Cursed! Crouched in crunching bones and cruelly deformed face! Left, at the whim of a power greater than I, to limp haltingly through the Enchanted Forest, searching for a true and chivalrous knight.
Ah! But the loathsome irony of it all! That I, Lady Ragnell – accounted so beautiful in days gone by – should now be so reduced by Fey interference that even the act of glimpsing my visage in a moonlit pool brings tears and bitterness in equal measure. And, to feel the Spear hit its mark ever-more nastily, the knowledge that the magical conundrum visited upon me is impossible to answer correctly.
Call me vain, if you will – for, yes, I will freely admit that the glowing fall of my burnished hair gave me deep pleasure, as did the perfect dimensions of my fashionably pale body, with its curves and undulations and dips and hollows – but I have more than worked off the freight of vanity’s sin in the woeful wandering years.
Men’s eyes – and more, far more! – were nectar and necessity to me! My beauty – taken for granted, and granted to the highest of the would-be takers – was used against me in the cruellest way: Now repulsive beyond description, shunned by the world of fine manners and courtly living, my deliverance is entirely dependent upon a man prepared to love me for what lies beneath the surface hideousness.
I could trudge this lone landscape until my bones poke bloodily through threshed skin and still I will never meet a knight willing and able to delve and dive into the pool which holds my fragile heart, not while the thorns and thickets of a corrugated mien and slitting crossed eyes and warts aplenty repel all boarders.
Cursed am I, also, with the gift of Seeing – so that my abject misery is set against the Court at Camelot, and the dazzlingly fair ladies, and courteous knights, who dwell within its turreted walls and fine furnishings.
Envy, they say, is poison to the soul – and ’tis, no doubt, true; be this the case, I am condemned to a lingering and agonising demise from its effects, so regularly do I sip from that particular gritty and grim chalice.
The Lady Morgan – called, by many, Morgan Le Fay, and reputed to be the King’s sister – rides this way often. I see her, clad in sumptuous crimson, tousled raven locks feathering down her back, dark eyes flashing in delight, or mischief: Who knows which? She doesn’t notice one such as I. Why should she? Battered crones are too numerous to count – and age drains the river of its sexuality, does it not? How can she know the pliant and supple maid who inhabits this gruesome carcass?
I weep to recall the way I was.
Condemned, I am, as I say, to try and tempt – a thankless task, indeed! – any lone knight lost in these deceptively simple woods.
King Arthur rides by, his Imperial purple cloak billowing in the breeze; some days, his fair consort, the Lady Guinevere, accompanies him, sitting side-saddle upon a gentle palfrey, her blue and gold robes shining in the thin wintry sun.
Snow has been falling for weeks now – and it hangs like doom’s heaviness upon branches and bushes. Crisp for the most part, it is broken into patterns as fox, stag, boar, wren – and many other creatures – hunt or are hunted, their brief lives written in the book of white with hieroglyphs of paw and pad, claw and hoof.
Sun melts the icy covering on occasions, allowing traces of green to leap into prominence – and, all too often, smudges and pools of scarlet blood (from fight and predation and accident) leave Death’s signature upon the frozen white.
I go veiled during the daylight hours: A thick black veil fashioned for me by my Enchantress (whose name shall never be mentioned!), a sneering torment of apparent kindness which persuades me not a jot.
Do people never stop to think about the feelings churning behind the ruinous wasteland of a hag’s face? Does it never occur to those who are blessed with bright beauty (as I was) that the ugly feel love and desire, sadness and hunger, warmth and compassion too? That a frightful appearance may not betoken a mean and wizened heart?
No. Why should it? Beauty feeds on itself and lives for the moment only. It attracts the buzzing bees of attention to its flowery loveliness, and the puffs of pollen obscure all that is not gold and gorgeous.
Tasked, I have been, even more challengingly – for what red-blooded man (with his loins afire and his mind landlocked with testosterone’s stubbornness) would ever accept ‘Sovereignty’ as a legitimate answer to the age-old riddle? None! Not when the answer is so easily translated to reflect his desires!
And yet? And yet! One has…
At Christmastide, when vision shows me the gigantic and terrifying Green Knight making his way to Camelot, I know that something of great moment has begun.
Now? Sleep, I must – find a nest of safety somewhere (pile together abandoned pelts and feathers in one of the strange caverns which lurk on the periphery of this place outside time).
On the morrow, I shall continue my tale.