The little people of legend are called back into action, opposed by a sisterhood of sorceresses attempting to unseat the king.
, Body Exploration
, Mouth Play
, Vore Characters:
Minikin (3 in. to 1 in.)Size Roles:
This story is for entertainment purposes only.
The League of Homunculi
July 31 2010 Updated:
October 06 2010
Here's the start of a new adventure for my team of tiny heroes. Writing this series has been the most fun I've had as a writer lately, as I get to blend lots of things I love (giantess fetish, fantasy, myth, literature, etc.). Due to those sources, this is a work of fantasy as much as (if not more so than) one of fetish. There will be sexy stuff but this is not purely a wank-fest. If the latter's what you're looking for, you've been warned.
1. Chapter 1 by Pixis
2. Chapter 2 by Pixis
3. Chapter 3 by Pixis
4. Chapter 4 by Pixis
5. Chapter 5 by Pixis
6. Chapter 6 by Pixis
7. Chapter 7 by Pixis
8. Chapter 8 by Pixis
All characters are, to the best of my knowledge, public domain. If not, bear in mind that no money was gained in the creation of this story.
The League of Homunculi Book 4: The Sisterhood
The Legend: In the days of good King Arthur, the magician Merlin summoned to Britain a collection of the smallest individuals known to man. These he offered to the king as spies, a secret network of miniature heroes undertaking missions against the Round Table’s enemies. Merlin called this strange menagerie…the League of Homunculi.
Tom Thumb: Arthur’s court dwarf, an honorary Knight of the Round Table.
Thumbelina: The smallest woman in the world and Princess of the Flower-Faeries.
Issun-boshi: An inch-tall samurai from the distant East.
Thumbling: A tiny tailor seeking his fortune in a very big world.
Hop o’ My Thumb: A Gaulish rogue with a pair of mystic seven-league boots.
The League was facing a harsh and uncertain future. Their mentor Merlin was gone, trapped seemingly forever in oak by the deceitful priestess Nimue. Worse, they were left with the prophecy of the Day of Destiny – the fall of Camelot and everything they had fought to preserve. Nimue had accused Merlin of allowing this tragedy to happen through his indifference, and the magician’s visions seemed to confirm that it was approaching. What hope could five little thumb-sized misfits have of stopping it when even mighty wizards and sorceresses could not?
These morose thoughts consumed them as they stood assembled in their dollhouse headquarters on a table in the queen’s chambers. A week had passed since Merlin’s imprisonment by Nimue. But the League had not yet told the king what was at the heart of the former lovers’ quarrel.
“We should talk to him,” Thumbelina insisted. “Arthur deserves to know.”
“Know what, ‘Lina?” Tom cried angrily. “That this peaceful kingdom he’s fought so hard to create will all go to hell in a few years’ time? That his own son will fight and most likely kill him?”
“Could be less than a few years,” Thumbling offered unhelpfully. “Or more. Prophecies are vague like that.”
“Zat is so,” said Hop in his lilting Gaulish accent. “But if he knew what to expect, perhaps he might be able to avoid it, n’est pas?”
“He can’t avoid it,” Tom insisted. “You all heard Merlin. Time is a river. It flows to its predestined point and events happen as they are fated to. Those who can see the future can merely perceive it, they cannot change it.”
“Hogwash!” ‘Lina shot back. “You’re saying that everything’s already written and we’re just players acting out our parts? I refuse to accept that! All my life people have tried to tell me what to do, who to be, who to marry! But my life is my own and no one else’s! I don’t know about the rest of you but I don’t believe in fate. We make our own futures.”
Tom still protested. “But Merlin said—”
“Tom,” ‘Lina addressed their captain, placing a hand on his shoulder gently. “We know you loved Merlin like a father. His loss has hurt you more than any of us. So, don’t take this the wrong way, but…what if Merlin was wrong?”
“Merlin is never wrong,” the little knight whispered, turning away from her.
“He was only human,” argued ‘Lina.
