In which I share some of my favourite arthurian-themed songs

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Let it be known that my music knowledge extends to the refined level of “this sounds nice” vs. “this sucks”. As such, when I talk songs, I usually mean the lyrics as they are what I focus on. What does this mean for my poor tormented readers? Another list of course! I swear, I’m not making this up as I go. I actually listened to these songs parallel to my studies for the past few years and I think that they affected, to an extent at least, my understanding of some characters. (It’s what I call the Mr Darcy rule: the first one you come across will ALWAYS be your golden standard.) As such, here are my ten favourite Arthurian-themed songs:

 

The Lady of Shallot

Sung by Loreena McKennitt, it was the first song of this genre that I heard (movie songs do NOT count, coughSwordinStonecough). Other than the lady’s admittedly gorgeous voice, I was most struck by the lyrics. The song is actually a condensed version of Tennyson’s poem concerning the cursed maid of Astolat, Elaine, and her love for Lancelot. However, instead of focusing on the court and Lancelot (who, for being called loyal to a fault, had way too many sweethearts connected to him), the lyrics draw attention to Elaine and her Rapunzel-esque isolation to a tower. Initially I just liked “The Lady of Shallot” because, well, it sounded pretty (sue me, I was sixteen!). Now, having the story as delivered by Malory, and generally having read a lot more on the subject of Arthurian romance I’m more struck by smaller details, like the pathetic fallacy that permeates the poem, the sense of isolation that the Lady maintains even after her story is made known to Arthur’s court and the unresolved mysteries of the story. Why was Elaine cursed? By whom? Why did she have to weave? Who put her in the tower? Would she have still died if she had just “looked down to Camelot” instead of her gaze being amorous and mostly directed to Lancelot?

 

Lilly Maid

While we’re on the subject of Elaine of Astolat, this song, by Heather Dale, is also about her. This time however, instead of the song just focusing on the Lady, it is Elaine’s words that are heard. Drawing from Malory’s version of the story, here Elaine makes one last address to Lancelot, recounting their relationship before she goes to the lake to die. What has always struck me about this version is that, despite the soft words and sounds employed; there is an undercurrent of resentment that doesn’t exist in Tennyson’s poem. Here Elaine blames Lancelot for her death and with lines like “With trembling hands I held your life inside you/ But still failed to earn your favour for my own” it’s not exactly a mystery why (for further information read the “Fair Maid of Astolat” episode in Malory’s book. And be prepared to dislike Lancelot more and more with each line.)

 

The Captive

This was one of those songs I found after one too many clicks on YouTube. It is sung by Heather Alexander and, although not explicitly Arthurian in nature, would fit right in with the family…The titular captive is a lady forcibly married to a lord, whose main character trait is that he is an abusive jackass. One day, a magician visits the court and, after bedazzling them, manages to free the lady and run away with her. There’s a bit more on the story, but these are the bare bones of it. I loved how each character had a distinctive voice, figuratively and literally. The lack of a chorus also helped promote the sense that this is a short narrative instead of a song. Why do I call it Arthurian? I imagine this would be the sort of thing Merlin would get tangled in when he was young and before he started babysitting the Pendragon royal line…

 

Hawthorn Tree

Speaking of Merlin, here is another song about him, this one by Heather Dale. The focus here is Merlin’s relationship with his apprentice Viviane (who later became the Lady of the Lake. Or earlier was? Timelines are tricky like that….) I’ve always found it interesting that Merlin is aware of his fate, yet still agrees to teach her all he knows, heralding in a sense the beginning of the end for Arthur’s court. In this song, both the nature of their relationship (“love or enchantment”) and Viviane’s reasons for imprisoning Merlin are left to the audience’s imagination. Even Arthur remains in ignorance, being only able to speculate on the former and being informed about the later by an unnamed woodsman. I could go on and on about the symbolism on the song but that would be akin to spoilers so I’ll refrain.

 

The Trial of Lancelot

Again a song by Heather Dale and it’s about Lancelot. Shocker, I know. This one however is a guilty pleasure of mine since, a. it’s the trial that never happened in the Arthurian cycle (you know, when Lancelot actually has to answer for his actions instead of leaving Guinevere to deal with the fallout) and b. it’s one of the only two versions of him that I can actually stomach (the other being the BBC Merlin one). Ironically, this was also the song that began my dislike of Galahad, who up to this point I only had passing knowledge of. My running theory about the guy is that because his shtick is to live like a monk, he has to ruin life for everyone around him (but more on that on a later post).  I also like this song because it sheds light on the friendships between the knights, instead of just grouping them together and assuming that names are enough information.

 

For Guinevere

Like “The Captive” this is a song I surprised myself by adding to the list. Sung by Heather Dale, it is about Lancelot and Guinevere near the end of the Arthurian cycle, when they have fewer and fewer reasons to hide (aka, more and more people die…). Personally, I think their love story is overrated in a Romeo & Juliet kind of way. –shudder- That was one messed-up story… The lyrics are beautiful however, and so is the music and since I first heard it when I started watching Merlin –and was shipping Merlin/Morgana something fierce- I choose to imagine the song is for them. There are no names mentioned anyway, so it could also work for any other forbidden couple you ship. Personally,  I thought it was about Tristan and Isolt before I saw the title.

