“How did you manage this?! What sorcery did you use?!” Merlin demanded, grabbing Dave’s shoulders.
“None! I have n-no idea how I came to be here!” Dave stammered.
“You expect us to believe that you are here by mere happenstance?!”
“Whether you believe it or not is irrelevant; it is the truth.”
“Why, then, do you tell the truth, boy?” Arthur asked harshly. “You must be aware of the danger you have placed yourself in by confiding this secret to us. What could you hope to gain from such danger?”
“I had to tell you the truth because… I may have damaged history already,” Dave admitted.
“Damaged history? Merlin, what is he saying?” Arthur asked.
“What he means is that any sorcerer traveling to a different point in history must take great care not to alter or disrupt the events of that time. In my years, I myself have traveled into the past, strictly for the purposes of learning, of course. However, I always conceal my presence during those trips, or I risk disrupting an event with bearing on our current state,” Merlin explained.
“I… do not understand? That still does not tell me how history can be damaged,” Arthur pressed.
“Think of this way. Let us say that I wished to witness the moment in which Christ first spoke to the Apostles and called them to follow Him.”
“A momentous point in history, to be sure,” Arthur agreed.
“Yes. Now, let us say further that, in the course of my visit, I inadvertently did something to cause a native of that time to take a different action than they would have had I not been there. For example, if I crossed a road and startled a donkey pulling a cart, which then turned down an alley and crashed in the middle of another road. Perhaps this road was the one that Simon Peter used to travel to his work. My actions could have delayed him in such a way that, when Christ called to the Apostles, Simon Peter was not among them.”
“If that were to happen, then he would no longer be the Rock on which the Church was built,” Arthur gasped in realization.
“Exactly my point, Arthur! This one alteration in history could well cause a series of events to take place differently than we know, altering our own time in potentially disastrous ways. That is how history can be damaged, as David is saying.”
Turning back to Dave, Arthur asked, “And you say you might have already made such an alteration?”
“I am afraid so, Your Highness. I am rather familiar with the stories of your life and rule, what we in my time refer to as the ‘Arthurian Legend’.”
“I must say, I rather like the sound of that,” Arthur mused with a grin.
“Erm, back on point David, if you please,” Merlin urged him.
“Of course. The war with Mordred is a well-known part of the Arthurian Legend, but a part that many are unfamiliar with is the rivalry Camelot shared with Saxon. Much of that part of the story has been lost throughout history, save for a few individuals that some would call obsessed,” Dave continued.
“Such as you, boy?” Arthur chuckled.
“Yes. Now, I am familiar with Camelot’s efforts to form an alliance with the Saxons. This would give them the strength they needed to overcome the threat of Mordred. Lord Byron was part of that alliance, as you mentioned before. The problem is, according to history as I know it, the attack on Lord Byron’s carriage should have killed not only him and Sir James, but Madeleine as well.”
“But through your intervention, she lives,” Arthur whispered.
“Yes, and now you understand my previous look of fear. Now you understand why this must remain a secret,” Dave said. “Any further action I take in this time could have dangerous implications for the future I know. Every moment I spend here puts history in jeopardy.”
“Then we must discover a way to send you back,” Arthur surmised. “What thoughts have you, Merlin?”
“Hmm… how exactly did you come to be here, David?”
“Let me think… I remember I was practicing my archery with two of my friends, when one of their shots went high and flew off into the woods. I went to retrieve the arrow, and found it stuck in a tree stump. The odd thing is, it was not stuck in the side, as I would have anticipated. Rather, it was in the top of the stump, pointing straight down. It took every bit of strength I had to pull it out. Once I did, I looked up and noticed the forest was thicker than the one I had been in, and that was when I heard Mordred’s men begin their attack on Lord Byron.”
“I see… do you still possess this arrow of which you speak?” Merlin asked.
“I do. Sir Bedivere stored it and my bow in the armory.”
Hearing this, Arthur opened the door to the workshop and shouted up the stairs. “Guard! Bring David’s bow and arrows to us at once!”
“Merlin, perhaps I am being obtuse, but would it not be simple for you to travel back in time a few hours and prevent David from interfering in the attack on Lord Byron’s carriage?” Arthur asked.
“It would be simple, yet also disastrous,” Merlin replied.
“I agree,” Dave said. “If Merlin travels back in time a few hours, he may be successful in preventing my actions. But in preventing my actions, he would then be in a time with two Merlins: one in the forest with me, another in the castle with you. Without my interference, the Merlin with you would never have had the motivation to travel back in time to begin with.”
“Precisely,” said Merlin. “And without the motivation to travel back in time, the Merlin in the castle would not travel back in time. Thus, the Merlin that did travel back in time would disappear before he could take any action to prevent David’s interference.”
