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The Champion's Prize

Young divorcee discovers her wild side after hours at the Renaissance Fair
The crowd gasped as the Green Knight swung his two-handed pole–axe down against the helmet of the Black Squire; the ringing blow echoed across the tourney field as the young squire fell to his knees then slowly pitched forward into the sandy earth. The Green Knight turned and surveyed the field; six opponents lay sprawled in the dirt. Only the Red Knight remained. Pausing briefly to acknowledge the crowd’s cheers, the Green Knight stepped up to the weapon rack and selected a triangular shield and single-handed sword. He then strode purposefully towards his foe, who stood at the center of the field breathing heavily and surrounded by fallen adversaries.

Stopping just outside of the Red Knight’s reach, the Green Knight performed a graceful salute to his opponent and took his guard stance. The Red Knight raised his round shield and slapped his sword sharply against it in answer. Both men grinned broadly behind their metal face grills as they slowly began to circle one another, vigilantly looking for any weakness or opening in their opponent’s guard. Both Knights were tall, but where the Green Knight was lean and wiry, the Red Knight was mountainous and ursine.

The crowd was hushed as all eyes followed the two warriors as they circled each other warily, changing their guard constantly to keep their opponent guessing their intent. The Green Knight launched a flurry of feints, testing his rival’s defense and trying to bait him into overextending. The Red Knight raised his sword and surged forward before suddenly stepping back out of range, shaking his head and grinning. He would not so easily fall for that!

The Warriors resumed their predatory circling till the Red Knight, sensing an advantage, leapt forward with surprising speed for such a large man and delivered a flurry of powerful blows. The Green Knight stood his ground, blocking his opponent’s attacks with shield and sword. The crowd cheered as the ringing blows echoed through the wooded valley. The two men separated once more seemingly none the worse for wear, apart from the Green Knight’s ostrich feather plume which was now missing a few of its feathers.

Armor clanking, the two men collided again and exchanged furious blows as the crowd roared. The Red Knight grinned, seeing an opening in his rival’s defense. In the heat of combat the Green Knight had raised his shield too high while warding off his opponents heavy overhand blows. After throwing a high feint the Red Knight lunged forward and struck with the back of his blade at the Green Knight’s ribs. Too late he realized it was a trap, as his wary opponent dropped his shield back into position and spun out of the attack. The Green Knight delivered a stunning blow over the top of his rival’s shield, striking him square in the metal face grill of his helmet. The Red Knight grimaced and muttered a silent curse as his ears rang from the blow. Ever the showman, he gave his rival a final salute before slowly toppling into the sandy earth like a felled tree, much to the delight of the cheering crowd.

The Green Knight saluted his fallen adversary before removing his helmet and acknowledging the crowd. He was handsome, with long dark wavy hair, a broad smile across his dust and sweat grimed face. As the trumpets rang out a fanfare the defeated warriors rose to their feet and dusted themselves off, forming up in front of the grandstand where the tournament Marshal and the ladies were seated. The Green Knight, introduced by the announcer as Sir William Fitzhugh, was presented with a delicate crown woven with flowers and ribbons. He in turn presented this to his lady, a pretty redhead with long curly hair who was a full head shorter than him. Announcing loudly that his lady, Kathryn O’Connor, was the festival’s Queen of Love and Beauty, he placed the delicate crown upon her head as she beamed at him. Joining hands they turned towards the tourney field and bowed as they received the cheers of the fighters and the applause of the spectators. The victorious couple then made their way down to the field, the other warriors falling in behind them with their ladies as they paraded once around the arena in the final act of the day’s tournament.

After completing their circuit of the tourney field, the company dispersed; some chatted with members of the public or posed for photos while others, exhausted from the days exertions, made their way back to the arming tents, took off their armor and washed down the dust with a cold beer. The crowd of tourists that had been watching from the grandstands began melting away, heading back to the cool shade of the pines where the bulk of the Renaissance Fair was set up. Although it was late September and pleasantly cool, the altitude of the Arizona high country gave the sun added ferocity on this nearly cloudless day.

--*--

“Come on Rachel – or rather Lady Evelyn,” Zoë said with a mischievous smile, “Time for introductions.”

“I know that look!” I whispered to her. “You’re scheming! Are you setting you up with one of the Knights? You are, aren’t you!”

“You’ll just have to wait and see,” Zoë teased, a playful grin spreading across her face.

“Well if you do, make sure they understand the armor comes off first!” I laughed. “I loved Excalibur as much as you did, but that love scene looked damn uncomfortable!”

“Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!” Zoë replied smirking.

I could only shake my head and smile. She probably had tried it!

--*--

Zoë was an absolute gem, and my best friend in the whole world. The kind of friend who would not only help you move furniture, but who would help you move a body. We had been good friends since college, where we shared off-campus housing while attending ASU. We bonded instantly despite the fact that we were complete opposites in many ways; where I was serious, studious and socially awkward, Zoë was free-spirited, carefree and possessed of a magnetic personality that always made her the life of the party. Her baby blue eyes, long blonde hair and above all her charm more than compensated for the fact that she had always been a plus sized girl. But she knew how to work it, and was one of the sexiest women I have ever known. After graduation we had gone our separate ways, she to the excitement of San Francisco (where she worked for a time as a professional dominatrix, making big money spanking Japanese business executives), and I to the drab suburbs and an ill-fated marriage.

I had met Ron my senior year in college. He was a good looking, clean-cut all American type; from a good family, played lacrosse, very active in the church. He was a serious and ambitious young man for a serious and ambitious young woman. We were married shortly after graduation and bought a house near his parents place in an upscale community in Mesa Arizona.



Not two years into my marriage my world fell apart when I discovered that Ron was having an affair with Ashley, one of my closest friends. When I confronted him in public, word quickly spread and to my shock and horror I was the one ostracized by the community, for making Ron’s betrayal a public matter and for failing in my “wifely duties”. It turns out that Ashley was also from a high-ranking family within the church, and had always been their preferred match for Ron; the church elders knew of the affair all along and did nothing. I was the outsider, and I was thrown out of my world with little more than the clothes on my back.