 

The Prydwen Sails Again

This is a pretty obscure one (by Heather Dale), referring to an early Welsh tale where Arthur and co. invade Ireland in search of a magical cauldron that brings the dead back to life (early version of the Grail story perhaps?). The song is sung by a lady bidding farewell to her knight as he joins Arthur’s band. What has always confused me about it though is that the way the lyrics are phrased it is implied that either this is Arthur’s second attempt or that the lady in question knows in advance what will happen. Seeing that this is the story of a group of semi-mythical knights invading one of the Celtic Underworlds (or Otherworlds, depending how you see it) in order to bring back a zombie-making magical cauldron, I’m more inclined to go with option b. By the way, if there is not a movie with the aforementioned plotline, somebody needs to make one! I would pay good money to see it!

 

Kingsword

While staying on the subject of mystical items, “Kingsword” by Heather Dale is –surprise, surprise”- about Excalibur, its story and the prophesies surrounding it. I actually really like this one, because the language is so full of symbolism and allusions that it could easily fit in nearly all versions of the tale, including the more modern ones. And…that’s all I can really say about it. You have to listen to it to get it.

 

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The original poem is one of my favourites in Middle English tradition. The song by Heather Dale is based on the poem but has different take on things, being more of an Oak King and Holly King type of struggle instead of the ambiguous quest the anonymous poet sends Gawain on, resulting to an even more open-ended conclusion. You can see why I like this one… The song also has a really joyful tune, making it sound like a carol (fitting for a story where the main action takes place during New Year’s Day…).

 

Mordred’s Lullaby

This was the first song by Heather Dale I ever heard (I think…it was part of a YouTube binge…). As it is painfully obvious by the title, the song is sung to an infant Mordred by his mother (Morgana or Morgause depending on the tradition), foretelling his fate and pretty much teaching him to hate his father and all he stands for. And before any of you start wondering what sort of messed up thing you stumbled on, I’d like to point out that this song provides something that most of the older versions of the story tend to leave out: a freaking reason for Mordred to basically cause the end of the (Arthurian) world. I also like the fact that, despite the almost single-minded focus of the lyrics, certain phrases betray uncertainty on his mother’s part as well. On the one hand she wants revenge, on the other she is reluctant to sacrifice her child for that cause.

 

Wow! This post ended up longer than I thought. And if anyone thinks there’s too much Heather Dale and not enough variety, a. I’m writing this with no internet access and can therefore only rely on my memory, b. She’s done a lot of AWESOME Arthurian songs and more people should hear them! (-fangirl moment over-)

Liebster Award, yay!

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Well, this is out of schedule…. What can I say, I like breaking the rules. But! The amazing Irena S. has nominated me for the Liebster Award for which I am very grateful and happy and would send her cookies for if I could find a way to e-mail them. ^_^

 

Without further ado (I do love this word!) here are my answers to her questions:

If you could choose your theme song, which song would it be?

Her Name Is Alice by Shinedown, closely followed by Storm by S. J. Tucker. It really depends on my mood. I think the first one works better during/after a brainstorming or writing marathon, but the second is more accurate overall? Hm…something to think about now…

People often ask about favourite characters, but I would like to know who are your favourite villains?

You’d have been better off asking about favourite heroes, the list is much shorter. The problem is that I tend to like characters who are conventionally bad guys but then if you start to think about it gets all muddled in your head. So I think I’ll go with the original (in my case at least) moral loose cannon and say Loki. The mythological version, the Marvel Cinematic Universe version, any version really. I particularly liked the way he was presented in Joanne Harris’ Runemarks (and the books that followed it). I’m also very fond of Scar. I always got the feeling he would have been a better King than Simba (better singing voice too). Oh, and Mordred! And the Joker! And Bellatrix Lestrange! And…

What would be your dream trip?

A week in Glastonbury. And I have serious plans of not keeping it a dream for much longer. On a more extravagant scale, I wouldn’t say no to a very (veeeeery…) thorough tour of Ireland or island-hopping in Hawaii.

If you could own a fictional/fairy tale/fantasy pet, what would it be? Why?

It’d be either a dragon or a fire bird (sorta like a phoenix only this one is actually on fire). What’s with the potential fire hazard you ask? I get cold easily. So easily that my friends use my hands as cold compresses when they have headaches. Any chance to feel warmer (even if it is a flying fireplace with feathers) will be gladly taken. Also dragons are cooler than unicorns.

What was the first book you read on your own?

I don’t remember actually. Mum says it was an illustrated version of Three Little Kittens but it is still unclear whether I was actually reading it or had just memorised the entire thing. The earliest I remember reading was a collection of fairy tales at my grandparent’s place (which, incidentally was left there from my mother’s childhood). Funny thing, this was also the first book in which I came across Loki. Go figure!

Do you read multiple books at the same time? Or do you prefer to read just one book at a time?