“In my time, we refer to this idea as a paradox, when simultaneous actions in time cancel each other out.”
“In that case, would it be possible for you to travel into the future with David, returning him to the precise moment he was flung back in time?” Arthur asked.
Dave’s eyes lit up at the prospect. “Is that possible?”
“Sadly, no,” Merlin replied. “Yes, I have traveled through time before. However, such an action is one of the most difficult techniques for a sorcerer to use, and comes with strict limitations. Most notable is the requirement that a sorcerer must be able to picture in vivid detail the time in which they wish to travel to. If they cannot do so with accuracy, the magic will fail. What this means for our purposes is that I can only travel into the past, as that is what I have enough information about to picture vividly in my mind. The future, on the other hand, is beyond my comprehension at this time, and as I cannot conceive of it, I cannot travel there.”
“I see… it is clear to me that, even in my wisdom as King, I am out of my depth on this matter,” Arthur said.
“Time is a dangerous matter, perhaps the most dangerous of all,” Merlin said.
“Sire! The items you requested,” a guard said, opening the door.
“Ah, thank you. You may go.”
Arthur handed the weapon and arrows to Dave, who began rummaging through his quiver of arrows. While most of his were yellow, he found the one that was neon green, the color Chris always used.
“This is the one,” Dave said, handing the arrow to Merlin.
“Hmm… yes. This arrow has been enchanted; it has known sorcery,” Merlin whispered as he inspected it.
“But who would have reason to enchant it? Why bring me here?” Dave wondered.
“I know not. Bringing a man of the future here is a dangerous act with unpredictable results. Either the one responsible for this is very wise, or very foolish.”
“Or very desperate,” Dave offered.
“Indeed,” Merlin said with a grin. “I must say you are quite an intelligent boy, David.”
“Verily,” Arthur agreed with a hearty laugh. “He appears to understand the dangers of your magic as well as you do, old friend!”
“David, I make a vow to you here today. I shall not rest until I have discovered the means to send you home. I do not profess to be omnipotent, but I am never without a capacity to learn. If you will agree to assist my efforts with your intellect, I believe we can discover the secret hidden within these matters.”
“Of course! Anything I can do to help!” Dave replied.
“Splendid. I shall need to do some research alone, but we shall begin our work together tomorrow,” Merlin said.
“Now, as to the danger Camelot faces by your mere presence,” Arthur continued, “I believe it best for you to remain in the quarters I shall assign to you, David. Do nothing, speak to nobody. As you said, any action you take could have dangerous implications for the future you know.”
“I agree. But… what about Madeleine? She is in as much danger as I am,” Dave pointed out.
“Until we can decide how best to proceed, I shall instruct Madeleine to do the same. With her father gone and her deceased betrothed a servant of my Court, the responsibility of her life now rests with me. And, as much as it pains me to say this, I must abandon my quest to form an alliance with the Saxons, for this is clearly not what history intends for us. At the next convening of the Round Table, I shall swear my knights to secrecy. To all the neighboring kingdoms, Mordred’s attack will have left no survivors,” Arthur said.
“You would give up an alliance with the Saxons?” Dave asked in surprise.
“Indeed I would. If what you and Merlin say is true, history is already beginning to deviate from its intended course. If I can make a small decision to prevent any damage from that deviation, that is what I shall do.”
“Impressive. It seems the legends of your wise leadership are true,” Dave marveled.
“You are very kind,” Arthur said, moving to open the door. “At the top of the stairs, the guard shall escort you to your quarters.”
“Thank you, Your Highness.”
Arthur closed the door behind Dave, still lost in thought at everything he had learned about this mysterious stranger. He turned to find Merlin seated at the long, rectangular table in the middle of the room.
“What say you, old friend?”
“I say… there may be more to our visitor from the future than even he knows,” Merlin replied with a grin.
“I apologize for my disheveled state, Your Highness,” Madeleine choked through her tears. “I realize it is not proper.”
“Shh, you need not apologize, my dear. The tragedy you have endured today breaks my heart,” said the older woman. Hearing a knock at the door, she replied, “Come.”
“Good morning, my love,” Arthur said as he entered. “How is our guest?”
“She possesses far more strength than she knows,” Guinevere replied with a smile.
“I am glad,” Arthur said, taking a seat in a chair near the sofa the two women were seated on. “Maid Madeleine, there are some important matters that I must discuss with you, if you are well enough.”
“If it is important, then I can be well enough, Your Highness,” Madeleine replied, wiping her tears from her eyes.
“Before anything else, I wish to express my deep condolences for your loss. In my limited time with Lord Byron, he seemed a man of great honor and integrity, and I know for certain that he loved his daughter with all his heart. And Sir James… he was a good man, better than most. He would have been a splendid husband to you. Losing two good men in one day pains me as much as I am sure it has pained you, milady.”
