Hi everybody, a new chapter is ready, hope you enjoy it.
Journey to Avalon
The return of the crown prince was not announced in any grand way. Harry was welcomed back by his aunt and uncle and simply returned to his training under Sir Edmund. The knight didn't waste any time to see what Harry had managed to learn under Sir Godric and was satisfied that his colleague had continued the training of his squire properly. Sir Edmund wasn't going to grouch about another knight influencing his squire's training. It had been a wise decision of Sir Gawain and Lord Black to send the two boys to safety when there were too few knights that remained in Camelot during the crisis. Things had stabilised since then though and it was time for normality to return.
A few of the squires and several of the pages that hadn't been taken on the mission to find the bandits and deal with them permanently had got a harsh awakening from slacking in their exercises. The knights that trained them had kicked their collective butts if they found out that they had felt that without their teachers present they could be lazy. It certainly didn't help their prospects in becoming knights. Others like Harry's friends Frederick and Cameron had got their promotion to squire over having been smart and continuing their training even if their teachers were gone.
From what they told Harry when they sat together for breakfast in the kitchen after the usual morning exercises, they had felt the difference in levels between being a page and a squire. Harry commiserated. He remembered far too well how it had taken a while until his muscles could take the higher level of stress under which they were put. Their promotion meant that Harry could now sit together with them again, as they had joined the group of squires. He liked that, as he had missed their regular conversations, even if he got along with the other squires as well.
A bigger impact had the adoption of Mordred of Cornwall by Lord Sirius Black. It was announced that thanks to Lady Morgaine having the opportunity to check the registers of Avalon during the winter months, she could narrow down the identity of her partner in the Beltane rites that year to Jayden of Blackmoor, which allowed Lord Black, who was a Blackmoor descendant, even if too distant to have any claim to the title, which belonged to the family of Lord Kyron, to step up as a family member to adopt young Mordred and give him a proper male role model to follow.
According to rumours that came from Lady Morgause's castle, she hadn't been happy at all about the development. A maid that worked at her castle had told the baker in the village close to the castle how she had thrown a temper tantrum over being side-lined like that and how some plans had been foiled. The baker had told his cousin, who worked as a miller at the mill where he got the flour for his bread, the cousin had told another baker that was one of his customers and lived in the city of Camelot, from where some servants inside the castle heard.
Morgaine, when she heard from one of the women that she taught in basic healing at the hospital wing, after the problem with the bandits she had set up lessons for those interested in learning basic medical skills and which remedies helped with certain illnesses, had to hide her smile. Finally, she had got one over her scheming aunt who had basically stolen her son from her. Now, she could deal with the feeling of being powerless. She would rant even more when they managed to get Guinevere pregnant. Morgaine knew that Morgause had fancied being the power behind Mordred on the throne. While Morgause was sly and cunning, she couldn't prevent that servants talked, and Morgaine knew how to ask to get information that others didn't consider sensitive. It was clear to her after getting descriptions how her son was raised by Morgause, especially after Harry wrote what Mordred had told him while they were at Hogwarts, that Mordred was just a means to an end for Morgause.
Life in Camelot was back to normal, until two weeks before the Beltane festivities.
Morgaine checked everything to be sure that the travel preparations for her and Guinevere were finished, and nothing was out of place. They would go ahead to Avalon to prepare for the ritual that would reset the bodies of Arthur and Guinevere to a state that would finally give them the chance to become parents. They hadn't announced the trip to anybody. Well, many people knew that Morgaine was going back to Avalon to oversee the Beltane rites as the High Priestess of Avalon, but nobody knew that Guinevere would accompany her. It would be far too tempting a target to kidnap the Queen of England when she wasn't protected by the walls of Camelot.
Guinevere had already dyed her hair again to not be recognised as easily as herself. She also wore a simple dress for the journey. They would travel accompanied by the normal patrol with Sir Percival and his recently promoted Squire Cameron of Egremont. The soldiers, Sir Percival and Cameron would leave them at the pier from which they could take a boat to Avalon. It wasn't uncommon for a patrol to take that route. It was one of the longer routes, but it was checked regularly, due to the importance of the area. And now that the bandits were gone, it was simply part of the training for squires to learn how to do their duties on such a long trip. They would be away for about three weeks. It took five days to reach the pier that led to Avalon at normal travelling speed for such a large group. Then the group would continue a bit further and then make the way back to Camelot.