Multiple books and various genres at that. And if you include the tons of fanfiction I read on the side it amounts to a scary number of pages. The way I see it, you’re not going to enjoy a book if you force yourself to read it, so why not deal with whatever other story is distracting you at the moment and then go back to the original book with a fresh mind.

Why did you decide to start blogging?

Honestly? I jumped on the bandwagon. A lot of people in my university’s Creative Writing Society were starting (or re-visiting) their blogs a couple summers ago in an effort to keep writing and not get distracted by summer. I joined the fad and then realised I enjoyed the panic of “oh-damn-I’ve-nothing-for-tomorrow’s-post-what-to-do-what-to-do” so I kept it up.

What is your favourite month? Why?

Either October or July. October because it’s still warm enough to walk around for ages but cold enough to justify me wearing my favourite leather jacket. Also, I love sweet pumpkin pie and Halloween. July because it’s warm all the time and I get to go to the sea and eat ice cream without getting weird looks and not have to worry about assignments (usually).

What is the last film you’ve seen? Did you like it? Would you recommend it?

I saw Ex Machina last night at my brother’s recommendation. Yikes! Never again! I would sum it up as the result of tossing Faust, Pygmalion’s story and your standard robot apocalypse origin in the blender. There were some really cool visuals and it looked much better than its budget would suggest but when I watch the movie I want to have a good time, not to me bashed over the head with how humanity is the agent of its own distraction. Would I recommend it? Only if you like the kind of movie that falls under the “mind boggles” category.

Name some of the (small) things that make you happy.

Chocolate! Books with interesting characters, sunshine, quiet, thunderstorms at night, windy sea, butterflies, freshly made pancakes, and I could go on and on…

 

That’s all from me then. Now, who to nominate, who to nominate…Oh, I know! Here’s to you guys!

Apricots and Cream

BlissfulBritt

Quinn’s Books

Corrybantically

The Girl in the Little Black Dress

 

L’Angolo Polveroso

Errol Seymoor

 

And here are my questions for you:

  1. Just to be contrary, what was the last book you read that left you thinking “Who thought this should be published?”????
  2. And on the other hand, which book you think is a must-read?
  3. Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?
  4. What do you like most about blogging?
  5. What do you find the hardest in blogging?
  6. Who’s your favourite book character? Why?
  7. Do you think antiheroes should count as good or bad guys in the “who’s your favourite hero/villain” kind of questions? I always feel the poor babies are left out!
  8. Do you think we should read the venerated Classics or more modern “good” literature at school?
  9. If you were Alice, would you stay in Wonderland?
  10. Cats or dogs? Just kidding! Seriously though, do you think there should be a movie adaptation of Cats, the musical? (which I would pay good money to see?)

 

Before you all rush off to answer my bizarre-o questions, here’s some rules you need to remember!

  • Once you are nominated, make a post thanking and linking the person who nominated you.
  • Include the Liebster Award sticker in the post too.
  • Nominate 7-10 (supposed to be 10) other bloggers who you feel are worthy of the award. Let them know they had been nominated by commenting on one of their posts. You can also nominate the person who nominated you.
  • Answer the ten questions asked to you by the person who nominated you.
  • Make ten questions of your own for your nominees.
  • Lastly, COPY these rules in the post.
  • ALL THE NOMINEES ARE FREE TO ACCEPT OR REJECT THE NOMINATION

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – Avatar Aang

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Author’s note: In which the fighting is over, there is sequel foreshadowing…again and the author closes on a sweet note to wind down from all the excitement.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: coming soon…

***Avatar Aang***

The battle of Ba Sing Se was almost over. Lia had come across Bumi at some point, and together they were cheerfully knocking out the last of the tanks that had been guarding the city. Lia looked at the sky. With the comet moving over them, heading for the west, everything was bathed in a crimson light, casting sinister shadows on the buildings. Contrary to what people might think the comet was neither Agni’s nor her doing. Separated, they had little control over nature’s forces. Allowing herself to contemplate that for a moment, she wondered if her equal and opposite would make an appearance. After all, by stopping the war they would have most certainly ruined his fun. Yes, she decided, he would have to appear. But where? Looking around, she suddenly knew. Agni wouldn’t trifle with the Avatar Spirit, and Ba Sing Se was Earth Kingdom territory and therefore immaterial to him. Pulling herself together she took flight. She had to reach Sozin and she had to reach it fast.

 

Katara had never focused more intently on healing someone before. Even when Aang had been wounded, it had been the Spirit water doing most of the work. Now all her skill and concentration fuelled the glowing water. Zuko winced in pain but the healing began to take effect and he found his body relaxing. Opening her eyes, Katara smiled at him, not bothering to stop the tears from running down her cheeks.

“Thank you, Katara,” Zuko managed to whisper, still weak from the lightning.

“I think I’m the one who should be thanking you,” Katara answered, pulling him into a hug, mindful of his injury. Zuko wrapped an arm around her, pulling her closer, needing to feel for himself that they had both made it alive. They met in a kiss that ended abruptly when something landed with a thud nearby.
Both turned, Zuko much less gracefully than usual, to see Azula unconscious on the ground. Standing over her was a young man who looked at all three of them with an expression torn between amusement and annoyance.