“Thank you, Sire,” Madeleine whispered. “May I ask… what shall become of me now that my father and intended are dead?”
Arthur sighed, knowing this question to be unavoidable. “With Lord Byron and Sir James now in God’s hands, I shall take custody of you myself, as Sir James was a member of my court. You will be safe here in Camelot, I assure you of that. However, I must make a request of you, and you may think me unkind for it, but I swear it to be necessary. I must ask that you remain in the quarters I assign to you and speak to nobody until I say otherwise.”
“What? But Sire, why?” Madeleine asked in hurt confusion.
Arthur lowered his head, rubbing his graying beard with his hand. “I am not at liberty to say, milady. There are matters affected by the death of Lord Byron that concern the future of our kingdom, and I am sworn to secrecy on such matters. I am truly sorry, for I know how my request pains you. Even so, this is a request from your King, and I must insist that you abide by it.”
“But Sire… when we first arrived, Sir Bedivere promised that I would be able to see David again! I must thank him properly for his courage!”
“I have spoken to young David regarding this situation, and he understands. Be assured that his courage is being thanked, for he is welcome here in Camelot for as long as he needs, as are you.”
“Yet I am to be a prisoner nonetheless,” Madeleine spat.
“Madeleine!” Guinevere gasped, fearing her husband’s retaliation.
“Fear not, my love,” Arthur said, waving her off. “Milady, I know that my command pains you, as it also pains me. I simply need you to trust that this is for your own safety.”
Madeline sighed in resignation. “Of course, Sire…”
“My thanks to you. The guard in the hallway shall escort you to your quarters. Until we meet again, Maid Madeleine,” Arthur said.
Once Madeleine had departed and the door had shut, Guinevere turned to her husband with angry eyes.
“That was cold of you, Arthur. I have never known you to be so cruel.”
Arthur squeezed his eyes shut; he so hated what he had just ordered the poor girl to do. After a moment, he forced himself to gaze upon his wife. She was eight years his junior, and still as beautiful to him as they day they married. Though a trace or two of age lines adorned her face around her lips and the corners of her eyes, her warm eyes, kind disposition, and flowing brown hair gave her an air of elegance and grace. She remained to that day one of the most breathtaking women in all the kingdom.
“I understand your concern, my love, but be assured that I would not do such a thing were it unnecessary,” Arthur replied.
“Why? What could necessitate such an order?” she protested further.
“I cannot say… not even to you, my Queen. All I may tell you is that it is a matter greater than Madeleine, greater than even you or I. It is a matter concerning the future and safety of every citizen of Camelot. Beyond this, I must ask for your trust… and understanding.”
Guinevere eyed her husband for several long seconds. “I do not understand, and I believe you know this. But… you have never given me reason not to trust you. I suppose… I shall continue to do so.”
“Thank you. Be assured that I am spending my every waking moment on resolving the matter of which I speak. Our future may well depend upon it.”
The six brave men entered the room, latching the door behind them. In silence they strode, each taking their place. They could have walked it blind, for they all felt more at peace within this room than in any other. Once each had arrived at his designated space, they drew their swords in unison and placed them on the table, pointing towards the small fire alight in the middle. Each of the five looked to the sixth, their leader for so many years.
“May God the Almighty grant us the wisdom to discover the right, the will to choose it over all else, and the power to help it endure. Amen.”
Arthur smiled at his closest friends and confidants. On his left was Sir Bedivere, his most loyal companion and a founding member of the Round Table. Next to him was Sir Kay, older than even Arthur and shorter in stature, yet none had the trust of the King like Sir Kay did. After all, he and Arthur had grown up together. Directly across the table from Arthur stood Sir Ector, the man who had raised him from birth. Though an old man by now, his experience was undeniable; he was often viewed as a leader in times of Arthur’s absence. Next was Sir Gawain, the youngest of the group, yet also the most noble. Arthur had long been impressed with the man’s sense of justice, and thought he might make a suitable successor when the time came. Finally, on Arthur’s right hand was Sir Lancelot, the most daring and accomplished warrior Camelot had ever known.
“Be seated, my friends. The Round Table has come to order.”
“Hear, hear,” they replied in unison, taking their seats.
“Our first order of business today is, as you know, a tragic one. This morning, Lord Byron, his daughter, and our own Sir James were attacked by Lord Mordred’s men as they traveled to Camelot. Lord Byron and Sir James did not survive, which leaves one less seat at our table. He was a magnificent knight, but above all else, a good man.”