Arthur would follow a few days later, as he wanted to make it appear that he simply visited Lord Constantin in Somerset. The choice of which knights would accompany him was made with the fact in mind that Harry as the prince needed to see how the lords worked on their estates, as he hadn't been with Sir Edmund when he returned to his estate over the winter. After the mission against the bandits was finished successfully, many knights had returned to their homes. Like the previous winter, Camelot had been rather empty, and the remaining pages and squires had to do more chores.
Nobody would suspect that there could be more to it than letting Harry gain experience he needed while working normally as a squire and his uncle wanting to spend a bit of time with him again, as he hadn't got the chance during the winter months, as Harry had been away in Scotland for his protection. People had been outraged that the crown prince had become target of a professional assassin. Harry was popular among the common people because they knew that he didn't act like he was better than them. He was genuinely nice and helped when he could. He was also nice and polite to everybody, from a lowly peasant over a master craftsman to important nobles. For Prince Harry they were people, subjects of England, and thus they were worthy of respect.
It was something most people weren't used to, but they appreciated it greatly. When he was seen again after his return many had greeted him when he was seen. Many stated how happy they were that he hadn't been harmed and how they had prayed for his safety while he was hidden away to not give any assassin another chance. Harry had been touched about the honest concern for him. And that while he hadn't done anything special. His uncle knew why that was. Harry had reached the hearts of the people of England. He carried their hopes for a good future. Many had resigned that the king wouldn't have a child of his own and thus decided that they would simply get used to his nephew taking the throne after him. Hopefully, that would be changed soon.
The patrol was ready, and Morgaine and Guinevere joined them as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Guinevere had made sure to be capable of riding her horse for long periods of time. She was trained in the skill. In this era nearly everybody that travelled to other places needed to know how to ride a horse, as the paths weren't all suited to allow for a carriage to pass through. And for their purposes it wouldn't have been practical for Guinevere to need a carriage. This way, she would be thought to belong to Morgaine's priestesses of Avalon. Those women were known to be taught different skills than most would assume a woman to know.
Arthur bid his sister goodbye, not letting it appear as if he would see her again soon. The people in Camelot were used to this. Lady Morgaine was often in Avalon to take care of things. The fact that she had stayed in Camelot as often as she did to teach her older son in the proper use of his powers was already unusual. He also didn't show that he knew her female companion. Nobody would suspect that he was also seeing off his wife.
Harry stood as steady as he could in the boat that he and his uncle had rowed over to the border of the mist that protected Avalon. Everything so far had worked out perfectly. Lord Constantin had been happy to host them for two days, talking with Uncle Arthur about different issues he had noticed and possible solutions. He also liked telling stories about things he had seen in his life, experiences he made in different situations and funny events. Like watching how King Uther had been bested by a duck on a hunt. The duck had been scared during the hunt, flown up from its hiding spot and directly into Uther's face, surprising him enough to lose control over his horse and fall from its back. As everybody was too busy helping the king and seeing if he had been injured by the fall, the duck escaped for the day. As nothing bad happened, it was a funny story he liked to tell. After mending his hurt pride, even Uther had laughed about the mishap. It was interesting to listen to the old lord who had seen many things in his life.
Now Harry had to fulfil the task given to him by his mother and uncle. He would split the veil of mists that protected Avalon for the first time in his life. He knew how to do it. He had practiced with some mist his mother had summoned when she taught him the technique, but this was also a trial for him as the future Lord Avalon. He concentrated and lifted his arms over his head. He concentrated his magic to harmonise it with his surroundings. He felt the flow of magic, felt the twists and twirls the magic of Avalon caused to only let people find the nunnery on the other side of the island. He relaxed. He felt how the magic welcomed him, recognising him as one of its own. He brought his arms in front of him and then opened them wide, intending to make the mist open a passage for them.
The mists followed his command, and his will created a breach in the mist.
"Well done, Harry," complimented Arthur.
"Thank you. It feels like being welcomed back home," admitted Harry with a smile on his face.
Arthur nodded and Harry sat down again to not fall into the water while his uncle started rowing towards the close pier of Avalon. It didn't take long until the boat was tied to a post at the pier, where Morgaine, two older priestesses and Taliesin, the man commonly referred to as Merlin, were waiting for them.
"Welcome brother and Harry," greeted Morgaine, "I am pleased to see you here on Avalon."
