Author’s note- I wrote this for a Literature assignment, and the prompt matched, so I figured, why not put it on Reedsy?
But I have to give a head’s up to y’all.
We’re covering The Lady of Shalott (Alfred Lord Tennyson) in Lit and the assignment was to write a story on what Lancelot would do after the Lady’s death (spoiler of the poem) and how he would find more about her. I do not own any of the characters, just the storyline. My parents were lost as to who these characters were, so have a list of them-
1. King Arthur- King of Camelot
2. Guinevere- Queen of Camelot, Lancelot’s lover (love triangle!!)
3. Lancelot- Arthur’s most trusted knight
4. Elaine/Lady of Shalott- go read the original poem before reading this, it’ll help you understand a bit more about what’s happening
I definitely recommend reading The Lady of Shalott and King Arthur. I’ve added a new character, but I won’t list her here. I hope you enjoy the story!
The lone knight fought the winds and rallied his horse up the steep cliff. To any on-lookers, the cliff was too high to even see the top, which was exactly why Lancelot was climbing it. Cold hills attract witches like moths to a flame. He’d get a coven if he was lucky.
Lancelot wiped his brow, his coal-black curls waving. His horse snorted with disapproval but they kept on going.
This was no time to give up.
He knew the journey to Aryzath would be a difficult one, perilous, even, but his curiosity was overwhelming. It was like an itch that grew and grew, and was not satisfied with scratches. It was rather suspicious, of course, given that the haunting Lady of Shalott had only died yesterday, Hallow’s Eve.
It was even worse that tonight was Halloween, a time of witches and evil.
It was a miracle that Arthur let go of his favorite knight, but Guinevere was thoroughly disappointed. It actually showed through her fake smile at dinner, and after wiping away tears induced by the cutting winds, he let his subconscious worry about Arthur finding out about their secret.
The winds stopped suddenly, snapping him out of his thoughts.
He was finally at Aryzath.
It used to go by many names, but now it had been reduced to Aryzath.
In the olden days, when witches roamed freely, it was a social hub of sorts. Huge stone slabs were propped vertically in a circle, and Merlin always suspected that they used it to draw their magic.
A famous coven had made it. Only one of the original three had survived throughout the witch hunts over the centuries. Her name was Rowen and she was widely feared. She joined another coven, and rumor had it that her coven met every Halloween at Aryzath.
Why was Lancelot going there?
He was going there because Rowen made the mirror that the Lady of Shalott looked into every day.
After inspecting her tower after her body was reported, Merlin told Arthur and Lancelot that the now broken mirror was magic and probably what cursed the Lady, if she had been cursed at all.
Lancelot climbed up a stone pillar after comforting his horse (who turned and ran after Lancelot told him to). The witches surely wouldn’t suspect being spied from above.
A single flame burst in thin air. Lancelot stiflied his almost audible gasp as the light revealed a hand… then a body… then a jagged grin and two purple eyes so dark they almost look red.
Staring right at him.
The witches had been waiting for him all along.
The fire spread, rapidly bluing, until all three witches were visible.
“What do you seek?”
Lancelot gulped. He knew better than to take any information from a witch, but his options ran out. No one ever saw the Lady, only maybe heard her singing every once in a while.
“I seek the tale of the Lady of Shalott.”
The witches cackled as they took in his request and his heart started to sink.
“Rowy, dear, you were right! Took the bait as easy as that!”
“If it was that easy to get him up here, I’d have just tied a hog to stick and waved it!”
The witch with the purple-red eyes raised a hand and the other two silenced immediately.
“I’m feeling kind today, so I think we’ll let him live.”
Her voice was nothing like what Lancelot had ever heard before. It was… between green and black. It made no sense that a sound had a color, but that was Witch Rowen’s voice. Between black and green, the color of evil, something banished from the world a long time ago.
Clearly, her “kindness” was a big thing.
“You seek the story of little Elaine of Astolat? Well, how can I not tell? It’s very entertaining…”
Her voice filled with malice and cruelty. Lancelot gulped and tried to cover his beading forehead. It was getting unbearably hot, and a strange smell was filling the air. Somewhere in his soggy mind, Lancelot suspected a spell was being put on him. He shook his head and put his magic wall up.
Merlin had taught him how to protect himself from magic spells.
“Little Elaine was so full of hope, so annoying. Her love blinded her so much, she was sure of her happy ending. I was a young witch at the time, and I’ll let you in on a little secret. I was jealous of Elaine because of her love. No one knew who it was, but she came to me one day, tear stained.”
“She found out that her love loved someone else. She was so heartbroken; she came to me. Little Elaine begged to find out who he loved, and to destroy her.”
Lancelot found himself edging closer and closer to the witches. Snapping back to reality from the trace that Rowen’s words weaved, he stumbled back. Rowen didn’t notice, so lost in her memories.
“Over here, my jealousy bubbled. I made her a mirror, that would force her to forget about her lover and memories of me until she saw him again, properly. I whispered to the slumbering king to lock her up, and he did. I didn’t expect that she would see him through the mirror; if she hadn’t been as dense to look away into the window, she’d have remembered everything about me and would know to report it to the king.”
“But she was that dense, and even more dense that she left the tower and froze to death on a boat. The end! Such a funny story, I know.”
It became very cold all of a sudden.
“I did promise to keep you alive, didn’t I? Well, I can’t have you blabbering to everyone where we meet up, so it’s time to wipe your memories!”
The other two witches, who had oohed and aahed throughout the story and applauded at the end, started grinning their jagged smiles. It was unnerving, and Lancelot further backed away.
“Who-who was the love?”
He reached for his sword, only to find that it wasn’t there. He fell through the ground, and into an entire hall of mirrors. A thousand terrified faces stared right back at him.
Rowen’s voice loomed from above. “You’re looking at him.”
Lancelot then realized everything. He wouldn’t remember any of it, but he prayed for the soul of Elaine of Astolat.
When he returned to Camelot that night, he respectfully bowed to Guinevere, confused, after she beckoned to him to join her in the tea room without Arthur, for he had no memory of any relationship, ever.
Witch Rowen would always tell the stories of barbaric endings of several prey, but she’d never once mention that she’d righted a wrong, a fateful night when she shed light on the Lady of Shalott.
Good witches don’t exist, but some witches are less evil than others.