This is a newly-written piece of a story I hope to finish someday, called The Knight and the Not-Quite Lady. The main character, Wynifred (Wynne) deWyck, comes to Camelot to learn how to be a proper young lady. She soon falls in love with Sir Gawain and seeks to win his heart. However, this scene is just before she notices him, and anyone familiar with Arthurian Legend will recognize this scene as borrowed from “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”
Wynne picked up the slice of sweetbread on her plate and looked at it with something akin to disgust. Sighing, she took a bite and chewed. She chewed and chewed until the already-moist pastry turned to mush in her mouth, then swallowed with some difficulty. Grimacing, she tossed the offending sweetbread onto her plate and sat back in her seat to gaze around the room. Ladies of the Court danced around the room, trying to capture the attention of their favorite knights, hoping to meet beneath the mistletoe. Knights and squires piled around tables, drinking mead and regaling one another with tales of their adventures. Jesters, harpers, and troubadours made their rounds of the Great Hall, providing entertainment for the guests.
Eight days into the Yuletide Feast, and everyone at Camelot was still as jolly and animated as they had been when the Feast began on Christmas Eve. Everyone except Wynne. She had enjoyed the revelry as much as everyone else when it first began, but now all the gaiety and gluttony were nothing more than an assault on her senses, and she wished to excuse herself from the gathering, if only Lady Magdalen would allow it. Why, she almost wished to be seated in the solarium with her needlework, so tired was she of playing party.
Tearing her eyes away from the scene before her, Wynne slipped her fingers inside the neck of her gown and drew out the lovely pendant her father had sent her as a Yule gift. She held it up and gazed at it adoringly, admiring the way the torchlight glinted off the gold and made the jewels sparkle. She knew it wasn’t as costly or as fine as the jewels many of the other young ladies-in-training had received, but to her it was still precious. She amused herself by slipping the broad circlet of gold on her finger, wondering if she would ever find someone who would stir her heart to love, or more importantly, someone who could love a clumsy, improper young lady as herself.
Tucking the pendant back inside her gown, she let her gaze roam the room once more. To her right, she saw two jesters juggling pieces of fruit for King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. Both appeared enthralled, as though they had never seen a feat so fascinating. Wynne curled her lip, bored by the now-dull display; one could only watch jesters lob apples and pears for so long. A sudden vision of what would happen if she rolled an apple under their feet made her smile for the first time that evening. Now that would be entertaining!
The sound of tinkling bells drew her attention, and she turned to see one of the younger troubadours approaching. The pimply-faced lad, not much older than Wynne herself, stopped in front of Lavinia and Bronwyn. As he gifted them with a wide grin, they exchanged a glance, their expressions full of distaste. Feeling sorry for the young man, Wynne narrowed her eyes at the two young hoity-toits. She sent forth a fervent wish that he would further scandalize them by composing, on the spot, a ballad that praised their beauty and confessed his undying love. The thought made her erupt in amused giggles as she imagined their mortification over Lavinia’s Lay and Bronwyn’s Ballad.
Unfortunately, Wynne’s giggles turned to groans as the inept young musician began plucking the protesting strings of his lyre. It was obvious he knew only one song, the same song he had strummed no fewer than five times already that evening. It was also painfully obvious that in his case, practice was not leading anywhere near perfection. Wynne clapped her hands over her ears, slumped in her seat until her head rested on the table, and let out a moan of misery.
What happened next erased all traces of boredom and misery from Wynne’s mind, wiped the unladylike grimaces from the faces of Lavinia and Bronwyn, and made the troubadour drop his lyre and let out a voice-cracking, unmanly shriek. Without warning, the outer doors to the Great Hall flew open with a thunderous crash. A frigid wind rushed into the Great Hall, bringing with it a shimmering whirlwind of ice and snow. The festive atmosphere erupted in chaos as ladies screamed and swooned.
Before anyone could react, a strange personage on horseback charged into the room. He wore no armor or helmet, yet Wynne was certain he was a knight. Likewise, he carried no sword, mace, or shield, only a large holly branch that had been polished so finely that it seemed to glow. Although he carried no sword, he wore a jewel-encrusted baldric that glittered gold and green in the torchlight.
The strange knight was dressed from head to toe in all the shades of green Wynne had seen in the fields and forests surrounding Camelot: His breeches were the deep green of moss, and his tunic the rich, robust green of the evergreens. His mantle was the vibrant green of dew-wet ferns, and it was lined with white ermine and embroidered with darker green leaves and silver and gold butterflies that were so lifelike their wings seemed to flutter.
He was a giant of a man; even astride his great beast of a horse, she could tell he was at least a head taller than the tallest knight of Camelot. That alone made him a strange sight to behold, but even stranger still, Wynne saw that the knight’s complexion matched the green of the jester’s pears, and his shoulder-length, corkscrew-curled hair was green as the leaves embroidered on his mantle. Likewise, his steed was the gentle yellow-green of the spring buds on her favorite pear tree, with mane and tail the darker green of the lily pads in the moat.
Wynne tore her eyes away from the spectacle long enough to chance a look around the Great Hall. Not surprisingly, the other ladies-in-training also sat staring at the knight, their mouths agape in most unladylike fashion. Even Lady Magdalen seemed to have forgotten her ever-precious propriety as she openly gawked instead of remaining aloof and unaffected.
It quickly became apparent that the knight, imposing though he was, had not come to Camelot looking for a battle. As that realization sank in, the tense mood in the Great Hall lessened, and everyone looked to King Arthur to see how he would handle the situation.