Chapter 11—Rob and Francis Run Into the Lady of the Lake and Rob Goes All Crazy
I should never have agreed to do this. There is no chance in the world of Marian giving me any. None. Yes, she has a beautiful face and lovely eyes. Sure, she has those great boobs and that wonderful ass. But- What the ‘ell! I’ve got a boner! And there’s no woman or even a goat around!
Francis looked at Rob in disgust. Look at that. He can’t even daydream without getting aroused.
“You dumbass. That’s all your going to get from this. If ye succeed. If ye fail ye may well not even get that again. Let us go to Robin Hood’s camp and be done with this foolishness.”
“No! I gave my word and I intend to keep it.”
“Mayhaps ye ‘ave spoken of something that doesn’t exist.”
“Oh, she exists, all right. She’s the-”
“I meant ye being one a Robin Hood’s men. Ye mayhaps tried to impress me and, well, lied to me.”
“Francis, ye ‘ave been no ‘elp to me. Leave if ye thinks that.”
“No, I ‘ave pledged liege and I will ‘onor that. Let us go on.”
Rob’s weakness sexually- that’s how Francis thought of it- was going to be a problem. They were going to go very close to The Lady Of The Lake. Strong men have fallen prey to her. A weak man like Rob didn’t stand a chance of resisting her. Francis had to hope the wind was blowing away from them. If Rob got caught up in her spell he was likely to perish. While that would release Francis from his liege it would be at the expense of Rob’s life. Francis had grown a little fond of the guy. He’d have to stay alert for the first sign of her attraction and try to prevent what he knew would happen.
They walked along, being careful to step over or around the dropping, chatting about not much of anything. They came to a pub in mid-morning and went in. They had some mead and asked for food to take for the rest of the day. The innkeeper sold them some dicey bread and dicier cheese. He offered a meatless stew but they had no way to carry it so they declined it. Rob said to the man, “I think we ‘ave enough to keep us shitting for now.”
Francis wanted to talk to Rob about the Lady of the Lake. Rob may not know the legend; he might not believe the legend; he might not know it wasn’t a legend. Francis had little faith in Rob’s ability to resist but he hoped fair warning might help. The truth was the Lady of the Lake was a real bitch. She had the power to enchant men and make them helpless. These could be strong men like Merlin. Rob was no Merlin.
Francis remembered when his father sat him down and told him about The Lady Of the Lake. Francis didn’t know why and never found out. To his father it may have been just another story.
“Son, I have a tale to tell ye. There are those who don’t believe it’s true but it is.”
Oh, no. A religious story.
“There is a land to the north called the Land of Enchantment. It is where the Wicked Witch lives. It is where King Arthur came from. It is where Arthur received Excalibur and then won a kingdom. It is from there that Lancelot was brought back to life. It was from there that Arthur lost his throne for disobeying The Lady of the Lake.
“None of that means anything now. What matters now is to never go there. She’s still there with her wiles and enchantments. She is powerful enough to learn all of Merlin’s magic even though he knew she would not let him leave. She put him into a tree. Ye would stand no chance.
“Don’t be down-heated by that. No man can hold up to her. I tell ye this to say to ye not to go near her. Ye get close and she will call to ye. When she does run like hell. Got it?”
What was Francis to say? He nodded his head and went about his life. Now he was taking a fool near to her.
Would she call out? Could he resist? Could this fool Rob stand up to her power? Oh, no he couldn’t. Maybe the story is bullshit. No, if I ‘ad that sort of luck I wouldn’t be a dwarf.
Occasionally they were stopped by men on horseback demanding to know what they were doing there. Why were they away from their master? Francis would have to jump in before Rob got them detained or worse.
“We are on our way to a festival. Rob is a storyteller; I am a juggler.”
“Yea? What do ye juggle. I see nothing.”
“I juggle lit torches.’
“Oh, that must be quite a show. Be on ye way.”
Rob always looked at Francis with amazement. “What if ‘e ‘ad asked ye to juggle? What then?”
“I would tell ‘im to get me a bunch of torches. I would ‘ave lit them, threw them at ‘is ‘orse and we would ‘ave taken to the woods.”
After weeks of walking north there was a subtle change in what they saw and felt. The road, while still deeply rutted, didn’t have piles of droppings. There seemed to be a different fragrance in the air. At first they didn’t know what was different but then Francis said it was the absence of shit. You could actually smell the flowers. Naturally, they stopped the smell the roses. Rob was stung by a bee.
The people seemed different as well. They didn’t have the blank stare of the unhappy and stupid you came to expect from the serfs. They didn’t have huge grins on their faces but this was still England. The people looked a little cleaner. The clothes were less ragged. The people looked well-fed. To Francis they didn’t look English.
People sometimes waved at them which was definitely not English. The waves they got weren’t with pitchforks or axes either. The people waved their arms and, sometimes, yelled out a greeting. Both Rob and Francis were becoming a little bit fearful. They were feeling they had left England.
