've been through."
"Oh, the work will make it so much better. I won't be able to think as much if I'm busy."
Vanora moved quickly and handed several pottery mugs to Bella. "You can get the others after you drop those off."
"How many are there?" she frowned.
"Well, one for each of the men. So seven for this group, and then that table of Roman soldiers gets the other six."
Bella looked around for a few minutes and saw a child's toy shield. Picking it up she found that it was the right size and it was light enough for what she wanted. She loaded up the six mugs on the small shield, using it for a tray, and set off for the Romans. She delivered them efficiently and quickly, and even managed to sidestep a groping hand. When she got back to the bar Vanora was staring at her silently. "My parents own a pub, or a tavern, similar to yours. I work there some weekends, and all through college." She said by way of explanation.
"You're a smart girl lass." Vanora rewarded her with a smile, and Bella blushed.
She moved quickly grabbing the other mugs and delivering them to the men. Most of the men were flirting with women who wandered the area, and Bella was getting the idea that these women were prostitutes, or maybe they just enjoyed sleeping with the men. Looking at the men she could imagine that it would be a pleasurable experience. Well, if she knew how it felt.
As the men grew rowdier, and more drunk, the Romans left the area, and Vanora went to sit with Bors and the others. Bella began washing dishes. "Bella, come have some ale with us." The other woman called out.
When she just smiled at them indulgently, some of the men booed. "Arthur, tell Bella to come drink with us." one of the men demanded.
Arthur, who'd already had several mugs of ale, she should know she'd been the one to deliver them to him, obliged. "Lady Bella. Come sit with us. Tell us of yourself. Bring a mug with you."
Bella made her way over to the group that now sat in a circular pattern. She ended up seated between Gawain and Lancelot, and facing Arthur. "You're all going to think I'm mad, but I'll tell you the truth. I was born in Naples Italy, not very far from Rome actually. I was born in the year nineteen hundred and eighty, which made me twenty six when I disappeared from my world and came to yours." The knights had gone silent, but Bella continued. "Both of my parents are still alive, and I'm an only child. They wanted more but weren't blessed with any. They own a tavern in Greenwich Village, and it's only like five minutes away from me."
"You claim to be from the future. How did you get here?" Lancelot asked taking another drink of his ale.
Bella took a drink and found that the ale was more sweet than the ale she was used to. "Well, really I don't know. I mean, I know what I was doing before, and I know what happened. But time travel isn't supposed to be possible now is it? Even in my time it isn't possible." She took another drink. "I was doing an article for the paper I work for." At their blank looks she sighed. "Where I'm from almost everyone reads and writes. We learn to as children in school. We have these things called newspapers where a bunch of people get together and put words and pictures together to tell everyone what is happening in the world. The world in my time is much larger than it is now." She sighed and finished her drink, then frowned as she looked at the empty mug. Gawain slid another mug in front of her so she smiled a thanks. "I worked for a newspaper. The red-haired man," she choked on the words. "Tommy and I work together, and he was helping me. The woman with purple hair claimed to be a witch…"
"And the Romans allowed her to live?" Bors was amazed.
"Well, see, where I'm from the Romans aren't really there like they are now. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right of all people. Where I'm from you might be looked at oddly for being pagan, but normally you aren't tortured or killed for it."
"This place you speak of sounds like Utopia." Dagonet murmured.
Bella was drinking more of the drink in front of her, and Gawain had pushed some food in front of her. "Oh no, it's certainly far from perfect. There are plenty of people out there that lie, cheat, steal, and hurt others." She chewed a piece of cheese thoughtfully for a moment. "I'm going to wake up soon to find that Mistress Celeste, she of the purple hair, somehow slipped me some LSD. This will all be a bad dream, and I'll wake up."
Arthur had listened to her story in silence. "I'm afraid this is no dream Lady Bella. For some reason I believe your tale, but I'm afraid I have no way to help you get home."
"No, especially not since some jackass gutted the only chance I had!" she fumed. "Did I mention I don't drink a lot." She said fuzzily, blinking at the men. "I think I'm drunk. You people got me drunk. Ya know, there are stories of all of you. I took a class in British Literature." Bella took another drink, and Vanora finally took the mug away.
"Really, and what did they say about us?" Lancelot leaned closer to her.
"That you're a hound who sniffs after anything in skirts." She smiled smugly, and the other men laughed heartily. "That Arthur is a great man who wields Excalibur the great sword. The sword of his father. And that you all sit at a Round Table so as to show that you are equal as men."
"It is good that we will be remembered." Dagonet said softly, finally believing her. For how else could she know of the table, or Arthur's sword? A thought struck, and though he discounted it immediately, he knew others would not. "Bella, you must not share this story with anyone else."
"He's right." Bors spoke harshly. "It matters not what we believe, but what others will. Tellin' ya right now others'll think yer a witch."
"What happens to witches?" she whispered.
None of the men seemed to want to answer her, but finally Arthur did. "It depends on the Church. Some are flogged. Some are hung. And some are burned."