TITLE: Bedtime Story
AUTHOR: Angel Starbeam
SUMMARY: A young prince wishes for a story, so his brother tells of the abduction of a handmaiden and her friends to the rescue. This is a much altered recount of Lancelot and Guinevere.

It was way into the night, so it was quite dark with exception being light from the crescent moon and the gleaming stars. People would have to have a sufficient reason to be still up at this hour, much less wake up to it. In a rather large bed chamber and lying comfortably in a four poster bed, one adolescent boy had no reason. But he did wake up.

As he woke up, he knew someone else was in the room, because this someone had shaken him awake and was still at it.

He finally opened his eyes with a growl emitted from his throat. Blurry black met clear blue. His sight focused and saw his assaulter and owner of the blue eyes was a small tow-headed boy unimpressed by his growl.

"Gwy," the older boy narrowed his eyes, "you're supposed to be in bed."

"I can't sleep," Gwy replied, though his proper name was Gwydre.

"So I can't sleep neither?"

Gwydre gave a curt nod, "I want a story. Amhar, please tell me a story."

Amhar's frown deepened, but it did little good. He knew how his younger brother was like when he was restless and excited, which he had been this past month or so. He demanded attention and was a very determine child, as polite people would say. Others, who were at their wits end, say he is pig stubborn and a right terror. He will not go back to bed until he has had that story.

Actually, Amhar was glad Gwy did not go to and wake their parents. The new babe was due any day now and Father wanted Mother to rest as much as possible.

Amhar prayed to all and any gods and goddesses that the next one will be a nice quiet sibling.

"Right then, story time, then to bed," Amhar confirmed with relish.

Gwy, pleased with himself, climb onto the bed. Amhar scooted over as his little brother made himself comfortable. As soon as he did, he looked expectantly at his eldest brother.

Right then, what story to tell him?

Amhar searched through his drowsy mind for a tale to tell. He briefly wished that Gwydre bothered Jack for a bedtime story instead of him. Jack- Llecheu- his brother in crime and blood, knew thousands of stories thanks to those dusty old books and scrolls. He was fond of them as much as he was for his sword lessons and hunting. Amhar saw their value but much more keen on doing things and learning on his own.

And he did know plenty of stories- fantastic accounts by Merlin, quiet and prideful lectures on Camelot by Father, fairy stories by Mother. He just had to choose one that will entertain Gwy and lull him to sleep. Then a thought came to him and he went with it.

He began, "Once, there was a handmaiden. She was very kind and was loved by everyone.

One day, she was traveling with a noble lady, when they were attacked by bandits and took them away. With the handmaiden's help, the noble lady was able to escape and return to the kingdom."

"Why did the bandits do that to the girls?" Gwy asked.

"Because they're bad men and they like to cause trouble for everyone." Amhar quickly replied, "Now where were we-yes.

The noble lady told the handmaiden's other friends, the prince and the sorcerer, what had happened and they set off to rescue her. The handmaiden was taken to the bandits' castle, where everyone was a villainous cutthroat. They were all ruled by an evil lord.

'I'm going to keep you,' said the evil lord, 'and if you cross me, I'll throw you to the wildren.'"

"What's that?" Gwydre interrupted again.

"Giant bald rat creatures. They like to eat humans." Amhar wanted to clamp Gwy's mouth shut but since that will only make things worse, he decided against it, "You see, they had one trapped in a tunnel, where both openings were closed off by an iron gate. The tunnel led out to a big cage made of strong wood that was in the throne room. So whenever the bandits wanted to see someone get eaten by the wildren, all they had to do was thrown them in the cage and let the beast out.

Well, the handmaiden was in her dingy cell and feeling frighten and rather cross herself. She then heard someone calling her name. She looked over at the cell window and saw a swordsman, another friend of hers."

"She has a lot of friends."

"I told you, everyone loved her. The only people who did not were evil," Amhar said, now thoroughly irritated, "Now stop interrupting me.

Anyway, the handmaiden asked the swordsman, 'Why are you here?'

The swordsman, 'I couldn't find any work and ended up being the bandits' slave. I hate myself.'

The handmaiden did not like that, so she said, 'You are a good man. You can do better than this.'

The swordsman needed to hear that and stopped feeling sorry for himself. He and the handmaiden then planned their escape.

Meanwhile, the prince and the sorcerer got to the mountains where the castle was on the other side. They knew that the fastest way to get there was to go through the Tunnels of Andor. This was dangerous because wildren lived there. The thing about wildren though, is that they are blind as newborn pups and could only hunt by their sense of smell. The prince found some found a bush of foul smelling berries and he covered himself and the sorcerer with the juice so to throw off their scent.

They then went into the tunnels. There, a wildren came by and got close- right in front of them in fact- but because of the berry juice, it couldn't tell that they were humans and left.

Once they got out of the tunnels, they found the castle. They climb the walls and snuck inside. Inside, they saw that all the bandits were gathered in the throne room and the swordsman and handmaid were tied up in the cage-

"What?" Gwydre cut off, confused.

Amhar smiled sheepishly, "Sorry, my fault. The swordsman and the handmaiden were able to escape but got caught, were tied up and thrown in the cage.

Anyway, the wildren was about to eat them when the prince jumped in the cage. He cut off the rope and he and the swordsman fought the beast. The evil lord, now very cross, decided to kill them all with his crossbow. The sorcerer saw this and stopped it by having a chandelier almost fall right on top of the lord. He then jumped in the cage because it was the only place the bandits would not follow him.

The prince then led them all into the tunnel. The evil lord, not wanting them to escape, went in the cage to stop them but the sorcerer closed the gate. This trapped the lord with the wildren and it ate him.

The friends were able to escape the tunnel. The swordsman, feeling a lot better about himself, left on his own so to do good deeds. He became one of the most legendary knights of all time. Back at the kingdom, the prince and the handmaiden saw that they really loved each other and got married. When they got to be king and queen, they ruled justly and loved by all their people. The sorcerer got to be their top advisor and finally got that nap he wanted. And…"

Amhar noticed Gwy's closed eyes.

"Lived happy ever after?" Gwydre then asked droopily.

"They turned out alright."

Amhar smiled as sleep took over Gwy. With his brother asleep and given silence, became lost in his thoughts. The story of his mother's abduction after being mistaken as the king's ward was told to him recently. During a lesson, Merlin told him about the uses of gaia berries. After some prodding, he told him how Father thought of it while they were on their way to rescue Mother.

Amhar had a feeling the version he got was edited, not as much as the extremely simplified tale he just told Gwydre. Jack once said how there many stories within just one. What about all those bandits' stories, how did the swordsman come upon the evil lord, how did they capture a wildren?

There's probably a story as to why Merlin was so cautious in his telling the account to him.

Gwydre was now deep in sleep. Amhar carefully got out of bed and scooped up his little brother. Gwy moved a bit as he rested his head onto Amhar's shoulder and he made way to take him back to his own bed.

As he said, everything turned out alright.