Camelot’s Yuletide Feast
Backstory: This is the concluding scene in Moxie’s Decision.
The Yuletide Feast is THE event in Camelot. Everyone important is invited, even Saxon enemies. King Artie and Queen Gwen go all every year to make the event memorable.
Entertainment is provided by the Knights of the Round Table.
A servant announced in a loud voice, “The Yuletide Feast is about to begin. Please move to the Grand Hall and be seated.”
The room was filled with trestle tables. Two large fire pits separated the room into three parts. The fire pits roared with crackling flames and spewed sparks and smoke. Each table had three large, lit candles. Braziers lined the outside walls for heat and light. Outside, the wind moaned and sent gusts of cold air through chinks in the walls. The wall hangings shivered from the wind.
A stage had been built in the right rear corner and the knights choir moved there to sing I’ll Be Home for Yuletide.
The knights who weren’t involved with any activities joined with the Saxon warriors in a corner of the large room. After a quick agreement on the rules, the two groups began a drinking contest. The group with the last semi-conscious member won the contest. Bors and Gareth joined the group.
Artie and Guinevere led Hengist and Helmwige to the U-shaped high table. Artie and Hengist sat at the head while the three queens sat at the left side table. Guinevere was glad Moxie sat at her table. Perhaps, Moxie would help put down the Saxon slut.
At the table opposite the queens, Merlin, Lancelot and Gawain sat down.
In front of the high table was a table for honored guests. The Lady of the Lake, Rowan and Fiona sat on one side. Across from them, Percivale and Harry joined the bishop. Harry was placed at that table because he was now a knight and a general.
“Artie,” Guinevere hissed. “Who did the seating arrangements?”
“That idiot put the Lady of the Lake and the bishop at the same table.”
“Oh, I did that. I thought it would be amusing to watch the two of them. I think the bishop is in for a long night.”
As Guinevere watched, the Lady and the bishop locked eyes and made faces at each other.
Sweating servants hustled to keep the drink pitchers filled with mead, ale or wine.
Helmwige leaned close to Guinevere and whispered,” I hear that you and Lancelot are lovers. Is that true?”
“No, it isn’t.” Guinevere’s face turned scarlet. “We are not lovers.” Her eyes raked the Saxon.
“Too bad,” Helmwige replied. “It’d do wonders for your disposition.”
“Ohh!” Guinevere sucked in air and clenched her fists. She had to concede her guest the first round. But Camelot was her home and she would defend it with all her strength.
An army of servants entered carrying platters of roast boar, stuffed fowl and poached fish.
Already, the Saxons and the Knights shouted insults at each other amid ribald laughter.
The bishop stood up and said, “King Artie, may I say grace before we eat this fine meal?”
“You let Christian priests into your hall?” Hengist asked.
“Only on special occasions,” Artie replied. To the bishop, he said, “You may speak briefly.” Artie pointed to Gawain. “If the bishop talks for longer than a minute, haul him out of here and throw him in a snowbank.”
The bishop grimaced, mumbled a quick prayer and sat down. To the Lady, he said, “Someday, pagans will be taught to treat bishops with respect.”
“May that day never happen,” the Lady replied. “Especially when bishops are nasty-minded people like you.”
“Someday,” the bishop said, pointing at the Lady and Rowan, “I hope to burn both of you at the stake.”
A moment later, the Lady said, “Speaking of burning, do something about your boot.”
“It’s on fire and it smells.”
The bishop looked his boots and saw the left one blazing away. He dumped a mug of ale on it to extinguish the flames and glared at the Lady who wore a satisfied smirk.
“How strange,” she said, “I wonder how that happened.”
When the choir finished singing Deck the Hall with Battle Loot, they left the stage and reinforced the Knight’s team in the drinking contest.
Sir Tristan gained the stage and announced, “I am the Master of Ceremonies for tonight’s feast and we have a gala program planned which will begin after we eat. In the meantime, I’ll entertain you by playing and singing my top hits.”
A chorus of boos greeted Tristan’s announcement. Tristan glared at the crowd, plucked his lute and sang,
Roses are red
I want to go to bed.”