“Now that won’t do,” he said smoothly to the unconscious Azula, as if berating a child. “You can’t go and ruin my fun like that! Now how am I going to amuse myself?” He grinned as he cast his gaze over the destruction caused by the Agni Kai, and satisfaction radiated from his golden eyes. “A battle befitting of my name,” he said, addressing Zuko now, who was staring at him warily. “You have shown exceptional growth prince Zuko. Lia was right to take an interest in you.” He bowed to the firebender gracefully. “You will make a fine Fire Lord.” He took a few steps away from Azula and called over his shoulder. “Don’t judge her too harshly. She was hardly in control of her actions.”

 

Katara wasn’t sure what was going on, but she remembered Lia’s story about hers and Agni’s involvement with the royal family. Wordlessly she helped Zuko to his feet, one hand wrapped around his waist for support and the other close to her water pouch.

“We need to check on Azula,” Zuko told her quietly. Katara nodded and helped him walk over to his sister. A part of her could not help but pity the firebending girl. She didn’t have any more choice over her fate than Zuko had over his banishment.

 

Agni watched their progress towards his latest pawn and shook his head.

“No,” he said making a movement to their direction, “that won’t do. That won’t do at all. I’m afraid I’ll have to stop you.” But before he had the chance to do anything a fireball landed at his feet. Lia landed in front of Zuko, Katara and Azula, glaring coldly at Agni.

“You’re right,” she said as she took in the situation. “That won’t do at all.” Agni smiled and took another step closer, silently daring her. “Katara,” Lia said, never taking her eyes from the Spirit in front of her, “please make sure that all three of you are out of the way and near water. This will be messy.” The waterbender nodded and with Zuko’s help carried Azula off to where she had been initially standing, by a fountain.

 

The two Fire Spirits took their places at opposite sides of the courtyard, neither saying a word, though their expressions spoke volumes. Lia’s face showed only cold fury, Agni’s barely contained excitement. Wordlessly they attacked at the same time, Agni with small, sharp blasts and Lia with a steady current that swallowed up his flames. It twirled around Agni without actually touching him and for a few moments it was sent back and forth between them before Lia grew tired of the game and banished the flames with a move of her hand. Running towards her opponent, she continued blasting him with fireballs which he dodged, leading her around the courtyard and occasionally sending a blast or two of his own in her direction. The more time passed, the more of Lia’s control was drained and her attacks grew in speed and force. She was aiming to kill, balance be damned.

 

A pained moan distracted Zuko and Katara from the deadly fight and they both turned back to Azula, just as she opened her eyes. For a moment it seemed as though she didn’t recognise them. Then her memory came back and she sat up with a gasp. Katara made a move to keep Azula from straining too much. They had no way of knowing if she was hurt or not and besides, Katara was still slightly suspicious of the princess. Azula looked around, taking in the situation. The waterbender watched her with a mix of suspicion and concern, while her brother’s face showed only worry for her. Azula found herself wondering what was this all about. She expected to be left in the middle of the courtyard.

“Azula,” Zuko started hesitantly. His sister had made his life a nightmare for the last few years but now he knew that that hadn’t been explicitly her fault. His thoughts on the matter were not clear but for now he allowed his worry to override everything else. “Are you all right?” he asked softly.

 

To his surprise the princess’s eyes watered. He didn’t remember ever seeing her cry before. Azula threw her arms around her brother as she broke down.

“I’m sorry Zuzu,” she sobbed, desperate to explain about the voice. “I didn’t want to, I swear but he said I had to. That it was my destiny.” Zuko hissed in pain, his injury deciding to remind him of its presence, but he ignored it in favour of exchanging a look with his girlfriend. Tentatively, he wrapped his arms around his sister in an awkward hug.

“It’s okay Zula,” he said. “It will be all right.” That was a promise he intended to keep. Katara also placed a comforting arm around the princess’ shoulders, silently offering her support as all three of them turned to watch the battle once more.

 

Lia sent another current of fire at her opponent who had to bend to an uncomfortable angle to avoid being hit. Agni smiled at her. Whatever enjoyment he might find in manipulating mortals for generations, it was his fights with Lia that made him feel the most alive.

“Missed me,” he taunted. “Now you have to kiss me.” Lia narrowed her eyes.

“Kiss this!” she screamed before shooting lightning. Zuko gasped and tightened the protective embrace around his sister. He felt Katara scooting near him as Lia’s blood-red lightning crackled, and although her equal, Agni had to jump out of the way, lest the hit connected.

 

Rising again, the playfulness vanished from his eyes; he looked at her with an unreadable expression.

“So you are serious about this,” he finally said gravely.

“Took you long enough to get it,” the red-haired Spirit snapped under her breath before falling into a stance Katara recognised to her surprise as waterbending. A wave of magma reared up before Lia, growing in size and power as it raced towards her opponent. Agni raised an eyebrow and tried to redirect it back to its creator. When he failed to do so, he dropped his stance and bowed to Lia. She halted her attack, waiting for his next move, her eyes searching his. He straightened from the bow and took a step back.