“And our friend,” Gawain agreed. “He was the youngest knight ever to sit at this table, and a daunting seat it was to fill, in replacing Sir Galahad. Yet in spite of his youth, I saw in Sir James a fire that would light a shining trail into the future, if only it continued to burn. In his memory, we must now carry on that flame.”
The room rumbled as the rest pounded their fists on the table in approval.
“As such,” Arthur continued, “I pose to you this question: is there any man in Camelot worthy of filling the seat vacated by Sir James? Or shall we continue with only we six?”
“I know of no man worthy enough,” Ector said with authority. “To sit at the Round Table is not a guarantee for any knight, no matter how brave. Our ranks are not for rulers, but for servants seeking to the greatest good possible. We fight not for glory, but for justice, for peace, and for God. We cannot promote one for the sake of numbers unless he be worthy. I move the seat of Sir James remain vacant.”
“I second,” Kay agreed.
“All those in favor?” Arthur asked.
“Aye,” the table replied.
“Then it is decided. Now we move to the primary reason I have gathered you together today,” Arthur said, standing. “I am certain you all know of my extended negotiations with Lord Byron, having at last secured an alliance with the people of Saxon through him. In exchange, of course, Sir James was to be wed to his daughter, Madeleine. As I am sure Sir Bedivere has told you, a passing stranger spared the girl from her father’s grisly fate. This courageous young man, David of Brighton, had the skill and determination to shoot the last of Mordred’s men clean in the head, preventing his impending ravage of Madeleine.”
Again the room rumbled as the knights cheered this fact.
“Indeed I also applaud his courage,” Arthur continued. “However, in my conversations with him this morning, I have come to learn of some troubling matters as it relates to his visit to Camelot. This is why I must, for the first time, require the Round Table to swear themselves to secrecy.”
“But Sire, we have been sworn to secrecy on matters before, have we not?” Bedivere asked in confusion.
“Aye, but this is different. You men must swear yourselves to secrecy before I tell you what I must tell you. On pain of death and dishonor, I must have your vow of honor that what I am about to say to you men shall not leave this room under any circumstance. Do I have it?”
“May we at least know the reason for such secrecy, Sire? You are clearly troubled by something as it relates to this visitor,” Lancelot said.
“You shall understand once I have finished, but suffice to say that it is a matter concerning the future safety of all the people of Camelot. Now I ask again, do I have your vow of silence?”
One-by-one, the Knights of the Round Table voiced their agreement, however begrudgingly.
“Thank you, gentlemen. The truth of David of Brighton is that he does not merely hail from a land far from here. He hails from another time, over one thousand years into the future, to be precise.” Arthur waved his hand, silencing the expected murmuring at this revelation. “I know you may think me mad for saying this, but be assured that I speak the truth. Merlin himself has confirmed David’s claim to be true.
“In my talks with David, he and Merlin educated me on the matters of time travel and what dangers it can pose. As Merlin said, anyone traveling into a point in history that is before his own could unknowingly cause events to play out differently than we know them to have been.” He related the analogy of Simon Peter, followed by David’s account of Lord Byron’s death, an event that he unknowingly altered through his interference. The knights listened with intent, soon understanding the gravity of these things. “Be assured that David understands the danger he has placed us all in by his presence here. He and Merlin now labor to discover who has brought him to Camelot and for what purpose. My hope is that they shall soon uncover a means to send him home. But until such time, he is my honored guest, and has been instructed to remain in his quarters so that he does not interfere with any events as they are meant to be.”
“I would speak, Sire,” said Lancelot.
Standing, he continued, “As much as our guest seems to understand the harm he could cause in our time, both he and Your Highness admit that any action, no matter how small, could still upset the events of history. It seems to me that taking great care can only have so much success. As such, I wonder if it would be for the greatest good to… end this.”
“End it how?” Arthur inquired.
“David admits that he should not be here, nor should Maid Madeleine. Both are strangers in a world not meant for them, even if Madeleine does not seem it. I say the best thing we can do for the people of Camelot would be to end both their lives and burn the bodies, leaving no evidence of their existence. Cruel as this may sound, it is for the best, and perhaps even David would agree to that.”
“Lancelot!” Bedivere shouted, standing at his seat. “How dare you! The boy showed great courage and chivalry today, yet you would repay him with your sword?! And worse, you would end poor Madeleine’s life mere hours after she had been snatched from the jaws of death?!”
“It pains me to suggest this, my friend,” Lancelot said, bowing his head. “But our concern must be for the citizens of Camelot. They are whom we serve, and their needs must come before all else. As tragic as the situation is, neither David nor Madeleine is a citizen of Camelot.”
“But you do not suggest this out of justice,” Bedivere countered. “Verily, you suggest this out of fear. His Highness has said that Merlin and David are working ceaselessly to discover a solution, yet all you can think of is to resort to senseless violence!”