“Tristan can play the lute beautifully,” Hengist said, “and he has a wonderful voice, but he is a wretched poet.”
“Sir Tristan,” Artie replied, “is a world-class bad poet. Perhaps the worst in all of Britain.”
Soon chicken bones began flying from the corner tables along with more insults and raucous laughter.
Guinevere, Moxie and Helmwige exchanged labored small talk during the meal. When the tables had been cleared for the dessert course, Guinevere went on the attack. “I love your outfit,” she cooed to Helmwige. “Did you make it yourself?” From the way Helmwige’s eyes flashed, Guinevere knew she had scored. Only peasant women made their own cloth and dresses.
“Oh, no.” After a pause, Helmwige smiled. “I’m much too busy helping Hengist administer all the land we seized from you Brits. I used a dozen Brit slave women to make the cloth and the dress.”
Guinevere seethed at the reference to Brit slave women. She stood and went over to Merlin. “My friend, I ask a boon.”
“Please cast an itching spell on that Saxon bitch.”
“What? I’ll do no such thing. Artie and Hengist are negotiating a new treaty and I will do nothing to jeopardize it.”
“Oh, pshaw.” Guinevere stamped a foot and went back to her seat.
Lancelot and Gawain left the table to prepare for their performance.
The attitudes of the royals at the head table confused Moxie. Artie and Hengist conversed like old friends while a fog of hostility surrounded Guinevere and Helmwige. Moxie tried a few times to start a conversation with the Saxon woman only to get rebuffed. Guinevere could use help with Helmwige, but Moxie couldn’t see how she could assist Camelot’s queen.
“All right,” Hengist told Artie. “I accept this part. I get three football franchises in the Southern League.”
“And I’ll make room for them by transferring three franchises from the Southern League to the Western League.” Artie and Hengist spit into their palms and shook hands. “And you also get two franchises in the Central League.”
“Agreed.” Hengist and Artie spit and shook again.
“But I need land,” Hengist said.
“Go north. There’s plenty of land up there.”
“It’s all underwater,” Hengist waved his hands. “It’s marshland.”
“Marshlands are rich in eels and shellfish,” Artie replied. “Tell your settlers they’re fishermen, not farmers. Besides, you can reclaim the marshes and turn it into farmland.”
“My folk don’t know how to drain marshes.”
“I have people who know how to do that,” Artie said. “How about this? I send in a team of ten men who can teach your folk how to do it. Let’s say they spend six months draining some marshes so your men can see how it’s done.”
Hengist scratched his stomach underneath his massive beard. “That’ll work.”
“Good. I’ll only charge you five silver pennies a week for the ten men.”
“You are a greedy bastard, Artie.”
“Just business, Hengist. You’d do the same to me if you could.”
“That’s true. All right, you got a deal. I’ll drain the marshes.” Both men spit into their hands and shook again.
The bishop got up and walked the hall. “Fifty-fifty tickets! Only ten copper pennies! Got to be in it to win it!”
“And now, gentlefolk,” Tristan called out, “I present the Knights of the Round Table Step-Dancing Troupe in their interpretation of the Fall of Troy.”
Shamus, the Knights’ dancing instructor, positioned himself to the side of the stage so he wouldn’t obstruct anyone’s view. He adjusted his wig while he waited for twelve knights to take positions on the stage. Gawain, Lancelot, Lamorak and three others lined up as the Greeks while Galahad, Bedivere, Palamedes and Kay formed the Trojan line with two more knights. The two lines started from the edges of the stages and step-danced to the center. They tapped around for a while before the Trojans began a slow retreat pursued by the Greeks.
The Saxon warriors hooted and cat-called at the dancers.
The Trojans approached their edge of the stage when a Saxon threw a chicken leg at them. The bone hit Bedivere in the back of the head, causing him to mis-step and lunge forward into the Greek lines. Lamorak fended off the attack with a punch to Bedivere’s head. The other Trojans swarmed forward following Bedivere’s lead and the step-dancing degenerated into a ferocious fist-fight that turned into a wrestling match.