Zoë, ever the true friend, dropped everything and flew out to spend a week with me. She picked me up, dusted me off and helped me find my footing. Through sheer force of will she turn my life around; by the time she flew back to San Francisco I had moved into a small but nice apartment in Tempe, gotten my finances in order, hired a good lawyer, and had applied for half a dozen jobs in the area. She was determined to rescue me from the dull conformist attitude that had been part and parcel of my former life, and was planning something outrageous and fun to celebrate the finalization of my divorce. I was just as determined to wash away all traces of the meek, boring conservative housewife I had been. I wanted to live life to the fullest, be outrageous and do things that would shock the gray-haired church elders.

Zoë was the perfect guide to the wild side, and I trusted her completely. But honestly, I wasn’t expecting a Renaissance Fair.

--*--

I smiled nervously and made my way down from the bleachers, carefully hiking the hem of the medieval dress so as not to trip on the wooden stairs. Once more on solid ground, I attempted to compose myself in the shade of the bleachers. The dress Zoë had brought me was beautiful; made of a rich burgundy brocade it fit well, although a little tight around the bust where the bodice squeezed me up and out, giving my 36c breasts the illusion of 2 extra cup sizes.

“Arms out darling,” Zoë said, as she appraised me critically.

I stretched my arms wide and struggled to get a deep breath, fighting against the tightness of the bodice. After looking at my bust from several angles, Zoë reached without warning into my bodice and manhandled my breasts for a few quick seconds.

“There, that’s better!” She said, smiling. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.”

“The dress, or having my tittes groped in public?” I giggled.

“Both, if you’re lucky!” Zoë smiled, as she adjusted her own costume. Her dress was both elegant and outlandish, a riot of contrasting colors, textures and patterns. Displaying to great advantage her ample bosom, the ensemble was topped by a wide felt hat adorned with brightly colored ostrich feathers. The style, she told me, was known as “Puff and Slash”, popularized in the Renaissance by a famous German mercenary company with an unpronounceable name.

Standing in the shadows of the bleachers, we touched up our makeup, adjusted our clothing and our hair. At Zoë’s suggestion I had my hair styled into something more interesting than my usual long ponytail. We had decided on something romantic and timeless, so I opted for a light curl that gave my normally straight hair some body and bounce. The overall effect was dramatic, and I hardly recognized myself; long wavy locks of lustrous black hair framed my heart shaped face, falling to mid back. My figure, honed on the tennis courts and the gym, was admirably displayed above the waistline, while the long skirt discreetly hid my legs. Standing at 5’7”, I was a few inches taller than Zoë and my dark hair, dark eyes and olive complexion contrasted sharply with her Nordic features.

“I don’t know what you’re planning Zoë, but I’m sure it will be fun!” I said with a grin.

Zoë held up an admonishing finger. “Lady Alessandra from now on!” She corrected me. “And you are lady Evelyn.”

I rolled my eyes. The whole make-believe name thing seemed kind of silly to me, but I was willing to humor Zoë – Lady Alessandra - for the duration of the weekend at least.

Alessandra caught my expression in the mirror of her compact. “When in Rome darling…” She said as she snapped closed her compact, slid it into a fabric belt pouch and took my hand with a smile. She led me across the tourney field to a small gate marked with a “No Admittance” sign, behind which several colorful tents were set up. The fighters were there, in various states of undress as they peeled off the layers of armor, leather and sweaty padding, some packing their armor into duffel bags, others reclining on lawn chairs as they drank beer and discussed the day’s combat.

Alessandra headed to a tall round tent made of alternating panels of green and white, beside which flew a green banner. “Knock knock!” She sang out.

Sir William, the Green Knight, emerged from the tent wearing only sweatpants, kneepads and high black boots; his thick dark hair hung down to just above his broad shoulders and was tousled from its long confinement in his helmet. Rivulets of sweat ran down his lean muscular chest to his firm abdomen, and his strong arms glistened from the day’s exertion. He fixed me for a moment with his beautiful hazel eyes as he dabbed the grime and dust from his face with a washcloth and I felt my pulse quicken as I blushed like a schoolgirl. He, like most of the members of the company, appeared to be in his late 20s and very fit.

William smiled broadly as he saw Alessandra, and stepped forward to greet her with a gentle hug. “Careful Alessandra!” He laughed, “I’m sure you don’t want me sweating all over your lovely dress.”

“Nonsense darling!” Alessandra replied flirtatiously. “You know I love the smell of sweat and leather!” She leaned towards William and inhaled deeply, closing her eyes before making a little growling sound and lightly scratching his taut bare chest with her fingernails. “Where is that gorgeous lady of yours?” She asked. “Tell her to get out here at once before I throw myself at you!”

As if on cue the petite redhead emerged from the tent carrying a freshly opened beer for William. On seeing us, her lightly freckled face lit up with a joyful grin. After handing the beer to William, she embraced Alessandra warmly.

“Alessandra!” The redhead trilled. “You look absolutely fabulous as usual! I’m so thrilled you could make it – it feels like it’s been years!” The two women exchanged pecks before the redhead turned to look at me with smiling green eyes.

Standing at about 5 foot 3, the redhead was petite but well proportioned. Her long curly red hair hung down to just above mid-back and her pale complexion, dusting of freckles and twinkling green eyes made her look every bit the Celtic Princess. She was wearing a dress not unlike my own, only hers was of deep forest green. “This must be the one you’ve been telling me about.” She said to Alessandra in a conspiratorial whisper.

“Sir William, Lady Kathryn, I’d like you to meet my good friend Lady Evelyn,” Alessandra said, performing the introductions. “Lady Evelyn, I’d like you to meet two of my dearest friends, Sir William and his wife Lady Kathryn.”

I awkwardly curtsied, not knowing what else to do in this situation. “Congratulations on winning the tournament Sir William!” I said. “It was very exciting to watch.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it,” William said, as he took my hand and kissed it gallantly.