“Enough,” Arthur said, eying the men on either side of him. “Sir Bedivere, as much as I agree with you, I do appreciate Sir Lancelot’s concern for our people above all else. Sir Lancelot, in spite of this, I believe Sir Bedivere to be correct; you do act out of fear. And while David may not be a citizen of Camelot, Madeleine is. With her father dead and her slain intended in my service, the responsibility to her future now rests with me. She is now one of my subjects, as are you all. While your suggestion may be the simplest solution, it is also the most barbaric, and I shall not allow us to stoop so low. Such behavior is befitting of that traitor, Lord Mordred.”
“And I agree, Sire, provided that we are under normal circumstances,” Lancelot replied. “However, this is an extraordinary circumstance, and I doubt any here would contest that assertion. And with respect, Sire, you have only known this David for less than a day. How can we be sure that he can be trusted not to interfere in the affairs of our time, as it were?”
“Hmm… I suppose I could explain that any action taken by David in our time could cause a chain of events that results in him not being born, but I sense that would ring hollow with you, Sir Lancelot. But let us say that I devise a test for him, one designed tempt him into an action that could do potential harm to the timeline. Should he pass, would you trust him then?” Arthur asked.
“I would, if I may be the one to devise such a test,” Lancelot replied.
“And how do I know you would not intentionally devise a test impossible for him to pass?” Arthur asked with a sly look in his eyes.
“How do I know you will not devise a test impossible for him to fail?” Lancelot answered with a grin. “When you take a liking to someone, you tend to favor them, do you not?”
“I suppose that is true,” Arthur said as the room chuckled. “Very well, a compromise: you may devise the test, Sir Lancelot, but I shall be the one to judge the results. Are you agreeable to this?”
“That is acceptable, Sire. Now as for the test itself, I am thinking of something such as this…”
As Dave lounged on the plush bed in his quarters, he couldn’t help but feel the isolation madness beginning to set in. He knew it was for the best, and that anything he did or said could be detrimental to his future, but that didn’t make it any easier. Here he was, a man of the future, the smartest man on the face of the planet in all likelihood, yet he hid in his room. Quarantined like a leper… or perhaps a coward. Of course it was at that moment, as he skimmed through The Once and Future King, that his favorite book reminded him of what was important.
“The bravest people are the ones who don’t mind looking like cowards,” he read aloud. “Shit, T. H. White… you’re always one step ahead of me.”
Marking his place for the evening, Dave glanced over to the window, seeing that the sun was nearly below the horizon. He crawled out of bed and walked over to open the door leading to the balcony, feeling the warm breeze on his face. For the first time all day, he felt at peace and able to relax. He did not know what his fate would be at the end of all this, but he would not give up until he found a way home, or died trying. As Dave leaned against the stone railing of the balcony, he could have sworn he heard the sound of crying nearby.
“Hello? Is someone there?” he asked.
Looking to his right, he saw another stone balcony, which seemed to be connected to the room next door to his. Seeing the door on this balcony ajar, he caught a glimpse of a person in the shadows of the room.
“Is everything alright?”
“What? Who is there?” came a sweet, feminine voice. After a moment, a beautiful redhead in a sky blue dress walked onto the balcony.
“David!” she exclaimed, rushing to the railing nearest him. “I feared I would never see you again!”
“Are you well? I thought I heard you crying a moment ago.”
“Oh… it is nothing for you to concern yourself with,” she said, biting her lower lip.
“Madeleine, please tell me what is troubling you,” Dave replied, staring her in the eyes.
“Well… I have been ordered by His Highness to remain here in my room, and not to speak to anyone. He will not tell me the reason, but insists that it is for my safety. David, why would he do this? It is so cruel…”
“I… cannot say,” David answered, looking down.
“Wait… His Highness said he had spoken to you, and that you understood. You know why he has made this command, do you not?” Madeleine realized.
Shit! She’s observant!
“David, please tell me why he would do this,” Madeleine pleaded.
“I cannot, as much as I wish I could. I am sorry.”
“I see… he has sworn you to silence as well, yes?”
“He has,” Dave admitted. “In all honesty, I doubt we should be speaking to each other right now.”
“Well… I shall not tell if you do not,” Madeleine replied with a smile.
This is dangerous, Dave. Still, she’s as much out of time as I am, even if she doesn’t know it. I guess there really isn’t any additional harm that could come from just talking to her.
“I suppose… we can keep this between us.”
Madeleine smiled, taking in the handsome stranger that had swept into her life that day. He was rather tall, standing a few inches taller than she. Madeleine found this quite appealing, as most men she had known were her height or perhaps a bit shorter, save for some of the stronger knights. His dark brown hair was cut short and neat, and his face was clean-shaven. While this typically gave men an immature, boyish look, she rather liked it on him. He seemed strong, confident, and dignified, and especially so with his strong arms and chest. Before she realized it, Madeline was imagining being wrapped in those arms. In haste, she looked away from him.