“You have won,” he said with a small smile. “I will take a break from interfering with the mortals for a few years.”

“A hundred years,” Lia demanded coldly. Agni opened his mouth to protest but thought better of it. The wave was still looming over him.

“Very well,” he finally said. “A hundred years.” He took another step back. “Until we meet again Fire Lily.” Then he disappeared.

 

Lia waited warily for a few moments before returning the melted stones to their original place on the ground and rushing to her brother’s side. After taking a few deep breaths she offered him a bright smile.

“Do you get now why I hate being called Agni?” she asked casually, a tinge of humour barely audible in her voice. It must be the comet, she decided, because her fight with Agni had made her feel more alive than she had felt in a long time. Closing her eyes she made the fire that still burned at the courtyard go out. The comet was almost gone and now they could only wait for news of the battle between the Fire Lord and the Avatar.

 

Azula watched the red-head warily, and she tried to stay as close to her brother as possible without worsening his injury. Both he and the waterbender – she really needed to learn the girl’s name – had treated her kindly, disregarding the fact that she had aimed to kill during their fights. But what of the Spirit? Lia ended any thoughts the princess had on the matter by rising fluidly and helping the girl to her feet as well, supporting most of her weight.

“Shaking off Agni’s influence must have taking its toll on you. We should probably get you and Zuko to a bed before you collapse again.” Azula only nodded, not fully understanding what the Spirit was talking about. Katara helped Zuko to his feet and slowly, the four of them made their way to the palace. The four Sages, snake-like as they might be, could recognise a Spirit when they saw one and a glare from Lia was all they needed to return to their temple, no questions asked.

 

Inside, Zuko and Katara took the lead, the prince guiding them to his room. He had never been gladder to see a bed in his life. Katara’s healing had saved his life, but the wound still burned with every move he made. The waterbender helped him lie down with tender touches, before sitting next to him and holding his hand, her expression anxious. She too knew that the healing she had done earlier was simply not enough. Her eyes strayed to the two girls that stood nearby, both Zuko’s sisters. Lia’s expression was a carefully constructed mask of calm, but Katara could read the worry for her brother as well as relief at finding him alive. Azula’s guilt-ridden expression, less artfully hidden thanks to the shock and exhaustion pulled at the waterbender’s heartstrings.

“Do you want to stay with Zuko Azula?” she asked the girl kindly. “You’re not looking so good yourself and I’d rather watch over both of you until we know for sure what is going on. Neither of you are in any condition to fight.” Azula’s surprise must have shown more than she expected because even Zuko managed to crack a smile and, using his free hand, he patted the space on the bed next to him.

“Come here Zula,” he said softly. Without waiting for an answer, Lia led the girl to the bed and helped her out of her armour and between the sheets. Both of the royal siblings were out like candles the moment their heads touched their pillows. Lia turned to Katara.

“Will you be all right on your own with them?” she asked the girl. “I have one final thing to do before this is all over.” Katara nodded and then turned her attention to her two patients, tucking the blanket around their form as Lia disappeared once more. Standing over Azula, Katara brushed a few strands of hair from the girl’s face and watched in surprise as the Fire princess’ face melted to a soft smile.

“Mother…” she whispered in her sleep before edging closer to her brother.

The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell (1-148)

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Author’s note: In an attempt to not forget everything Middle English that I know over the summer, I decided to do a translation of one of my favourite romances. Expect inaccuracies but a lot of enthusiasm folks! ^_^

 

Hark and listen to the life of a rich lord,

Who had no peer while he lived,

Neither in chamber nor in hall;

In the time of Arthur this adventure happened,

And of the great deed that he himself did,

That king most courteous and royal.

Out of all kings Arthur beareth the flower,

And of all knighthood he bore away the honour

Wheresoever he went.

In this country existed nought but chivalry,

And knights were beloved by that valiant one,

For cowards were evermore shunned.

 

Now if ye listen awhile to my talk,

I shall tell you of Arthur the king,

How it once befell him,

While he was hunting in Inglewood

With all his knights bold and good;

Now listen to my tale.

The king set from his hunting station

With his bow to slay the wild deer,

And his lords were beside him;

As the king stood, then he was aware

Of a hart great and fair,

And fast forth did he glide.

 

The hart was in a fern thicket,

And heard the hounds, and stood very still;

To all the king said:

“Hold still, everyone,

And I will go myself, if I can,

With the skill of stalking.”

The king in his hand took a bow,

And woodsman-like he stooped low,

To stalk unto that deer;

But every time he came more near,

Into a briar patch leapt forth the deer,

And every time the king came nearer.

 

So king Arthur chased awhile

After the deer, I believe, half a-mile,

And no man with him went;

And at last to the deer he loosed an arrow,

And hit him hard and surely –

Such grace God sent him.

Down the deer tumbled wounded,

And fell into a great fern thicket;

The king followed very fast.

At once the king, both fierce and savage

Was with the deer and killed him,

And made it bite the dust.

 

As the king was with the deer alone,

Straightway there came to him a strange fellow,

Armed well and sure,

A knight very strong and of great might.