“Rob, I think this might be the Land of Enchantment.”
“Well, it certainly isn’t England. I’m feeling ill at ease.”
Yes, that’s it. Francis now had to consider the story of the Lady of the Lake. If true, he was gong to have a major problem with Rob. Rob was weak-willed. The Lady of the Lake may well put an end to this quest. She may well do anything.
“I’m feeling pretty good considering the journey and the troubles we’ve ‘ad”, Rob said.
Oh, this wasn’t good. Rob was usually a whiny little ass. If he was feeling good he might already becoming under her spell. Francis knew he would have trouble resisting her but Rob would be like a little child.
Francis tried to become more alert. He had hopes of avoiding coming close to the vixen. He wanted to stay as far from her as possible. He hoped to be able to feel or know or something when they got too close to her. He then would try to get Rob to go another direction even if it seemed to be the wrong direction.
Then it happened.
“Wow! I really feel good. I smell something good in the air. It’s coming from that direction. Let us go there and find out what it is.”
“We still have good light. Let us keep going, Rob.”
“Why? We aren’t in any ‘urry. Remember, you said this was a fool’s quest. Do as ye please, I’m going that way.”
So they went that way. As they walked along Francis began to feel something. At first, he didn’t know what it was. It was merely a pleasant feeling, both physical and emotional. He seemed to feel at peace with the world. A great sense of contentment settled over him. He felt at ease with everything. He felt a sense of excitement rising in him, especially in his loins. Loins! Damn it all to Hell, it’s her. The Lady of the Lake was effecting him!
He glanced at Rob and knew he was lost. Rob was walking as if in a dream. A sex dream. He looked as if he was one second from-
“Francis, I feel this is the way to go. I really feel it.”
“Rob, you’re feeling ‘orny. Ye are headed for trouble. Let us go the other way while we can.”
“Oh, tish and tosh. What ye told me was a fable. My God, if she was real and still alive she’d ‘ave to be a couple of ‘undred years old. Imagine what she’d look like?”
“Yea, and ye would not see but what ye wish to see. Ye are a weak man, Rob, a weak man.”
Rob snorted at that one went ahead. Francis followed despite not feeling as confident of himself as he should. He might be able to sacrifice himself in some manner to save Rob but he knew he wasn’t going to do that. He didn’t even know exactly what was supposed to happen when you met her. Maybe it would be all right. He looked towards Rob and knew the foolishness of that thought.
They got to the lake and were sorely disappointed. It was just a lake. It was like any other English lake, uninviting and smelly. Francis thought he’d been bullshitted by his father. Then-
“What was that?”, Rob asked.
Francis felt a shiver. It was the strangest sound he’d heard in his entire life. It both scared him and thrilled him.
“Francis, look out there. Look at what I see.”
Oh, Lordy. She was stunning, the most beautiful woman Francis had ever laid eyes ion. She was beyond description. She was- not all there!
Rob stared walking out into the lake. He was mesmerized by The Lady of the Lake. He felt drawn helplessly to her. He felt something stronger than he’d ever felt for any woman, girl or goat. He felt ready to burst.
“Francis, let go of me.”
“No, ye damn fool. Look at ‘er.”
“I am looking at ‘er. Let me go.”
“No, ye damn fool. Take a close look at ‘er.”
“Francis, I’m about to ‘it ye. I see ‘er. What is ye problem.”
“She’s floating above the water. Can’t ye see?”
“Yes, I do see that. Why shouldn’t she. Obviously, she has the power to stay young and beautiful. Now, leave me be or I shall ‘ave to ‘urt ye.”
“Ye damned fool! She’s floating above the water-”
Rob glanced out to the Lady of the Lake. Indeed she was floating just above the water. It was the most beautiful sight Rob had ever laid eyes on. He was becoming memorized.
“Yes, she is special.”
“She isn’t all there. She ends at the waist.”
“Well, that seems to be correct but-”
“But nothing! What are ye going to do with, or to, ‘er. There’s nothing there there.”
“There, there? Are ye- wait, she has nothing below the waist. The legend is false.”
“No, she’s getting old and losing ‘er power. Still, we need to stay away from ‘er. She has some power and God knows what she can still do.”
“Right. Can we stay ‘ere and look at ‘er a bit?”
“Only look and only from the shore.”
“I say, ‘ello!”
It was a man’s voice, Francis hoped. He looked around but didn’t see anyone.
“I say, ‘ello!”
Francis and Rob looked around and saw no one. The voice wasn’t too much louder than normal so the person had to be nearby. Yet, there was no one around. They both were feeling a bit creepy as was so this was very disturbing. Was this some sort of revenge by The Lady of the Lake? Was her power now to drive man insane? Why don’t they run away from here?
“Why don’t we run away from ‘ere?”, Francis asked.