“My apologies… I did not mean to stare.”
“It’s quite alright,” Dave replied.
“It’s?” she inquired. “Is this another of your words for a pair of words from your homeland?”
“Oh, yes. A combination of it and is. I apologize, I will try not to speak in that manner; I know it can be confusing.”
“No need to do so on my account, David. I rather enjoy learning of your home, and your vernacular,” she beamed.
Vernacular? Damn, she’s got quite the vocabulary.
“Well, since you enjoy it so, let me tell you this. Any word that combines two words is what we in Atlanta call a contraction,” Dave said. “They can be used to make speaking more efficient.”
“A contraction… how fascinating! I must try it some time!”
“Of course, but it may be best to only attempt to use them around me; most others in Camelot would not understand,” Dave said.
“Well, as King Arthur has forbade me to speak to anyone, I suppose I shall take my chances with you,” she replied with a grin.
As Dave began to wonder if she was flirting with him, a knock came at the door to his room.
“Someone has come to see me. Madeleine, return to your room and leave your balcony door open. I will let you know when they have gone.”
Dave moved into his bedroom and approached the door, unlatching it and cracking it open. On the other side, he saw a girl of about nineteen smiling at him.
“Do I have the pleasure of addressing David of Brighton?” she asked.
“Y-yes, you do,” he replied nervously.
“May I come in?”
“Oh, of course, please,” Dave said, opening the door for her.
“My thanks,” she said, closing the door behind her. “My name is Audrey. His Highness has asked if I would keep you company this evening.”
“He has?” Dave asked in confusion.
“But of course,” Audrey replied, strolling up to Dave. “His Highness has told me of your courage this day, killing that horrible man. Though I am here at his instruction, I must be truthful in saying that I would love nothing more than to lie with so courageous a man as you, David.”
As she finished speaking, Audrey opened the front of her robe, revealing her nude form underneath. Dave’s mouth went dry as the petite young woman began to run her hands over his chest. She was stunning in her beauty, with long, blonde hair and a lithe, thin body. Her breasts, though small, were so perky that they seemed to point straight out at him. As the tiny girl cupped Dave’s face in her hands and drew him down to kiss her lips, a million different thoughts began to run through his mind.
Holy shit… this is it! I’m finally gonna lose my virginity! Good God, she’s kissing me; she WANTS me! My first time is really going to be with this goddess! She’s gonna take my clothes off, lay me down on the bed, and my cock’s gonna explode into that hot pussy of hers!
Suddenly, the logical side of Dave’s brain kicked in, putting him into a panic. This girl was clearly a professional woman. What if he contracted a disease with no medicine to treat it? Or worse, what if he impregnated her, conceiving a child that had no business existing in the timeline at all?
As he debated in his mind, his thoughts turned to Madeleine. Though they had known each other less than a day, he could not deny that she had made a profound impression on him. Even with this beautiful creature throwing herself at him, he knew in his heart that he would rather give his virginity to Madeleine. As his passions threatened to overtake him, Dave managed to break their hot kiss and move away from her.
“Audrey, I apologize, but… we must not do this.”
“What is wrong? Do you not desire me?” she asked.
“I… it does not matter. I cannot do this, and I am unable to say why. Please, give His Highness my thanks, and tell him that it is due to my presence that I must decline his kind gesture. He will understand.”
“I shall do so. I am very sorry if I have offended you,” she said, still hurt by his refusal.
“You have not. As much as I would love to take you to bed with me, I cannot,” David replied.
“Very well. I shall take my leave. Sleep well, David of Brighton,” Audrey said, exiting out the door. She strolled down the hallway, finding King Arthur waiting for her at the end.
“What happened?” he asked.
“He… rebuffed me, Your Highness. He asked me to tell you that it is because of his presence that he had to refuse, but that he thanks you for your kind gesture. He said you would understand.”
“Indeed I do. Thank you, Audrey. You may go.”
With a smile on his face, Arthur strode down the hallway, entering Dave’s room with a knock.
“Oh? Your Highness, what brings you here?” he asked.
Arthur said not a word, but approached Dave, pulling him in for a vigorous hug.
“David, you wonderful young man, I knew I was right to place my faith in you,” Arthur said, shaking Dave’s shoulders a bit.
With a laugh, Arthur explained, “The girl that came to you moments ago was a test, one that you passed extraordinarily! You see, I informed the Knights of the Round Table today of our conversation this morning. While most believed you trustworthy, some did not. Thus, I proposed a test to show them your true nature.”