And grim words to the king he said:

“Well met, king Arthur!

You have wronged me many a year,

And woefully I shall repay you here;

I hold your life’s days almost done;

You have given my lands indeed

With great injustice onto Sir Gawain.

What say you, king all alone?”

 

“Sir knight, what is your name with honour?”

“Sir king,” he said, “Gromer Somer Joure,

I tell and say no lie.”

“A! Sir Gromer Somer, consider well:

To me slay here, gains you no honour;

Consider that you are a knight;

If you slay me as I am now,

All knights will refuse you everywhere.

This shame will never go away from thee;

Let go of anger and follow reason,

And what is amiss, I shall amend it,

If that is your wish, before I go.”

 

“No,” said Sir Gromer Somer, “by Heaven’s King!

Suchwise you shall not escape, without loss;

I have you now to my advantage;

If I should let you go with only banter,

Another time you would defy me;

Of that I am certain.”

Now said the king, “So God save me,

Spare my life, and what you will wish for,

I shall now grant to you;

It shall shame you to slay me while hunting,

You are armed and I am clothed but in green, by God.”

 

“All this shall not help you, surely,

For I want neither land nor gold,

But unless you grant me at a certain day

Such as I shall set, and in this same attire.”

“Yes,” said the king, “lo! Here my hand.”

“Yea, but wait, king, and hear me awhile;

First you shall swear upon my burnished sword,

To tell me when you come what women

Love best in field and town;

And you shall meet me here without my sending for you,

On the same day in twelve months’ time;

And you shall swear upon my good sword

That none of your knights shall come with

You, by the Cross,

Neither stranger nor friend.

 

And if you bring no answer without fail,

Your head you shall lose for your trouble –

This shall now be your oath.

What say you king? Let’s see; have done.”

“Sir, I grant you this, now let me be gone;

Though to me it is very loathsome,

I ensure you, as I am a true king,

To come here again in twelve months’ end,

And bring you your answer.”

“Now go your way, king Arthur;

Your life is in my hands, of that  I am certain;

Of your sorrow you are not yet aware.

 

Wait, king Arthur, a little whole;

Do not try today to beguile me,

But keep everything secret;

For if I knew, by mild Mary,

You would betray me in the field,

Your life first you should lose.”

“No,” said king Arthur, “that may not be;

Untrue knight you shall never find me;

To die would be preferable to me.

Farewell, Sir Knight and evil met:

I will come, if I’m alive at the day set,

Even if I do not escape.”

 

The king blew his bugle,

T’was heard by every knight and recognised;

Unto him they did hasten;

There they found the king and the deer

With visage sad and spirit heavy,

That had no desire for sport:

“Let us go home now to Carlisle;

This hunting pleases me not well” –

So said king Arthur.

All the lords knew by his countenance

That the king had met with some disturbance.

 

Unto Carlisle then the king came,

But of his grief knew no man;

His heart was very heavy;

In this sadness he did abide,

That many of his knights wondered at that time,

Till at the last Sir Gawain

To the king he said,

“Sir, I wonder very strongly,

What thing you are sorrowful for.”

 

Then answered the king immediately,

“I shall tell you, gentle Sir Gawain.

In the forest as I was this day,

There I met with a knight in his armour,

And certain words to me he said,

And charged me I should not betray him;

His council I must keep therefore,

Or else I am foresworn.”

In which romance is not all it’s cracked up to be

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Romance is supposed to be one of the more straightforward messes a person can and will (inevitably) find themselves in. One meets another, sparks fly, hijinks ensue, yada-yada-yada, happy ending (hopefully). Sounds pretty simple, right? No! So much so that this lovely gentleman, Andreas Capellanus, felt the need to set a list of rules regarding romantic love and its expression in his book, De Amore. Here’s a translation I managed to find:

 

  1. Marriage should not be a deterrent to love.

Since this comes from an era when marriage and love are not mutually inclusive…

 

  1. Love cannot exist in the individual who cannot be jealous.

Love = Trusting your partner? Nooooo!!!!!!! Othello had it right!

 

  1. A double love cannot obligate an individual.

What is that even supposed to mean? Don’t cheat on your lover?

 

  1. Love constantly waxes and wanes.

It’s perfectly normal to give your other half the Scottish shower treatment. Just don’t be surprised when they dump you.

 

  1. That which is not given freely by the object of one’s love loses its savor.

-insert innuendo and undue giggling here-

 

  1. It is necessary for a male to reach the age of maturity in order to love.

And this being the middle ages, I’d estimate “maturity” means around 16 years. Mid-to-late teens? Sounds about right.

 

  1. A lover must observe a two-year widowhood after his beloved’s death.

Not a day more or less!

 

  1. Only the most urgent circumstances should deprive one of love.

But…but…but…rule 4 said….

 

  1. Only the insistence of love can motivate one to love.

Ah…that innocent age before restraining orders….

 

  1. Love cannot coexist with avarice.

Jealousy is just fine though!