“Yes, congratulations darling!” Alessandra said to William with a smile. “You looked fabulous out there, graceful and deadly.”

“What do you ladies have planned for this afternoon?” William inquired.

“Lady Evelyn is in desperate need of corruption,” Alessandra said with a wicked smile as she took my left arm.

“Well you’ve definitely come to the right place for that!” Kathryn grinned as she took my right. “I’ve been good all day and it’s killing me. Let’s go shopping and plot some mischief together.”

“Lady Evelyn, I can’t decide if you’re in the very best of hands, or the very worst!” William said as he grinned and stroked his chin. “But I can guarantee you’re going to have fun.”

“Quite right!” Alessandra exclaimed. “To the merchant’s row!”

Alessandra and Kathryn led me back across the tournament field and down a short slope to the wooded park where the Renaissance Fair was set up. A cool breeze was blowing and the pine scented air felt wonderful and refreshing after the stifling and dusty climate of Phoenix. The fair was spread over several acres, a mix of merchant’s stalls, small arenas for performers and a central food court. We wandered in a more or less clockwise direction, our attention split between shopping and gossip.

--*--

Some time later while we were in the tent of a fabric merchant admiring their fine imported silk, a stunning woman in a sky blue belly dancing costume called out to us. She was very exotic looking, with delicate oriental features and long straight black hair cut with bangs. Her body was amazing, and very much on display through the gauzy material. She walked gracefully over to us and gave Alessandra and Kathryn a friendly hug.

“Lady Roxana, I would like you to meet my friend Lady Evelyn,” Alessandra said. “This is her first time.” She continued with a wink.

Roxana smiled knowingly and gave me a welcoming hug.

“Lady Evelyn, this is lady Roxana, wife of Sir Godfrey,” Alessandra continued. “He fought in blue today.”

“Where is Godfrey?” Kathryn inquired.

“He saw a camera.” Roxana sighed as she rolled her eyes. “He’s out front posing. Wait till you see what he did with his hair.”

We giggled and exited the tent to find Sir Godfrey, sword drawn, in a dramatic pose for the cameras of several tourists.

Godfrey stood about 5 foot 7 with broad shoulders and a somewhat stocky figure. He was wearing a blue tunic with black and white checkered trim, black hose and short brown leather boots. Clean shaven, his thick brown hair was cropped close in an authentic Norman bowl cut, complete with the high shave on the back of his skull.

“Sorry,” Godfrey said, as he sheathed his sword and joined us. “Paparazzi. They hound me everywhere!” He said in a tone of mock exasperation.

“Oh my God!” Alessandra gasped, before reaching out and stroking his head. “Your hair! You sir, are dedicated.”

“A wager is a wager,” Godfrey grinned, as he shrugged. “Besides, I kind of like it.”

“I think it suits you!” The Black Knight said, as he and his lady joined the group.

Alessandra introduced me to Godfrey and then to the Black Knight, Sir Alaric, and his lady Marguerite.

Alaric was the oldest member of the company I had yet met, perhaps in his late 30s or early 40s. He was about 5 foot 8, of medium build with dark curly hair falling to just above his shoulders and a neatly trimmed beard with a few strands of gray. He was dressed entirely in black, wearing a tunic trimmed with silver, tall leather boots and a hooded mantle that was currently drawn up over his head. He still wore his metal leg armor, which creaked a bit when he walked. Despite his intimidating costume he seemed soft-spoken and thoughtful, with deep dark eyes and an easy smile.

Alaric’s lady, Marguerite, accompanied him wearing a dress that matched his black and silver tunic. Apparently she was an ex-wife who was on reasonably good terms with him; at least that’s what I gathered from gossiping with Kathryn and Alessandra.

“Godfrey!” Marguerite exclaimed. “What have you done with your hair?”

“Well?” Godfrey said as he ran his fingers through his close–cropped hair. “What do you think?

“I think it makes you look like a fascist,” Marguerite said disapprovingly.

“Cool!” Godfrey exclaimed as he admired himself in the fabric merchant’s mirror. “That’s the look I was going for.”

We all had a good laugh apart from Marguerite, who rolled her eyes and muttered something under her breath.

“Hey,” Godfrey shrugged, “nobody ever had a sexual fantasy about being tied to a bed and ravaged by someone dressed as a hippie.”

Alessandra seemed to ponder for a moment. “You know, he has a point,” She said, as we all burst out laughing.

--*--

After several minutes of pleasant and witty conversation, Alessandra, Kathryn and I excused ourselves and head towards the food court for some snacks as the others made their way back to the campsite. Stopping several times to pose with tourists for photos, we made our way to a quiet corner of the seating area. We sat on a picnic table and passed around a bag of caramelized almonds as we chatted and observed the tourists interact with the wandering performers. We watched as a rail thin young juggler wearing a jester’s hat struck out again and again as he attempted to chat up the pretty girls. We giggled as “Dead Fred,” the wisecracking skeletal ventriloquist dummy, frightened children and flirted with their mothers.

“Best people watching ever.” Kathryn said, as a skinny disheveled mother in a Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt attempted to wrangle 3 screaming children in smeared face paint into a photo with Sam–Sam the dwarf. Alessandra and I murmured in agreement as we munched on the delicious almonds. We relaxed in the shade of the pines for almost an hour, talking and playing a game of “Fashion Police 911” as the tourists wandered by. Alessandra excused herself to use the facilities, leaving Kathryn and I alone for a while.

“It should be a good party tonight,” Kathryn said, looking up through the trees at the blue sky. “The weather is perfect!”

“I hear there’s going to be quite a feast,” I said.

“Oh yes, Theodora has been working on this for a week,” Kathryn said. “She’s an excellent cook, and really knows how to run a camp kitchen.”

“Will there be music and dancing?” I asked hopefully.

“Oh yes!” Kathryn smiled. “And much more.”

“I can’t help noticing that all the men seemed spoken for,” I said glumly.

“That won’t matter tonight!” Kathryn laughed mischievously. “It’s the autumn solstice.”