Shamus snatched his wig, threw it on the ground and kicked it across the hall. “May all of you live to be a hundred-and-ten years old and suffer pain and agony every day during all those years.”
Tristan used his lute to signal the end of the dance. “Next up, you’re all in for a treat. It’s the premier of my new play, The Merchant of Londinium.”
Several apprentices came on stage and took their places while Tristan directed them from off-stage. The play began with Bassanio convincing Antonio to borrow a large sum of money. After deep thought, Antonio went to the Saxon money-lender Brasslock to arrange for the loan.
“I’ll lend you the money,” Brasslock said, “e’en though you hate me because I’m a Saxon. Do Saxons not bleed when cut? Do Saxons not feel your slings and arrows? Nevertheless, I’ll lend you the money.”
“What interest rate will you charge me?” Antonio asked.
“Hmm, good question,” Brasslock replied. “I’ll charge no interest.”
“What? Why do you not charge me interest? Am I not one who despises you?”
“Instead of interest, let us add an amusing clause to the contract.” Brasslock chuckled evilly.
“What would that be?”
“Why, if the payment is late, I’ll receive your right forearm as penalty.”
Before the actors could go further, Hengist jumped up and roared, “You Brit wretches! You insult every Saxon here with this slanderous mummery.”
Tristan, shocked, spread his arms and replied, “What do you mean?”
“No Saxon money-lender would seek an arm for a penalty.” Hengist crossed his arms and glared at Tristan.
“They wouldn’t?” Tristan looked puzzled.
“Absolutely not. Any true Saxon would demand the welsher’s head, not an arm.”
“Damn right!” Helmwige called out. “Get those losers out of here!”
The Saxon warriors roared agreement with Helmwige.
The actors fled the stage and a red-faced Tristan bit his lip.
With a break in the entertainment, Guinevere and Helmwige resumed their own battle. “Will you travel home this spring?” Guinevere asked with a sweet smile. “Back across the Narrow Sea?”
“I am home. My grandchildren will be born here and possess British land.”
Moxie bit her lip. The tone of the two women had grown even more hostile.
“It’s such a pity, Gwen,” Helmwige said, “that you couldn’t give Artie an heir.”
Guinevere was taken aback by the soft tone of Helmwige’s voice and didn’t see it as a setup.
“I’m sure Artie is trying to solve that problem elsewhere.” Helmwige winked at Guinevere.
The audacity of the attack stunned Guinevere and struck a chord deep inside. She leaped to her feet. “You bitch!” Guinevere slapped Helmwige’s face.
Despite the deafening noise in the hall, everyone heard the slap. The hall fell silent except for a few snoring drunks.
Helmwige stood and stared at the queen. “Anyone who hits me pays for it. I challenge you to a duel.”
Before Guinevere could respond, Moxie jumped up and moved between the two women. “I’m Guinevere’s champion. If you want a fight, you fight me.”
“Oh, please. Move aside, Shorty, before I step on you.” Helmwige tried to push Moxie away and was surprised when Moxie stood her ground.
Helmwige glared at Moxie. “All right, I’ll accept you as Gwen’s champion. Name your weapon.”
Moxie recalled Helmwige’s comments about making clothes and guessed that Helmwige never did any household chores. “I choose knitting needles.”
“What? That’s not a weapon?”
“You’ll change your mind after I stab you a few times.”
Helmwige turned to Guinevere. “Get us some needles.”
Guinevere gave instructions to a servant.
Artie and Hengist stood up.
“Butt out Artie,” Guinevere said. “This is a women’s affair.”
“Sit down, Hengist,” Helmwige ordered. “It’s none of your business.” She removed her arm rings and other jewelry and placed them on the table. Moxie took off her tiara.
The three women moved toward the stage.
“Well, now,” Tristan announced. “We have a special treat for everyone tonight. A duel between Helmwige and Moxie. The duel will begin in a few minutes, so you have time to place your bets. The fight will end when one yields or if one dueler steps or falls off the stage.”
The two combatants stepped onto the stage. Moxie flapped her wrists and arms. Helmwige stretched to the delight of every male in the hall. Guinevere stood at one edge of the stage.
The servant returned with two sets of identical needles and handed a set to each woman.