 

  1. A lover should not love anyone who would be an embarrassing marriage choice.

Well, that’s pretty restricting, isn’t it? Is the party line “Kind of star-crossed lovers” instead of “star-crossed lovers”? Because it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it…

 

  1. True love excludes all from its embrace but the beloved.

Especially that unlucky person you are married to… Although that MIGHT explain why in most later tales Arthur has no children.

 

  1. Public revelation of love is deadly to love in most instances.

“I’m not ashamed of what we have honey! I just don’t want your husband to run me through!”

 

  1. The value of love is commensurate with its difficulty of attainment.

Going back to my point about restraining orders…

 

  1. The presence of one’s beloved causes palpitation of the heart.

Psychic link joke in 3…2…1…

 

  1. The sight of one’s beloved causes palpitations of the heart.

So does the sight of needles or spiders for some people. I always assumed it had something to do with fear…

 

  1. A new love brings an old one to a finish.

Unfortunately not always as Elaine of Astolat learned…

 

  1. Good character is the one real requirement for worthiness of love.

What about that social standing you harping about in rule 11?

 

  1. When love grows faint its demise is usually certain.

Rule 4! Rule 4, bog-dammit!

 

  1. Apprehension is the constant companion of true love.

Especially when you sleep with your employer’s wife, coughLancelotcough…

 

  1. Love is reinforced by jealousy.

In case you missed the point in rule 2.

 

  1. Suspicion of the beloved generates jealousy and therefore intensifies love.

Also tragically murderous or murderously tragic scenes.

 

  1. Eating and sleeping diminish greatly when one is aggravated by love.

In the middle ages the way to a man’s heart was, in fact, not through his stomach.

 

  1. The lover’s every deed is performed with the thought of his beloved in mind.

Every deed?

 

  1. Unless it please his beloved, no act or thought is worthy to the lover.

That’s pretty all-encompassing. What if she’s allergic to peanuts and he loves peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast?

 

  1. Love is powerless to hold anything from love.

Then why is that every other dramatic love confession goes along the lines of: “I can no longer hide my love from you”?

 

  1. There is no such thing as too much of the pleasure of one’s beloved.

Second round of innuendos in 3…2…1…

 

  1. Presumption on the part of the beloved causes suspicion in the lover.

What’s that even supposed to mean?

 

  1. Aggravation of excessive passion does not usually afflict the true lover.

Two rules above: “no such thing as too much pleasure”. Also RULE 4. I think these count as passions!

 

  1. Thought of the beloved never leaves the true lover.

Until they find a new love or the two years of widowhood pass at least….

 

  1. Two men may love one woman or two women one man.

I feel like I should be making a rule 34 joke here….

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – Into the Inferno

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Author’s note: In which there are epic battles all over the place but the author focuses on the epic-est (and no, it’s not Aang’s) and the chapter ends on a cliffhanger just because.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***Into the Inferno***

Zuko and Katara flew Appa in tense silence. The prince was staring straight at the horizon, which had turned a bloody red, signalling the comet’s arrival. Next to him, Katara searched his face worriedly as his frown deepened.

“Zuko, don’t worry. We can take Azula,” she said soothingly. Her boyfriend shook his head.

“I’m not worried about her, I’m worried about Aang. What if he doesn’t have the guts to take out my father? ‌ What if he loses‌?” he asked pessimistically.

“Aang won’t lose. He’s gonna come back. He has to.” The last part was said more to herself than to the firebender next to her. Katara couldn’t help feeling a little doubtful herself.

 

Back in Ba Sing Se, Lia felt the arrival of the comet like a gasp of fresh air. She gave the men lined up next to her a quick once-over and saw the two firebenders standing a little straighter despite their age.

“Ba Sing Se, the Order of the White Lotus is here,” Bumi said, unusually serious.

“Here to set you free,” Pakku added solemnly. Iroh took a step forward.

“Only once every hundred years can a firebender experience this kind of power,” he mused, taking a deep breath. He took several more deep breaths, a ring of fire surrounding them, the flames dancing in tune with his heartbeat. Abruptly he gathered them in an enormous ball of fire and thrust it in the direction of the city. The blast demolished part of the wall and the five Masters, plus the Spirit, charged forward. The rest of the Order quickly followed its leaders.

 

Pakku was the first to attack, pulling water from a nearby stream, with Piandao following closely behind, taking care of any soldiers that the master waterbnder’s tidal wave missed. Jeong Jeong had positioned himself on a crossroad in a different section of the city and created his signature walls of fire, melting the tanks that came against him. The rest of the Order was fighting soldiers spread all over the city. From Lia the only thing that could be seen was a blur and a faint smell of smoke that seemed to linger wherever she passed as she raced through the city, knocking soldiers out, melting tanks and generally having the time of her life.

 

Compared to the chaos that reigned in Ba Sing Se, Sozin was draped in an almost oppressive silence. At the ceremonial staircase in front of the palace Azula was kneeling, preparing for her coronation. She was dressed in the heavy robe tradition dictated but her usually impeccable topknot was a tangled mess. Pale faced and tense she was far cry from her usual perfect self. The head Sage took the Fire Lord diadem and stood behind her.