I looked at Kathryn with a blank expression. I had heard something on the radio about the autumn solstice, but I could not for the life of me see the connection between an astronomical event and a Renaissance Fair.

Kathryn chewed her lip and seemed to ponder something for a moment.

“How much has Alessandra told you about tonight?” Kathryn asked guardedly.

“Hardly anything,” I answered.

“Well, I don’t want to spoil Alessandra’s fun; I know she has something special planned for you.” Kathryn said mysteriously. “Don’t fret, you’re in very good hands with her, she won’t let you come to any harm. Just remember the main rule; what happens on the Hill stays on the Hill.”

Dozens of questions sprang to mind, but before I could ask any of them Kathryn saw William wave at her from outside of the food court.

“There’s my man!” Kathryn exclaimed as she looked back towards the arena to where William, now dressed in a green tunic, stood talking with one of the Renaissance Fair organizers.

Kathryn hopped off the table and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. “Tell Alessandra I’m heading up to the campsite. I’ll see you up there.”

And with that Kathryn ran to William who swept her up into a warm embrace. They both waved at me before William headed up the track to the campsite carrying Kathryn in his arms.

Alessandra soon returned, and I passed on Kathryn’s message. She nodded as she unpacked her shopping on the picnic table. “We will be heading up there soon too.” She said.

“You know Alessandra, I think I’m starting to see the appeal of all these make-believe names,” I mused. “There is something very… liberating about the idea of being someone else for a while.”

Alessandra smiled, and nodded her head. “You are beginning to understand. Rachel is in the middle of a divorce, has bills to pay, an apartment to furnish, relatives to deal with and a host of other worries. Lady Evelyn, on the other hand, is a beautiful princess with not a care in the world! I know it sounds crazy, but I really think I would go mad without the escape of this kind of thing.” She continued as she rearranged her shopping bags. “All the stress of the normal life we lead, all of the burdens – we get to put them aside for a few days. Then as we say goodbye to our make-believe world and head back to our lives, we shoulder the burdens again. But we are stronger for the rest.”

--*--

As 5 o’clock drew near and the shadows lengthened, the Renaissance Fair began to close up for the night. The crowds of tourists flowed back to their cars in the parking lot and headed away into the gathering dusk. The various members of the Fair staff busied themselves with close up duties; emptying garbage bins, collecting trash and making sure all the merchants stalls were locked up and secure. Members of the tournament company were responsible for the main arena and grandstands, and after these were set in order the members of the troupe all headed up a steep wooded hill to our isolated campsite. Alessandra and I had already set up our little tent in the early afternoon, and we were looking forward to cleaning up and relaxing prior to the big feast.

As we crested the hill the main campsite came into view; two rows of white canvas tents stood illuminated by the crimson hues of a magnificent Arizona sunset. The view was made even more breathtaking by the sunlit summit of the San Francisco Peaks, which loomed in the background. The tents were arranged to enclose a large oval space where two large fire pits, charged with fresh wood, stood ready for the night’s festivities. Much of the ground between the fire pits was covered with old carpets and ragged quilts, and sparkling lanterns hung on the perimeter. At the northern end of the camp site, where the trail from our private parking area to the Renaissance fair below crested the ridge, stood an enormous boulder which loomed over the campsite like the ruins of some old castle.

In the middle of the eastern row of tents stood the feast pavilion, large enough to seat two dozen revelers comfortably at folding tables covered with decorative tablecloths. The pavilion’s western walls had been removed, giving the feast goers a view of the fire pits and the dancers area. Directly across from the feast pavilion stood another large tent, it’s door flaps thrown open wide to reveal a decadent collection of furs, carpets and pillows made from colorful fabric. Lit by soft lantern light, the champion’s pavilion looked like the pleasure palace of some rich Sultan from an Arabian Nights fantasy.

All of the medieval style tents were open to the central area, and were sumptuously decorated within. All traces of modernity were discreetly covered by blankets, sheets or cloth dividers, giving the campsite a timeless and magical feel. Modern tents like mine were relegated to “the nylon ghetto” a short distance down a winding trail so as not to spoil the effect. After stopping at our tent to rest and freshen up, Alessandra and I returned to the main campsite just as the fire pits were being lit.

--*--

As Alessandra and I walked up to the front of the feast pavilion we saw the Red Knight sitting by a newly kindled fire pit, resting his bulk in a sturdy oak chair with his left leg propped on a wooden box. He had a large mug of ale in one hand, and a bag of ice in the other that he was holding against his knee. With his long wavy blond hair and beard, his colorful red and gold Viking tunic he looked as if he had just stepped out of a Norse epic.

Catching us out of the corner of his eye he awkwardly attempted to rise to his feet and greet us, but Alessandra stepped behind him and gently pulled his broad shoulders back into the chair, chiding him. “You stay right there Sir Ivan! We don’t want you injuring yourself again on our account.” Alessandra introduced me to Sir Ivan, and to his lady Theodora who came bustling out of the kitchen tent wiping her hands on her apron.

Short and plump, Theodora had beautiful skin, rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes, her face framed by blonde hair which hung in elegant ringlets. She was dressed in a colorful but practical Viking dress, at the moment cover by an apron. With the help of Roxana, Marguerite and the bustling squires, a magnificent feast was taking shape in the kitchen tent under her watchful eye.

Kathryn and William were sitting in decorative wooden camp chairs which had been arranged in a circle around one of the fire pits, along with the company’s Knights and a few of the Squires. The fighters were talking about the day’s tournament and drinking home brewed ale, a special batch being provided by Godfrey called “Autumn Harvest” that he was providing liberally from a large wooden keg.

Kathryn saw us approaching and waved cheerfully. “Sit, sit!” She said, indicating the empty chairs next to her. “The boys are talking sports again.”

“I have to go help in the kitchens,” Alessandra said, “but Lady Evelyn would be happy to keep you company.”