The pair circled each other and feigned attacks to test the other’s reaction.
“I’m going to poke your eyes out, little one,” Helmwige said.
“I doubt it. I graduated from the Heroes Guild you know, and I’m a lot faster than any over-developed Saxon serving wench.”
“I’m not a serving wench!” Helmwige slashed a needle toward her foe.
Moxie blocked it with her forearm and almost dropped a needle as her arm numbed from the force of the blow. Before Helmwige could follow up with a second strike, Moxie stabbed a needle toward Helmwige’s face. She threw up an arm and took the point of the needle in her forearm.
The knights cheered their queen’s champion. The Saxons booed and groaned.
Helmwige gnashed her teeth and thrust a needle toward her opponent’s eye. Moxie dodged the needle and danced around Helmwige. Moxie lunged and stabbed the Saxon in the right buttock. Helmwige screeched and instinctively swung an arm behind her. She hit Moxie in the side of the head and sent her reeling across the stage. Dazed, Moxie managed to recover before she stumbled off the edge.
Moxie turned to face Helmwige, who stood panting in the center of the stage. One of her braid curls was undone and hung down the side of her head.
Helmwige noticed Moxie’s unfocused eyes and closed in. She jabbed a needle forward. Moxie dodged the point, but the needle nicked Moxie’s shoulder and ripped her dress.
Moxie saw an opening. She jumped close to Helmwige and threw away her needles. She wrapped one arm around Helmwige’s waist to keep her close, grabbed the dangling braid with the other hand and pulled Helmwige’s head downward. Moxie head-butted the Saxon in her face.
Helmwige cried out, dropped the needles, fell on her backside and placed both hands over her face. “You broke my nose,” she wailed. Blood gushed over her fingers.
Moxie knelt down beside Helmwige and squeezed a shoulder. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” Moxie cried. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Guinevere grabbed a cloth from the nearest table and rushed over to the stage. “Here, put this against your nose to stop the bleeding. Come, Moxie. Help me get Helmwige on her feet then we can all go to my rooms and repair the damage.”
“There, there,” Moxie cooed. “Everything will be all right.
The three women left the silent hall.
“What the hell just happened?” Hengist asked Artie.
“Why’re you asking me?” Artie replied. “I’m not a woman.”
“I’ll bet you the three of them are fast friends when they come back,” Hengist said.
“I’ll not bet on that,” Artie replied. “’Tis a losing bet, for sure.”
“For our final performance of the night,” Tristan said, “the Dogs of Warwill perform a song or two.”
The Saxons staggered to the stage and managed to climb up with some difficulty. They formed a ragged line with the bear-skinned cloaked berserker on the end. The Saxons clapped their hands and shouted:
“We’re bad and mean. We’re mean and bad.
If we’re not mad and mean, then we’re mean and bad.
If you see our berserk, you better not lurk,
‘Cause he’s got this quirk with his sharp-edge dirk.”
After the last word, all the Saxons except the berserker turned, bent over and dropped their pants, mooning the guests. The berserker opened his cloak. Naked underneath, he swiveled his hips. On one of his gyrations, he lost his balance and toppled off the stage, knocking over a brazier. The hot embers set fire to a wall hanging.
One knight, about to go to the outhouse because of a full bladder, saw the flames, and rushed forward. Other knights joined him and together they fought the flames by peeing on them. Experienced from last year’s debacle, the knights stood far enough to protect their privates from the heat and flames.
A knight finished peeing and organized the Saxons as the second wave of firefighters.
When the Saxons lined up, the knights shouted, “Closer!’ “Yer too far away.” “Move up.”
The Saxons moved closer to the flames and aimed at the burning wall hanging. Soon, cries of agony and pain came from the Saxons. They hustled back to the tables to grab cups of wine or ale and pour the liquid on their scorched peckers.
Other guests threw pitchers of ale at the flames and put out the fire.
Artie shook his head. “I think it’s time to end the feast, Hengist.”
“Aye. No one’s been killed yet, but it won’t be long now.”
To learn more about Moxie and Camelot visit Moxie’s Journey: A Princess in Camelot