“By decree of Phoenix King Ozai, I now crown you Fire Lord…” he paused when he heard a strange noise and looked up. Azula turned to him annoyed.

“What are you waiting for? ‌ Do it!” But then she heard it to, the groan of an air bison. Snapping her head forward she saw Appa landing at the side of the courtyard and her brother and the Water Tribe girl jumping down.

“Sorry, but you’re not going to become Fire Lord today. I am.” Zuko took a step forward confidently. Azula couldn’t mute the slightly crazed edge to her laughter.

“You’re hilarious,” she said. Katara walked next to Zuko and glared at the princess.

“And you’re going down,” said the waterbender. The Sage made a motion to crown Azula but she stopped him. Standing up, she smiled maliciously at her brother.

“Wait. You want to be Fire Lord? ‌ Fine. Let’s settle this. Just you and me, brother. The showdown that was always meant to be. Agni Kai!” Zuko’s eyes narrowed at her words but she didn’t notice, not any more than she noticed the soft voice that had been whispering to her since her grandfather had died.

“You’re on,” came the answer.

 

Katara’s eyes widened in alarm when she heard the dare and Zuko’s answer.

“What are you doing‌?” she hissed concerned. “She’s playing you. She knows she can’t take us both so she is trying to separate us.” Zuko nodded in agreement.

“I know. But I can take her this time.”

“But even you admitted to your uncle that you would need help facing Azula.”

“There’s something off about her, I can’t explain it but she’s slipping. Remember what Lia told us? Perhaps she’s fighting against his influence.” He looked at her with a softer look. “And this way, no one else has to get hurt.” Katara tightened her lips but nodded in resignation. She should have known that Zuko wouldn’t risk her safety. She would have done the same.
The Fire Sages retreated and the two siblings took their positions at opposite sides of the courtyard. Azula turned and shrugged the Fire Lord’s robes off her shoulders.

“I’m sorry it has to end this way, brother,” she said the last word venomously. Zuko slid into his stance.

“No, you’re not,” he answered simply. Azula’s smile was chilling as she attacked him first. With the comet over them they were both at their most powerful. Zuko brought his arms up and blocked, using his own scarlet fire to block Azula’s blue flames. Before the fire had a chance to die Azula attacked again, propelling herself forward and shooting another jet of fire. Zuko blocked again, never attacking himself, intent on tiring his sister out.

 

As the flames weakened he was vaguely aware of some of the buildings around them catching fire but he was focused solely on Azula’s blue flames. They collided with his own red ones for a moment before rushing towards him. Zuko used one hand to guard himself while he sent his own stream of fire at his sister. The battle came to a standstill, until Azula noticed the damage done on her side of the courtyard and charged at her brother furiously. Zuko surrounded himself in flames, drawing on the tricks he learned from his lessons with Lia and forcing Azula to back down. She was breathing hard now and looked at her older brother, scared for the first time. Gritting her teeth she stood up again to face the two fireballs that came in her direction. Azula was sent flying to the ground.

 

She forced herself to her feet, her hair falling unevenly across her face as she glared at her brother, who stood straight-backed, barely ruffled.

“No lightning today‌?” Zuko taunted. “What’s the matter‌? Afraid I’ll re-direct it‌?” Azula jumped to her feet.

“Oh, I’LL SHOW YOU LIGHTNING!” she yelled, beginning the familiar movements she’d taught herself. Lightning crackled around her and her eyes narrowed at her brother before a movement caught her attention. Katara had stepped away from the protection of the pillars and stood wide open for an attack. Azula found herself knowing that this would hurt her brother more than anything she could do to him personally. With a smirk, she let the lightening loose in the waterbender’s direction.

 

Zuko followed its graceful arc, his eyes widening in horror. Katara’s face was frozen in fear as she watched her death come to her. Without thinking, Zuko threw himself between the blast and the waterbender. His arms struggled to redirect the electricity out of his body but he wasn’t focused enough and some of it passed through his heart. He fell to the ground twitching in pain as the last bit of lightening left his body. Katara seemed to be brought back to life by his pained cry.

“Zuko!” she cried, coating her hands in water, her only thought to heal him before it was too late. Nobody noticed Azula freeze when her lightning connected with her brother, nor when she fell to the ground, clutching her head in an attempt to make the voice quiet down as the reality of what she had just done hit her.

Strawberry Moon

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It hums in my blood; the moon’s sudden madness,

Long before the bloodied sun has ever set.

Around me the people, they all can feel it,

And speak a bit louder, laugh a bit stronger,

And their movements, their movements are a dance.

 

The strawberry moon hums in my blood

And gladly I obey its calling.

Wrapping myself in a plethora of flowery sink,

Pinning a rose in my hair and crescent on my neck.

Tonight I shall be daring, shall not hide or blush;

I’m of the moon’s touched tonight.

 

I’ll swing my hips to the sound of drums

And lay against the sun-baked stones.

Long after Selena takes to sky,

I’ll draw the cards – to read under her light

What may or may not, what friends

And lovers and even foes

The summer tide will bear me;

All under the gaze of the strawberry moon.