“Oh, I would join you Alessandra” Kathryn said, “but Lady Theodora won’t let me in the kitchen on account of my Irish heritage.” She laughed, waving a lock of her copper hair.

Alessandra stepped behind Kathryn and massaged the back of her neck. “That and you’re the guest of honor at the feast dear.”

Kathryn smiled contentedly and wiggled her shoulders, purring softly.

Alessandra leaned down and gave Kathryn a quick kiss on the cheek before turning to me. “I won’t be long. Have fun, and don’t drink too much of Sir Ivan’s cordials. He brews a mean orange blossom mead!”

“Mean? Did you call my mead mean?” The big man said in a wounded tone. “My mead isn’t mean! It’s friendly! It sidles up to you, ask you how your days been going, chats a bit about sports – and only then” he said, raising a finger for emphasis, “only then does it club you in the back of the head with a mallet!”

We all laughed, and Alaric rubbed the back of his head with a pained expression. “Aye,” he muttered, “I can attest to that!”

The conversation flowed freely as the alcohol; before long there were several bottles circulating around the fire filled with all manner of libation, most of them based on medieval recipes. Mindful of Alessandra’s advise, I took only small sips and avoided the more potent beverages. As the sun sank lower, candles and lanterns were lit in the tents, the musicians began warming up and a trio of belly dancers arrived wrapped in cloaks and sat by the fire. As more of the company arrived, the chairs were rearranged to encompass both fire pits, giving the belly dancers the space between them to perform in. The drummers, using the ceramic Arabic drums called doubeks, began a slow hypnotic rhythm that seemed to draw the dancers out onto the floor where they began a slow, undulating circular dance. The conversations quieted as all eyes turned to the dancer’s graceful performance.

--*--

William rejoined the company after changing in his tent, looking resplendent in a gold doublet, black hose, tall black boots and a kind of jacket made of an elegant green brocade that matched Katherine’s dress. She smiled up at him as he placed a hand gently on her shoulder and leaned down for a lingering kiss. He then took his seat to her right, smiling as he accepted a bottle passed to him by Alaric. William was wearing a sort of crown of summer leaves, while Kathryn still bore the crown of flowers and ribbons William had won for her at the tournament. As they sat together enthroned in the firelight, they looked every bit the storybook Prince and Princess.

The dancers and musicians finished their set with a flourish and the crowd erupted into applause and cheers. A squire blew a small horn and announced that the feast was ready, which set off a flurry of activity as everyone moved into the feast pavilion carrying their chairs, drinks and cutlery. I was shown to a seat to the left of Kathryn where I was pleased to see Alessandra’s basket of feast gear had been placed. Alessandra soon emerged from the kitchen tent and took her place beside me as the hungry throng settled in.

The feast before us was simply amazing – I could hardly believe that it had not been professionally catered. The tables were set up in a broad “U” shape, facing the center of the encampment, with just enough room for everyone. Each table was provided with a platter of delicious cheeses, a basket of bread with oil, butter and other condiments, and decorative cornucopia overflowing with grapes, pomegranates, apples and a variety of dried fruit. Drinks flowed freely, with ales, wines, meads and rare cordials (almost all of which were handmade by members of the company) being provided by the attentive squires.

The banquet began in earnest with the arrival of the first dish of sweet meats, small pastries and a delicious vegetable stew. Each dish was brought first to the champion and his lady, then to the rest of the company when it met with their approval. Dish after dish followed, and glass after glass, until the night seemed to dissolve into a blur of exotic tastes, textures and sensations. Venison stew, hare and cherry pie, wild boar and duck were just some of the dishes I recognized. Alessandra described each dish to me as it was served explaining to me where and when the dish originated and what kind of spices and herbs were used in its preparation. I tried to take note, and managed to nod and grunt at all the right times, but truth be told I was beyond caring – it was just delicious!

During the feast gifts were given to the champion and his lady, usually but not always in the form of a bottle of some specially crafted alcoholic beverage. Glasses were raised in toast, performers sang songs and recited poems between courses, and everyone ate their fill. By the time the final course of marzipan, baklava and sliced fruit came around the table I was in serious danger of slipping into a feast–coma, as were many of the other guests judging by the amount of jokes of the “wafer thin mint” variety. Alessandra, seeing my plight, excused us from the table and led me by the hand out of the feast pavilion into the cool night air to stretch our legs. After a short walk to the nearest “shrine of St. John” we returned to the campsite, refreshed and ready for the night’s festivities.

By the time we made our way back, the party had moved back out doors as the tables were cleared in the feast pavilion. The thrones of the champion and his lady were brought out in front of the tent and set in a position where they could oversee the night’s festivities. Other chairs, stools and boxes formed a large ring around the 2 fire pits, where members of the company settled in to watch the dancers who were beginning once again to sway to the hypnotic rhythm of the doubeks.

I slouched in my chair, feeling bloated and wonderfully buzzed as my eyes wandered from face to face around the fire. Perhaps it was just me, but I thought I felt a change coming over the mood of the revelers. A sense of excitement, anticipation and carnal desire seemed to be taking hold; I could see flirtatious smiles, coy glances and discrete caresses laden with unspoken promises of pleasures to come.

One of the musicians, a slender and beautiful young man with long dark hair, joined the dancers and began to undulate and sway with them. He was a skilled dancer and I could not take my eyes off of him as my mind filled with lustful thoughts. I felt a warm tingle spreading from my groin, the sensation spreading slowly throughout my body like being gently lowered into a warm bath. I squirmed in my seat when the dancers slow rotation brought the young man within arms reach in front of me. He glanced at me and smiled before dancing past, leaving me with a lump in my throat.

I was pulled back from my reverie by warm hands on my shoulders, giving me a little squeeze. I looked up and saw Alessandra smiling mischievously down at me, like a cat toying with a bird. She sat down in a chair beside me, leaning in to give me a soft kiss on the cheek.

“And how is Lady Evelyn?” Alessandra, she asked grinning.

“Oh…” I sighed, “What comes after wonderful?”

“You’re about to find out sweetie!” Alessandra replied mysteriously.