“Wait, are you saying… you did not want me to sleep with Audrey?” Dave asked.
“Heavens, no! Doing so could have had disastrous results for history, namely the conceiving of a child that would otherwise never exist,” Arthur said.
“That thought is exactly what stopped me.”
“Indeed. Had you been fool enough to bed that girl, I would have had no choice but to kill you where you stand. But now, I could not even if I desired to.”
“You would have killed me?” Dave asked.
“If you were to make such a reckless and dangerous decision… yes.”
“And you say you’re now unable to?”
In a flash, Arthur drew his sword from his belt and swung at Dave, who braced for impact with his arms. As he opened his eyes, he saw the sword inches from his face, a strange golden glow enveloping it.
“Is… is that… Excalibur?” Dave managed.
“Indeed it is. It seems the legends of Excalibur have not faded after a millennium. While I possess no innate magic such as Merlin, my weapon is an enchanted object within itself. It enhances my own sense of justice. If I attempt to strike another when it is not just to do so, Excalibur shall refuse to cooperate, as you have witnessed.”
Sheathing Excalibur, Arthur continued, “With your passage of today’s test, I now know you to be a man of honor, David of Brighton. Tomorrow, you shall begin your labors with Merlin, and I pray you shall find your way home. For tonight, be well and rested.”
As Arthur turned to leave, Dave said, “Your Highness?
“I… nothing. Nothing to concern yourself with.”
“Are you well, boy?”
“Yes… better than I have felt in years.”
“Very well. Sleep well, David,” Arthur said, taking his leave.
“David?” came a sweet voice from outside.
Dave rushed to the balcony, seeing Madeleine waiting on her own balcony, her red hair shimmering in the moonlight.
“David… why would you rebuff that woman?” she asked.
“It… it is difficult to explain.”
“Please, you may tell me anything, David.”
“Well… there are several reasons. But the greatest of all is that… I have never had sex before. I am a virgin, Madeleine.”
“Tis true? You have never known woman?”
Dave nodded, lowering his head in embarrassment.
“Raise you head up, my hero, for there is no shame in the truth. If so ashamed you are by this, would you not have leapt at the opportunity to bed a young, beautiful woman such as the one who came to your door?”
“Madeleine, the truth is… I very nearly did.”
“But you did not. Why?”
Dave blushed, struggling to find the words. “Because… I want my first time to be with someone special. And the truth is… there is another in Camelot that has captured my eye. When she was kissing me… I could only think of you, Madeleine.”
Madeleine gasped, silent for several seconds before she could reply.
“David… words cannot express how your true feelings move me. I… I am like you, in that have never known man. I fear that I am now destined for the life that Audrey lives, but… if I could but choose the man I would give myself to, it would be you, David.”
Stunned and flattered by her words, Dave still remained concerned for her. “Are you saying… you think King Arthur would make you a prostitute?” he asked, his voice trembling.
Madeleine now lowered her head, a tear streaming down her cheek. “I cannot say for certain, but I know of nothing else I could do, were he unable to pay my dowry.”
“But he is King! Surely he has the money to keep you well taken care of!”
“I know nothing for certain. All I know is… I am afraid.”
For a fleeting moment, Dave was tempted to leap from his balcony so that he might comfort Madeleine in his arms. Though he probably could have made the jump, he did not trust that he wouldn’t trip in the process and fall to his doom. Instead, he reached his hand over the gap, which Madeleine took in hers.
“I will speak with him. He and I have developed a trust and respect, I believe. I am certain he will confide in me.”
“David, you would do this for me?”
“Of course! I will not allow you be condemned to a life of sexual servitude. You deserve better, Madeleine,” Dave replied, squeezing her hand.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “You should rest, if you must work in the morning.”
“As much as I would love to stay up talking with you all night, you are correct,” Dave sighed. “Sweet dreams, Madeleine.”
“And you, David.”
Slipping her hand out of his, Madeleine kissed her fingers and reached out to him once more. Dave touched her fingers with his, kissing his own fingers as they parted. With a final shared smile, they each departed for their bedchambers.
While Dave passed out straight away from mental exhaustion, Madeleine lay awake in bed, unable to pass into sleep. Try as she might, she could not stop thinking about this mysterious young man who had saved her life, captured her heart, and, as much as she was embarrassed to think it, inflamed her loins. When Dave had reached over to take her hand, the feeling was electric; Madeleine had never felt this way about a man, not even Sir James. Brave and handsome as her intended was, she knew so little about him, and was thus less brokenhearted at his passing than she was her father’s. True, she knew so little about Dave as well, yet the fact that he would step in on her behalf with no thought of reward had burned itself in her mind. He truly was her hero.