“I’m curious. There is someone speaking to us and yet we see no one. Is the man invisible?”
“Doesn’t matter. Let’s get away from ‘ere. We can think about it just as well from a distance.”
“I say, ‘ello!”
Rob looked around quickly as if to catch the man calling. “Francis, I think the man is ‘iding behind a tree.”
“Close. Try ‘in a tree’ See ‘ow that sounds”, the unseen voice said.
Francis started to remember the rest of the fable. Merlin taught The Lady of the Lake all his magic knowing she was going to harm him in the end. She placed him inside a tree.
“Are ye Merlin? Are ye trapped inside a tree?”, Francis asked. Rob looked at Francis as if the man had taken leave of his senses. Merlin? Trapped inside a tree?
“Ah, ye do speak English and are not a twit. Yes, I am Merlin the Magician. I don’t do tricks but I do magic. I am the Merlin the Great. I am King Arthur’s main adviser. I-”
“King Arthur is long dead. If ye are so great why are ye trapped in a tree. We aren’t”, Francis told him.
That seemed to shut Merlin up. Francis was pleased with himself. Rob was a little proud of Francis as well. They both stood there basking in some kind of glory before realizing they had been communicating with someone long dead and in a tree. That’s the sort of thing the Church would burn you at the stake for if you talked about it. They looked at one another and began laughing. They laughed so hard they fell to the ground. Then it passed and they tried to get up. They couldn’t. They tried and tried and could not get off the ground.
“I say, jolly good. I’m amused myself although ye cannot see that because I’m stuck in a tree. Now, if ye will help me I shall help ye to get up. If not, I’m a patient man.”
Rob thought back to the mushrooms. Even then he only talked to animals. Now he was hearing from a man thought to be dead and was inside a tree. Rob was glad his father wasn’t here to see this. He wished he wasn’t here to see this.
“How can we ‘elp ye. We are mere mortals with no power or knowledge. Let us up and let us be on our way”, Francis said.
“No. Ye will ‘elp me or live like snakes for the rest of ye lives. That will not be long I say to ye.”
“But, ‘ow can we ‘elp?”, Francis said.
“Ye can will me from this tree. I say, what kind of tree is this? No, never mind that. Ye must will me free.”
“Us? The Lady of the Lake is too strong for us”, Francis said.
“Oh, I don’t know. I just resisted ‘er. She wasn’t any big deal”, Rob said.
Francis shot rob an incredible look of amazement. If Francis hadn’t intervened The Lady of the Lake would have drawn Rob out into the lake and drowned him.
“Ye are stupid. I need the little one’s ‘elp. ‘e resisted ‘er. Well, that’s not true so much as ‘e saw what she is now. Not what ye thought, eh?”
“What do we need to do?”, Francis asked.
“Ye need do nothing. Ye friend is weak. I need ye to believe.”
“Believe I am Merlin; believe I have great power. Ye need to ‘elp me overcome the attraction of The Lady of the Lake.”
“All right, I’ll try.”
Francis concentrated on The Lady of the Lake. He pictured her as she was instead of the legend she once was. He knew she had no power over him and should have no power over the great Merlin. He wiped every other thought from his mind.
“There! I’m free at last.
“I thank ye, little man. I owe ye a favor. I can’t make ye grow; I ‘ave no such ability. I can turn ye companion ‘ere into a slug or a flower if ye like. I know ye owe ‘im and I can change that.”
“Oh, Rob, shut up for once. He might turn ye into something just because ye irritate ‘im. No, Merlin, I wish nothing. I was glad to ‘elp.”
“Ye sure? I mean, I can turn this one into a dog to accompany ye.”
“No, we just want to be on our way.”
“All right. Good luck to ye, Francis. Ye, Rob, watch ye tongue.”
They watched as Merlin scooted away, robe flapping in the wind and birds circling overhead. He looked a little comical but neither of them was in the mood for laughing. They were upright and wanted to stay that way. They both were wondering about legends and myths. They glanced out towards The Lady of the Lake with astonishment The power that attracted her seemed to be gone. She was still beautiful and alluring; there was a certain appeal to her yet. They didn’t seem beguiled or charmed as they had been. They were well aware she wasn’t altogether there.
They started back to the road.
“Well, Rob, the next stop will be the Wicked Witch. After this event with The Lady of the Lake, I don’t think we need to worry about the witch. No, sir, I think it will be fine.”
He thought wrong, terribly wrong.
There are people living on the edge in what is called Appalachia. They're called ridgerunners, rednecks, hillbillies and backwoods mountaineers. No one thinks of them very often. They don't earn much to society's standards.They stay where they are because they love the area. They are hard workers when they have work and self-sufficient to an extent not known to "outsiders." They are also very funny; they have a great sense of humor about themselves.
They are the salt of the earth and the backbone of America. Their stories are America's stories. These are the stories Of Appalachia.
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