“What do you mean?” I asked sitting up, my curiosity aroused.

“I mean the party is about to get started,” Alessandra said softly, raising an eyebrow.

--*--

I started to ask a question, but Alessandra hushed me and pointed toward the northernmost fire pit where a commotion could be heard. The music faltered and stopped as a horn rang out, and a strange shambling figure concealed under a heavy black robe made its way before the thrones as the crowd parted before it. Leaning heavily on a staff, its face obscured by a black mask the apparition addressed the champion, speaking in an accent so heavy I could understand only a few words. The sense of high drama was accentuated as the company’s Knights formed a protective circle around the champion and his lady, swords drawn menacingly.

“That is the Crone, an emissary from the Earth Goddess,” Alessandra whispered. “They are speaking in Old English.”

“What are they saying?” I whispered back.

“She says that the reign of light is ending, that darkness is coming,” Alessandra whispered.

William stood, sword drawn and answered the crone with what sounded like a challenge of his own in the ancient language.

“William says he and his Knights will defeat the darkness,” Alessandra said softly, continuing her narrative.

The old Crone stood her ground and admonished the champion and his Knights, speaking with dramatic gestures.

“The Crone is telling William that without the winter there can be no spring, without the snow the streams will not run… the land will wither into a lifeless desert.” Alessandra whispered.

Kathryn then stood and placed a hand on William’s arm, lowering his sword and speaking in a somber tone.

“Kathryn says that the Crone is right, and that the balance must be maintained between light and dark,” Alessandra translated. “Now the Crone is saying that the champion must face the darkness alone and be reborn to give life back to the land and his people.”

Heads bowed, the Knights sheathed their swords and stepped back. William kissed Kathryn farewell before tossing his crown of summer leaves into the fire and planted his sword in the earth in front of his throne. The Crone then took William’s hand and led him out of the camp and into the darkness as Kathryn wept dramatically before falling into a faint on her throne.

A lone harpist then entered the circle of firelight and knelt before the thrones where he began to play a hauntingly beautiful but mournful song. Kathryn, seemingly in a deep slumber on her throne, is attended to by several ladies who replaced her crown of flowers with one of autumn leaves and Holly. As the harpist finishes, he retreats to the edge of the firelight as the Knights and squires somberly toast to great deeds of arms done that spring and summer. After a few moments of silence the drummers started their slow hypnotic pulsing as the belly dancers arose and began a graceful dance that gradually picked up speed, becoming quite raucous and wild.

Just as the music was reaching the point of becoming an unmanageable cacophony, a great shout went up and all eyes turned toward the northern fire pit where a large hooded and cloaked figure loomed out of the shadows and into the firelight. Casting aside the hood and cloak with a dramatic flourish, the tall figure leapt gracefully over the roaring fire pit, landing in a feral crouch amongst the dancers.

His outlandish costume consisted of little more than a mask adorned with rams horns that covered his upper face, and a fur loincloth that did little to hide his impressive manhood. He was smeared with green, brown and black body paint, with crude symbols and handprints overlaid in white. He looked like a cave painting brought to life as he capered and danced lewdly with the belly dancers. All the company gave a great cheer and raised their glasses in a toast to the wild man.

“Oh my God!” I whispered to Alessandra as I clutched her hand. “That’s William isn’t it! Who is he supposed to be now?”

“The Green Man, the Horned God, Dionysus – almost every culture has a different name for him,” Alessandra whispered back. “He’s a symbol of male fertility and passion.”

“I’ll say!” I giggled. “That loincloth leaves nothing to the imagination!”

The Green Man danced madly, whirling like a dervish before bounding out amongst the company, accepting drinks and flirting with the women, speaking only with laughter and animalistic noises. Moving with the rhythm of the drums, he cavorted over towards Alessandra and I. Intimidated by this apparition of carnal lust, I stepped back a pace shyly. Alessandra stood her ground, meeting the Green Man’s gaze as he stepped before her. Grinning broadly he rubbed up against her and from where I was standing I could clearly see his erect cock sliding against her thigh. Much to my shock, Alessandra quickly reached down with her left hand and grabbed his shaft, pulling him close for a quick and sloppy kiss. Grinning maniacally, the Green Man gave her a final pelvic thrust before completing his circuit of the company.

“It’s good luck to squeeze his Willie,” Alessandra whispered to me with a wink.

I could only stare and giggle as I wondered what I’ve gotten myself into. I felt hot and excited in a way I had not felt since – well, ever!

As the Green Man completed his circuit of the company he found himself before the thrones, one empty the other occupied by Kathryn, still pretending to be in a magical slumber. With exaggerated kabuki–like moves he approached her warily like a beast sensing a trap. Crouching and sniffing, he approached closer and closer, eventually lifting her out of her throne and carrying her into the middle of the dancer’s circle.

The dancers circled close as the Green Man kissed Kathryn passionately, causing her to stir and kiss him back with equal fervor. The company gave a great cheer as the two embraced passionately in the circle of firelight. The Green Man grew ever lustier, kissing Kathryn’s neck and shoulders and pawing at her dress, which eventually slipped down exposing a pale breast, which he hungrily kissed. The rhythm of the drums became faster, matching the pounding of my heart; I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, or the effect it was having on me. I felt a wetness growing in my panties, a blush blooming in my cheeks and my breath becoming rapid and shallow. I discreetly untied the top bow on my bodice for some welcome relief from its constricting embrace.

Before long the Green Man had completely stripped Kathryn of her clothing. Her pale delicate body clung to his muscular painted form like some ancient wood nymph embracing a tree. I thought that they were going to make love then and there, but there was one more ritual to be observed. The Green Man gave a signal, and several knights and squires stepped forward and lifted Kathryn’s naked form, carrying her on her back. They followed the Green Man as he walked one last circuit of the fire lit circle. As Kathryn was carried past them, members of the company spilled small quantities of their favorite beverage upon her, causing her to giggle and squeal.

“An offering to the Green Man.” Alessandra whispered to me, as she readied her cup.