As her mind buzzed with these thoughts, Madeleine could not ignore the growing wetness between her legs. Unable to stop herself, her hands began to roam her body, her left cupping one of her full breasts within her nightgown and her right slipping underneath the covers. For certain she knew this to be vulgar and sinful, but in those moments she did not care. Her hands pawed at her body, raising her excitement to levels she had never before experienced. At last, she felt an incredible sensation, even stronger than when Dave had first held her hand. Her body rocked and thrashed in pleasure until she finally relaxed and began to drift off to sleep.
I should not have done that… I should have restrained myself. But I… couldn’t? Is that the word? Ah, but no matter… I shall pray for forgiveness in the morning…
Dave was startled awake the next morning by the door to his room bursting open, hitting the wall with a bang.
“David of Brighton?” the man asked gruffly.
“Get yourself up, boy. Tis time for you to meet with Merlin, and he requests you wear the same clothes you wore yesterday.”
“Of course,” Dave muttered, crawling out of bed and slipping his khaki shorts back on. He had slept in his boxerbriefs and t-shirt the night before. After tying his shoes, he turned back to the man. “Ready.”
“Very well, with me, boy.”
A bit put off by the rough treatment he was receiving from the mystery man, Dave followed him through the hallways of the castle in relative silence. As they walked, Dave noticed that he was a rather short man, yet walked with a strong, almost confrontational stride. After a minute or two, he found the courage to ask a question.
“Are you one of His Highness’ Knights of the Round Table?”
“I am,” he replied. “Sir Lancelot, the most feared warrior Camelot has ever seen.”
“Wow… I have heard of your exploits.”
“Listen, boy!” he snarled, pinning Dave against the wall. “You may have won over His Highness, but I am not so easily swayed. I do not trust you. You have no business here, and I will stop at nothing to protect Camelot from the harm you may do! Is that understood?”
Woah! Guess he’s not the noble, gallant figure the legends make him out to be.
“Sir Lancelot, I do not mean-”
“IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?!”
“Y-yes… I understand.”
“Good.” Opening a door, Lancelot continued, “Down the stairs. Best not to keep Merlin waiting.”
Dave stepped through, the door slamming shut behind him before he had even taken two steps forward. Descending the spiral staircase, he soon arrived at the door at the bottom, knocking twice.
Dave pushed through the door, finding himself in Merlin’s workshop. The room was just as it had been yesterday, darkened with torches along the walls, which were lined with shelves of books and jars. On the large rectangular table in the middle sat a large book, no less than six inches in thickness. Behind the table stood Merlin. Dave was struck by how different the man looked from how he had imagined; the long white beard of legend was nowhere to be found, nor was the tall wizard hat. Rather, Merlin was clean-shaven, his stringy hair extending down to his jawline. He wore no majestic clothing, but rather a simple gray robe, adorned only by a pendant around Merlin’s neck.
“Good morning, David,” he said in his raspy voice.
“I trust you slept well?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Good. Please, sit.”
Dave took a seat across from Merlin, the huge book lying between them.
“Now then, I have been reading all the information I have available on time travel, and I believe I may have found something that could allow you to travel home.”
“Fantastic! What is it?”
“Yes, let me see… blast, where did I put it?”
Merlin muttered something incomprehensible as he walked over to a nearby chest, rummaging through it for a few seconds. Soon, he found what he was looking for.
“Ah! There you are!” Merlin said with glee, returning to the table with a small box.
“What is in there?” Dave wondered.
“Open it, and you shall see,” Merlin replied with a grin.
Lifting the lid, Dave now gazed upon a small, silver statue of a dragon, clutching a blue stone in its claws.
“I wish to see if my friend likes you, David. Pick him up, if you please.”
Dave gave a look of confusion. Was Merlin suggesting this statue was a living being? Still, he did not protest, and reached his hand into the box. As his fingertips touched the dragon, his question was soon answered. The dragon seemed to come to life, looking up at Dave and sniffing him twice. After cocking its head, the dragon jumped up onto Dave’s hand, walking around a bit before settling around his right ring finger. Its silver body began to contort as it wrapped itself around his finger, until the dragon had formed itself into a ring. On the top of the ring was the dragon’s face, now clutching the blue stone in its mouth. Once the creature had gone still, the stone began to glow with an ethereal light.
“W-what is this?” Dave wondered.
“Proof that my friend likes you, David,” Merlin chuckled.
“But… what does this mean?”
“Tell me, do you know of the true condition of the human mind? You see most men, even under the best of circumstances, are only able to access one-fifth of their entire mental capacity.”
“I have heard of that theory,” Dave replied. “Where I come from, we call it the ‘20% of the brain’ theory.”
“Indeed. However, there are a select few individuals capable of accessing the entirety of their minds. I am one of those individuals, as are you, David. You are just like me.”