Happy Ever-Aftering

Winchester, England -- Summer of 525 A.D.

Isolated in the lofty tower, less than a mile beyond the stout exterior ramparts of Camelot, Elaine worked the fine silks of her tapestry. Indigo blues for the darkening sky of evening; amber golds to symbolize the fading light of the waning sun; and spangled strands of silver to portray the horned moon creeping across the heavens in the wake of the distant stars.

The candle by the window fluttered...a spluttering moth, whose hold on existence was but fleeting. The flame threatened to expire with the merest hint of a summer breeze.

Elaine tilted her head in the fashion of a curious red-breasted robin as she hearkened to the clip-clop of a horse's hooves upon the paved pathway which wound through the woods toward Arthur's grand castle.

Stabbing her needle swiftly into the woven fabric, she hurried to the mirror, tilting it to reflect upon the comely knight astride the white stallion. She sighed, clasping her hands as though in prayer, as a crimson blush crept into her cheeks.

How handsome and virile he was. She had discovered his name and often repeated it softly to herself before she went to sleep. She whispered it now. "Lancelot." The word echoed romantically from stone wall to stone wall of her lonely chamber.

"Enough!" she wailed in anguish, as horse and rider disappeared from view. "I am tired of seeing the world only in images and the morbid shapes of half-shadows."

Elaine no longer cared about the threat which dangled over her head like the sword of Damocles...that accursed spell which, so it had been said, would descend upon her, should she dare to cast her eyes upon the form of Lancelot and the far turrets of Camelot itself.

In her haste, she tripped upon the wooden frame holding the tapestry. The delicate cloth unravelled like the torn web of a spider and floated...a faerie shroud...to the marble floor. Behind her, with a thunderous shatter, the mirror cracked from side to side and shattered into a thousand splintering shards.

Elaine ignored the painful pounding of her heart. In what she believed to be her last moments, she threw open the casement and cried out his name.

Reining his mount, Lancelot glanced toward the secluded spire. The enchanting sight stole away his breath. Without doubt, she was the most exquisite maiden in the realm, with hair the color of russet leaves in Autumn, tumbling in dishevelled curls and charming ringlets about her shoulders.

Respectfully, he inclined his head. "If I may be so bold," he shouted, when he was once again able to inhale, "may I ask how you are called, sweet lady?"

She gripped the sill and waited for tragedy to strike...waited for the damnation which would surely arise now that she had defied the hex. The minutes passed, as Lancelot urged his magnificent steed ever closer to the base of the tower.

Nothing. All remained as it should be. There was no curse...there was no peril or doom. It had been a falsehood. She laughed merrily, refusing to succumb to bitterness or resentment for the wasted years. She now had the opportunity to make up for lost time.

Her smile was radiant as she gazed down upon Lancelot's adoring and adorable face.

"I am Elaine," she told him.

Her eyes sparkled like polished jade. "Sometimes known as the Lady of Shallot."

Winchester, England -- Summer of 575 A.D.

Standing arm-in-arm, Elaine and Lancelot bid farewell to their guests as each departed through the glorious wrought-iron gates of Joyous Garde. It had been a sublime evening...the fiftieth anniversary of their wedding.

Soon, only two of the company remained, lingering to talk over old times and relive bygone memories.

There was no ceremony between them...King and beloved Paladin, Queen and most favored of Ladies. Their association transcended that of sovereign rulers and loyal subjects. Theirs was a deep and binding friendship born of mutual honor and true affection.

"I waited until now to give you my gift," announced Lancelot with a broad smile. Guinevere beamed brightly as Arthur openly roared with laughter.

Elaine feigned annoyance, gently pinching Lancelot's arm which encircled her still slim and supple waist.

"A surprise, of which all are aware save the intended recipient?"

Lancelot nodded and handed her an oblong box of dark green velvet.

"A looking-glass?" questioned Elaine, removing the silver-backed mirror studded with garnets and lapis lazuli. "It is beautiful, my love." She turned it around in her hand.

"But 'tis cracked," she remarked, her tone tinged with disappointment.

Guinevere chuckled and kissed her upon the cheek. "A memento," she confided, winking at Lancelot who grinned even more broadly than before. "A reminder of the eve that our most gallant and cherished knight did discover the love of his life."

Arthur took his Queen's elbow and steered her toward the door. "I do believe 'tis time we left them alone," he murmured. Guinevere agreed.

There was a magical promise of romance and passion in the air. She had no doubt the mood would sustain until she and her beloved royal husband reached the hallowed halls of Camelot.

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