"It's great to see you again, sister," nodded Arthur, "Taliesin, it has been too long."
"That it has, my young student," agreed Taliesin, "And I have heard a lot about you, young Harold. Many good things about your actions and behaviour."
"Thank you, it is an honour to meet you, Master Taliesin," greeted Harry with a slight bow, as was polite.
Taliesin was an old man, but Harry noticed he wasn't as old as Dumbledore. He also didn't resemble some of the pictures that depicted Merlin. Taliesin seemed like a mixture of warrior and scholar. His beard wasn't that long either. It was a full beard, but it was cropped close to his skin, not falling over his stomach like the pictures showed. He had a strong presence which could be felt by just standing in front of him. It was very much unlike Dumbledore. Taliesin didn't try to appear intimidating but his simple way of holding himself spoke of somebody that knew what he could do and who wasn't afraid to act when it was necessary.
"While it would be wonderful to talk a bit longer, Harry needs to return to the group that escorted Arthur here. For others it needs to appear that he is still with them, visiting the lords in the area until he will return to them after Beltane," reminded Morgaine everybody.
Harry nodded, having been informed about the plan in advance. The group would continue the patrol route in the area for the next week and return to the pier that led to Avalon two days after Beltane. His mother wanted to be sure that the ritual had worked as it should before his aunt and uncle would be escorted back to Camelot. From there on they would have to see if Aunt Guinevere would finally become pregnant. Harry got back into the boat and rowed it back to the border of the mist, which was opened by his mother this time, to let him pass more easily, as concentrating on parting the mist veil and rowing at the same time wasn't easy, especially as Harry didn't have much training in rowing a boat.
Sir Edmund had been briefed on the King's plans and genuinely hoped that this ritual that would be performed on Beltane finally gave the monarchs the long-desired heir for the throne. Or at least a child that would give the people hope that the Queen's barrenness had finally been remedied. Then they could hope for a son in a later pregnancy. For the king and queen personally, it wouldn't matter if it was a boy or a girl. They only wished for a child of their own to love and raise. While they loved their nephews, it was always different with one's own child.
When he noticed Harry rowing the boat back to the pier through the mist, he nodded to himself. Thus far, the plan was coming along like expected. Now they had to do their part to distract any possible opponents that wanted to profit from the King's current childlessness. He ordered the men to be ready to continue the patrol and to not talk about leaving the king to visit Avalon, which was confirmed. These men had been chosen for their reliability and loyalty to their King. They would keep their mouths shut about things they were told to keep secret until it was safe to talk about them.
When Harry reached them after tying the boat to the pier, everybody was ready to continue their route to check for possible trouble brewing in the area.
Guinevere was nervous. She had never participated in the rites of Beltane. Sure, she wasn't a virgin anymore. She had been married to Arthur for years and of course they had consummated their marriage. But it was different to sleep with him in a ceremony that some of the Christian priests condemned as indecent. She didn't see the reasoning, as long as the ones sleeping with each other were married. But not being in the privacy of their bedroom while doing it was incredibly strange. But she had already noticed that the priestesses living here on Avalon were much more open with their activities that they considered perfectly normal.
The past week both she and Arthur had drunk the potion that Morgaine had brewed for them to prepare their bodies to be in the perfect condition for the ritual to work and break the magic done to her to prevent her having children. As they couldn't be sure that Arthur hadn't been spelled as well, it was for example possible to block his seed taking hold in her when it would in any other fertile woman, it was decided to cleanse both of them at the same time. She had had long conversations about the faith her sister-in-law followed with both Morgaine and other priestesses. The faith wasn't evil like some people had tried to teach her when she grew up in the nunnery on the other side of the island.
It was just different. But different didn't meant bad, which she had come to realise more and more while being open to new experiences and teachings. She felt Arthur take her hand.
"Don't worry, love. The Beltane ceremony isn't anything to be worried about. Outside of the leading priestess and the chosen horned warrior to represent the goddess and the god that unite to bless the earth, all others will be in their normal forms. Morgaine also arranged that we would perform the ritual and the following unison separate from the other inhabitants of Avalon. It is a time where magic is powerful, you might get a strange feeling about it rising in the air around us while the goddess and the god representatives perform their ceremonial act. Morgaine and Taliesin will perform the ritual to free both of us of any foreign magic in our bodies and then participate in the other rites with the priestesses," assured Arthur her, "We will be on our own, even if we will unite under the open sky."