By the time they brought Kathryn past us, her naked body glistened in the firelight. I poured a small amount of honey mead on her right breast, while Alessandra dribbled apricot brandy over Kathryn’s shaved mound. Having completed their circuit, the Knights and squires carried her into the opulent tent where the Green Man awaited. Laying her gently down on a blanket just inside the tent, the Knights and squires retreated to the firelight outside where the rest of the company was watching the amorous performance.

Kathryn squirmed languidly as the Green Man licked and sucked the offerings off of her naked, glistening body. He lingered on her breasts for some time before licking his way down between her thighs, which she most willingly spread for him. As he began to kiss and nibble her pussy, she arched her back sensuously, rocking her hips back and forth as she moaned with pleasure. Skillfully working his tongue, the Green Man soon brought her to a squealing orgasm before sliding up her body and kissing her with a feral intensity. Kathryn, burning with passion and oblivious to the world, returned his kiss as she wrapped her pale legs around his torso.

The Green Man responded by reaching down with one hand and guiding his swollen cock into her. His manhood was impressive enough against his 6 foot 4 frame; against Kathryn’s petite body it looked absolutely enormous! I gasped as he thrust himself inside of her, with long powerful strokes as she whimpered and moaned in ecstasy. Matching time with the drummer’s beat, the Green Man thrust himself ever deeper with powerful strokes of his hips.

From where Alessandra and I were seated, we could not help but have a full view of the goings-on within the tent, and we were both enraptured.

“Don’t you wish you were her right now?” Alessandra whispered in my ear. “Getting fucked by that magnificent cock, everyone watching, every woman wishing she was you.”

I swallowed and nodded my head, unable to take my eyes off of the two lovers for more than a moment.

An enigmatic smile on her face, Alessandra returned her attention to the lustful couple.

A sudden squeal of ecstasy from the champion’s pavilion announced Kathryn’s climax, followed shortly by a long low grunt as the Green Man shot his seed into his lover’s womb. A cheer went up and glasses were raised in toast as the ritual was consummated. The two lovers rolled side-by-side, caressing each other tenderly as they tried to catch their breath after their amorous exertions.

I turned to Alessandra, mouth agape, hardly able to believe what I just saw.

“And thus the Autumn Queen and the Green Man consummated their union, ensuring fertility and a bountiful harvest in the New Year,” Alessandra said, clapping her hands. “Don’t you just love happy endings?”

On hearing yet another round of applause, I turned back to the champion’s pavilion where Kathryn emerged triumphantly holding up a pomegranate. Naked but for a cloak she was disheveled but radiant, her pale body covered with streaks and smears of the Green Man’s body paint. With a mischievous grin Kathryn began to move around the circle of firelight teasing and flirting with the men. Eventually she stopped in front of Godfrey, who was grinning ear to ear. She cocked her hip and shrugged, causing the cloak to fall away from her right side, exposing a pert breast, before handing the pomegranate to him. He pulled open the ripe fruit and took a succulent seed between his teeth, which Kathryn then retrieved with a kiss. Taking her hand he led her to his tent as the other fighters whistled and cheered.

“Think of the pomegranate as an invitation – a little icebreaker party game.” Alessandra explained. “If you are offered one, you may always decline. If you wish to accept it, you should take one of the seeds and hold it between your teeth. The person who gave it to you will then take the seed with their teeth while giving you a kiss. If you wish to take things further… well that’s up to the two of you. Once you have had your play, the pomegranate is yours to offer to someone you wish to get to know better.”

“Is Kathryn going to… with Godfrey!?” I whispered.

“MmmHmm.” Alessandra answered.

“But her husband is…” I stuttered.

“Right there,” Alessandra whispered, pointing towards the champion’s pavilion.

My eyes followed Alessandra’s gaze to the entrance to the large tent, where the Green Man stood surveying the scene before him like an Emperor, his arms folded over his chest. The firelight glistened on his polished black rams horns and accentuated the contours of his painted, muscular body. He was slowly turning his head to and fro as if searching for something, and then his eyes found me. Suddenly I felt as if we were the only two people in the world, everyone else having faded to shadowy ghosts.

The Green Man sniffed the air and began his hunt, moving through the crowd with feral grace, his eyes never leaving mine. He stalked me slowly, allowing my excitement to build to almost unbearable levels. My heart was a jackhammer in my chest, and my breathing was becoming shallow; I loosened my bodice yet again as I struggled for air. He was now standing directly before me, an unmistakable bulge in his loincloth. He gazed into my eyes and took my trembling hand, into which he placed a pomegranate.

--*--

I followed the Green Man into the pillow-strewn tent literally shaking with excitement. Every fiber of my being was screaming at me with conflicting demands. Part of me wanted to just flee this surreal scene of lust and debauchery, but a greater part of me was already seduced beyond all hope of redemption. Sensing my trepidation, the Green Man leaned close and whispered in my ear as he gently caressed my cheek. “Do not fear my lady, we go only as far as you will and no further.”

I could only bite my lip and nod as I gazed into his hazel eyes. He slipped a strong arm around the small of my back, pulling me towards him and pressing his rigid cock against my belly. I placed my hands on his broad shoulders, fingers exploring the contours of his muscles.

“Now Lady… tell me of your appetites,” The Green Man whispered in a husky growl as he toyed with a lock of my raven hair.

“Just… take me!” I whispered back passionately, as I surrendered to my desires.

With a satisfied growl, the Green Man leaned down and kissed me fiercely as he skillfully unlaced my bodice with his free hand. I had never in my life been kissed with such hot animal passion and as our tongues danced and flirted my knees grew weak and my heart fluttered. He eased me down into the pillows, slipping off my dress and undergarments as I lay half swooning beneath him.

