Sir Kai had been in love with Guenevere almost as long as the King.
He’d known that, of course, she was destined for Arthur. There’d been all that fuss about dowries, and Leodegrance’s precious round table.
By then, he’d understood that his time had come and gone, even before he was old enough to feel the loss. That long-ago childhood had been his time; then - when he was able to demand things, and to take them, even at Arthur’s expense. But, from the moment when he’d been dragged unwillingly to his knees by his own father; and heard Sir Ector plead, with tears in his eyes, that young Art (of his mercy!) might take Kai on as Seneschal, he’d known that game was ended. There was a new power in the land.
Then Guenevere had come to court, and suddenly it was all the fashion for footloose young knights to be (respectfully and distantly) in love with the new Queen. Kai had held his peace. And so it was that no one knew why, even after all the others had slipped loose of their calf-love and found ladies of their own, Kai had never married but held his love and his resentment hidden in the remotest corner of his heart.
At times, when things became too much (for example that time she had whispered to him, her trusted friend, that she had fallen, and slept with that bastard Lancelot), he would slip the heavy leash of his seneschalling duties and depart alone on Quest.
Thus it comes about that one long summer evening, he finds himself and his horse benighted in a wood. Maybe it’s near Athens...
They do not think as we think; that is for certain. Nor do They have feelings as we would know them. It is more that They are the Id of the earth – a wild subliminal concatenation of impulse, desire, action, ecstasy. They have no Ego as such; and thus, of course, They are the most egotistical entities in all the nine worlds.
They like to play with humans. The incoherent jumble of motives, memories and feelings within each mortal breast appeals to Them. More – They partake of pain like rare wine; nibble around the edges of love; and gulp the crimson tones of anger and malice as a vampire drinks life-blood.
Thus it comes about that They too are busy in a forest; meddling in the lives of several hapless humans; and, indeed, also aping human situations Themselves - quarrelling and tearing at one another in a game of infidelity, power and possession. In a wood that has alighted near Athens ...
Kai is tired, and the moonlight – so bright that the shadows following him are knife-sharp – is messing with his head. His horse is staggering too. The knight is so dazed that he stays a-saddle longer than he should – letting the horse wander and zig-zag whilst his cloudy head ponders only vacancy.
When he finally dismounts, his legs collapse beneath him; and he falls with a horrendous clanging of armour onto a bank of moss. Mingled plant-scents assail his nose, and he sneezes; which at least clears his head enough to allow him to tether the horse to a nearby tree.
Then he doffs his helmet, loosens whatever parts of his armour will do so without falling right off and clambers laboriously onto his shield in the approved manner for knightly outdoor-sleep...
.. which eludes him; although he returns again to that state of moon-vacancy.
Curled on his shield like a kitten; out of time; out of his mind; he finds only bemused acceptance when the moonbeams flow together, limning shadow and movement at their heart.
Forth from the dazzle steps his Queen, his beloved; her hair wild and loose, cascading down to mitigate, and yet accentuate her nudity. She gestures mutely; inviting.
Energised, he stands, the armour tumbling from him like a fall of bells.
This coupling is mute. She has presented him with his desire complete; no further explanation necessary. He, filled to the brim with hot desire and suppressed resentment (intertwined like twin serpents) speaks louder to Her with his silence, and his delicious, brutal lovemaking. He is clumsy, partly from inexperience, partly with intent; but She encompasses him, bearing the marks that he leaves on Her with tooth, nail and pinching fingers, most graciously. She will savour it all later; when She shares the essence of him with Her Folk.
And he, caught up in the glory - the sheer incredulity – of it all, is unaware of anything he has done. He is even unaware of the magic until, by chance, his tongue-tip traces the delicate rim of her ear from lobe to pointed summit; and it flicks beneath his lips. By then he is so far lost that his senses carry him beyond realisation – beyond even his very self – and he breaks silence, snorting violently in his nose and throat (‘Heee-haw!’), as he climaxes forever under the white light.
As the sun rises pitilessly, Kai suffers a dream wherein an ass head mocks his bewilderment with harsh laughter; and a voice like a raven rings in his ears –
’Mortal man, you have lived your life unsatisfied; but you will be requited before the end. This is My gift to you ...’
He’s startled awake by sound. It’s his horse, whinnying its unfed, unwatered complaint. He must have been exhausted last night if he failed to attend to it! A good knight always takes more care of his horse than he does of himself.
He drags himself, groaning to his feet. Every bone in his body sings in a different key of pain. He’s too old for these jaunts; or he’s gotten soft in the indoor service of his King. How did he come to choose this barren moor as a suitable sleeping place? He’s even spilled incontinently into his britches overnight. So the journey home on horseback will be a hideous torture!
A hover of crows shrieks raucously as he gathers his scattered equipage and quits the neighbourhood.
Camelot is a kicked hive of ants. Pages and servitors swarm along the corridors, and in the Great Hall knights are gathered in furtive groups, all muttering urgently. Kai, washed, tidied, and back in his Senechal’s robe and chain of office, joins one and enquires what’s to-do.
“You mean you don’t know, Kai? Where on earth have you BEEN?”
“I’ve just returned from Quest. Did I miss something?”
“Oh, not much! Agravaine son of Lot has ONLY surprised Lancelot and the Queen in flagrante!” discloses his informer with relish, “Lancelot has of course fled, and Guinevere’s arraigned for treason. They say she’ll burn!”
Kai gasps, partly in shock; and partly something else.
“How ... terrible!” he manages, “I must go to Arthur. He’ll need me.”
Oh, yes. The King will need his faithful foster-brother. A chance for Kai to grab back, maybe, some of the authority lost so long ago.
And as for Guinevere ....
Kai’s life; Kai’s love has been dedicated to this adulteress. So, it is entirely just that, amidst the trauma and the sorrow, one part of him (the part that is robbed and in pain) feels that some of his suffering has been adequately requited.