"I know, but it is quite different to what I am used to, Arthur. I don't fear the ritual or the ceremony itself, it is just the factor of not having any experience to fall back on," she admitted.
"I understand. I was incredibly nervous when I was given the task to play the horned warrior when I was younger. Before I met you. I never found out who the girl that played the part of the goddess was. It is different to other unions, but it can't compare to what we have between us. Simply because you are my wife, not an unknown woman, for whom I wasn't more than a partner chosen to perform a holy ceremony for her faith," explained Arthur.
Guinevere smiled at him at his honest words. She had always known that she wasn't Arthur's first, even if he had been hers. He had been honest with her about his life and education. As long as he didn't have any attachment to a previous woman, she didn't care. He was hers as much as she was his. They were in love, something no anonymous priestess would ever have from him.
Then Morgaine entered the room in which they were waiting.
"It is time. Taliesin is waiting for us at the stone circle where the ritual will take place," she informed the two.
Arthur and Guinevere nodded and stood from their chairs. Both were clothed in simple white robes held closed by a braided leather belt each. Neither wore anything underneath those robes. Morgaine showed them the way to the stone circle that was used for powerful rituals on the island. When they got closer, they could see that inside the circle there were two stone plates on the ground, which seemed to be prepared with lots of runes. Neither of them could identify more than a handful of them.
"Please lie down on the slates, Guinevere on the one to the left of you and Arthur on the on to the right," instructed Taliesin.
Arthur and Guinevere followed his instructions. Then, when they had laid down, Morgaine stepped forward with a small bowl and a brush in her hand. They knew why. Morgaine would add the last runes onto their bodies to connect them to the ones on the slates. Arthur and Guinevere tried to lie still to not make the drawing harder on Morgaine. The substance was warm and felt a little sticky on their skin, but it wasn't uncomfortable. Each got a rune painted on their foreheads and each back of their hands. When Morgaine was done with drawing, she placed a stone with another rune over each of their hearts and then stepped back and took her position next to Taliesin.
"The moon is in position, we can begin," commented Taliesin after a look at the sky.
"Goddess of the Moon, mother of life, as your high priestess, I Morgaine of Avalon call upon you to bless this couple that searches for help to correct an injustice done to them by some with evil intentions," began Morgaine the incantation.
"God of the Earth, father of light, as your high priest, I Taliesin, Merlin of the Order of Druids of Avalon, call upon your power to protect this couple that was bereft of the right to share their bloodlines to continue them for the future," continued Taliesin.
"The couple comes before you cleansed of any taint that humans can free themselves of. We call upon you, our protectors to cleanse them of the taint that humans can't easily free themselves of," stated Morgaine the plea.
"I call upon the power of the moon, the power of the stars, the power of this holy holiday for our faith to let them reclaim what they lost. Send your blessing and your power," called Taliesin.
He slammed his staff down onto the first rune next to him, which lit up a series of runes connected to it. Morgaine touched a rune on one of the upright stones in the circle with her hand, which made it light up too and the connected series of runes followed swiftly. The two switched in activating the runes that triggered their own series, until all of them glowed, including the ones on Guinevere and Arthur.
The couple felt a rush of energy go through them when the last runes activated. For Arthur this felt as if all of his muscles were strained and forced to work highly intense. The pressure building up inside his body was like nothing he had experienced before. It didn't hurt but it was difficult to deal with.
Guinevere felt as if her body was torn in all kinds of places, but predominantly a strong pressure built up in her womb, which she somewhat expected, as that was the area which was targeted the most by the magic that prevented that she could conceive a child. The pressure got heavier the more time passed and then as if somebody had given a signal, it burst out of her, leaving her with a strong feeling of relief, as if a heavy burden was taken from her. Then a heat spread through her body. A heat that she soon identified as lust. She yearned for her husband's touch. She wanted him to take her.
She turned her head to the left, where Arthur laid on his slate. He was looking at her as well. And his look mirrored her own. She didn't consciously notice that Morgaine and Taliesin left them. The only person she noticed right now was Arthur. Her beloved husband, who she wanted to be with right now. She rolled onto her side and held out her hand in clear invitation to him, which he quickly accepted. But he didn't simply lie with her, no, he drew her to him and claimed her mouth with his, intent on driving her to the heights of passion. She certainly didn't complain about that plan.
Okay, that's it for this chapter. Until next time.