After removing my shoes, the Green Man knelt between my legs and paused to admire my naked body, as I lay sprawled before him. He had removed his loincloth and his cut, erect cock stood proud, in all its 8-inch glory. He placed his hand on my knees, and then ran then up my thighs slowly and sensuously as goose bumps spread along my skin like ripples on a pond. He slowly leaned over me breathing deep as his hands explored my mound, my tummy and my ribs before settling on my breasts. Grunting softly with satisfaction, he cupped and kneaded my soft breasts, gently pinching and teasing my erect nipples as I writhed beneath him.

I then felt the Green Man’s strong hands on the small of my back as he lifted me up till I was face to face with him as he knelt on the pillows. I wrapped my arms around his strong neck and my legs around his waist as our lips met again in another hot kiss. Glancing out of the corner of my eye I could see and feel the eyes upon us as members of the company watched us with obvious pleasure, which gave me an incredible erotic thrill. I clung to the Green Man even tighter, trapping his cock between his belly and my pussy. I began to instinctively hump my swollen labia against the bottom of his hard shaft, my copious juices covering it with a slick sheen. With a lustful grunt, I felt him hoist me up even higher against him, and then slowly lower me on to his waiting cock. I gasped and my eyes grew wide as I felt his velvety bulbous head slide up my labia and begin to force its way into my now dripping cunt. As inch after hot inch of his swollen member slid into me, I closed my eyes and whimpered softly as I felt my vagina stretch. My legs, which had been wrapped tightly around him, relaxed and I took the last 3 inches suddenly, causing me to grunt as I felt the air knocked out of me.

Once he was fully inside of me the Green Man began thrusting his hips with a steady rhythm, which I soon matched. Thus intertwined, we danced slowly to the rhythm of the doubeks till I felt a knot of sexual energy building in my belly as a climax drew near. The Green Man seemed to sense my impending orgasm, and changed his rhythm, pounding me hard on the down strokes and shimmying his hips before lifting me up again. He was driving me mad, and I heard myself moaning loudly as my body burned with ecstasy. Reaching down between us he gently massaged my engorged clit, which sent me right over the edge; my eyes rolled back into my head as my back arched and my limbs trembled. The tent seems to spin and I nearly blacked out before strong arms caught me and gently lowered me onto the soft blankets.

Although I was swimming in bliss, the Green Man’s lust was not yet sated, and he quickly rolled me over onto my stomach before lifting my hips and reinserting his rock hard cock back into my quivering pussy. Pounding me hard, I could both hear and feel his thighs slapping against my ass. Sitting up on my hands and knees, I pushed back against him wanting more. I was getting the fuck of my life, and I didn’t want it to end! I began chanting “yes!” like a mantra, my voice slowly going up in pitch till it was an unrecognizable squeal. When my orgasm hit, the lights dimmed and the stars burst out as I collapsed into a quivering heap on the pillows.

As I lay back in the pillows, my mind still reeling in post–orgasmic bliss, I tried to comprehend my situation. I was lying naked in a medieval tent, having just been fucked senseless by a man dressed as some sort of pagan demon in full view of dozens of people I had only just met. And I loved every minute of it! Rachel would never in a million years have done such things. But Lady Evelyn? Well… Lady Evelyn was a slut.

--*--

The sky was growing light when I awoke, and the campsite was quiet apart from a few intimate whispers, muffled moans and the soft crackle of dying embers. Looking up at the top of the tent I quickly realized that it was not mine; as my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I realized I was back in the champion’s pavilion, along with an unknown number of sleeping people in various states of undress. Kathryn was curled up beside me sound asleep, her left hand draped across my breast and I seemed to be using her husband’s thigh as a pillow. There was another hand resting on my left leg; I had no idea who it belonged to. After getting my bearings, I carefully disentangled myself from the mass of sleeping bodies and stood up, using a nearby tent pole for support. Looking down at where I had lain I couldn’t help but wonder if Kathryn and I had… well. Who knows what Lady Evelyn was capable of? The last thing I remember from last night was snuggling with Alaric in his tent after a very satisfying fuck.

Head pounding and mouth dry as a cotton ball, I picked my way gingerly through the slumbering obstacle course and managed to find my under gown, shoes and cloak, which I wrapped around me to ward off the morning chill. Stepping outside, I walked between the dying embers of the fire pits and into the feast pavilion where I found a cooler of water and some wooden mugs.

Walking along the row of tents, I could see that most were occupied by sleeping couples, a few with more than two. There were also a few sleeping revelers curled up by the fire pits, wrapped in cloaks and one young man sprawled facedown in the dirt, tankard still grasped in his hand, snoring happily.

At the north end of the camp I saw in the gathering light a small steep trail winding its way up beside the huge boulder that stood sentinel over the camp. Curious, I clambered up to see if I could catch a view of the sunrise. I eventually found myself on top of the rocky outcrop, looking out over the sleeping camp. I sat on a slab of rock, which made a comfortable seat and drew the cloak around me as I looked east where a spectacular sunrise was beginning to take shape.

So enraptured was I by the beautiful colors that were starting to paint the eastern sky, I didn’t notice Zoë until she sat beside me with two steaming mugs of coffee.

“I see you found my favorite spot.” Zoë smiled, as she handed me one of the mugs.

I thanked her profusely and took a deep breath of coffee scented steam before putting the mug to my lips and drinking. I smiled at Zoë and only then notice how disheveled she looked; like me, she was dressed only in her under gown and a cloak. Her white gown was smeared with the Green Man’s body paint, as was her forehead, and her hair was a mess. She must’ve been thinking the exact same thing, as I followed her gaze to my own under gown and its telltale smudges. We looked up at each other and burst out laughing.

“So are you glad you came?” Zoë asked, after catching her breath.

“Oh Zoë! You have no idea how much I needed that,” I whispered.

“I think I had an inkling,” Zoë smiled.

“Thank you. You are a dear friend,” I said as I rested my head on her shoulder.

Zoë just smiled and sipped her coffee, as we both turned to admire the sunrise.

A thousand thoughts and emotions roiled within me as I recalled the events of the last 24 hours. I knew nothing would ever be the same, and while that thought frightened me it also made me smile. There was a whole new world out there to explore, and Lady Evelyn was up for adventure!

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