“Half-human,” Tom said. “They say his father was an incubus.”
“Whatever!” the princess shrieked, her long red locks bobbing with a toss of her head. “You know what I mean! Just because he saw a possible future doesn’t mean it has to happen. Or that we must let it happen.”
“Oui,” said Hop. “I agree with Madame ‘Lina. What say you, Issun? You have been silent on zis matter.”
“Quiet as the grave as always,” Thumbling joked, rolling his eyes.
The little samurai, by far the smallest and most reserved of them, looked up at his companions. “I know only this. I follow the warrior’s code. And fate or no fate, a true warrior never stops fighting, no matter how bleak things seem.”
Tom clenched his jaw and stared off into space thoughtfully. “You’re right, of course. If there is even a chance to stop this, it is our duty as servants of the realm. We have delayed too long already. Let us go to the king at once.”
Scurrying down the rope ladder attached to the table, the League made for the throne room in all haste. They were decked in their finest, Tom and Hop sporting their feathered caps, Thumbelina in her shimmering green gown, and all of them bearing sewing needle swords and their official League accoutrements. They would show their best face for the king and hope that their news would not shake his resolve.
The League stayed close to the wall of the corridor, safe from the footfalls of knights and palace servants. A short time later, they arrived at the twin thrones of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere as they held court.
“Your majesties,” Tom began, “we wish to share information related to Merlin’s unfortunate imprisonme—”
He never got to finish for at that moment, the queen’s foot slid forward idly, nearly barreling the entire team over. The Leaguers leapt to each side to avoid being squashed by this monstrous appendage.
Guinevere looked down at last and her eyes opened wide. “Oh! Apologies, I did not see you there.”
“Er, no harm done, my lady,” ‘Lina stammered, as she and the others stood up and composed themselves. “But we have information that—”
“Your information will have to wait,” the queen informed them. “Another craves audience with us.”
The League turned around to see whom she was indicating. A short distance behind them was a massive pair of strangely familiar bare feet, just below a towering gown of forest green. The little thumblings craned their necks upward and recognized the dark-haired woman at once.
“Nimue!” they shouted in alarm. The League drew their tiny swords and prepared to launch an assault upon her. Perhaps a few of them could scurry up her legs and attack a vital spot before she crushed or annihilated them all.
“Peace, little ones!” the priestess said, hopping backward away from their slashing needles. The ground rumbled with her jump, causing a few of the League to lose their balance and fall once again. “I wish to explain myself!”
“Aye,” said a man’s voice overhead. “Hear her out.” The homunculi turned once again and saw a handsome armor-clad knight standing beside Nimue, his hand reaching out to find hers. It was Sir Pelleas, the warrior who had wandered off with the priestess the night of Merlin’s defeat and not been seen since.
“Traitor!” Tom barked at him. “Siding with this witch? You shame the Table, Pelleas!”
“Enough!” Arthur bellowed from the dais. “Let them speak!”
“Thank you, High King,” Nimue said. “You all have good reason to hate me. I have done you a great wrong. When I trapped Myrddin Emrys with his own enchantments, I thought I acted in the best interests of Britain.” She paused and bowed her head.
“I was deceived. I know now that all I did was to carry out a vendetta of Avalon’s priestesses. They believed the Merlin was leading this land to disaster and away from the worship of the Children of Dôn. I believed this too, though I see now that it is not so simple. The Merlin’s actions have done as much good as harm. And if the old ways of Avalon are indeed fading…”
She paused, struggling to find the words.
“…then that is something my order will have to accept. It is the people’s will. We cannot force men to believe.”
“Regardless of this,” Nimue proceeded, “in my blindness, I have robbed you of your greatest counselor. This is inexcusable. If…if you can forgive me, I offer my own services in his place. I shall try my best to carry on in the Merlin’s absence.”
“Mon Dieu!” Hop exclaimed.
“Lord Arthur, you cannot believe her?” Tom said, looking up at the king.
The monarch gravely stroked his beard in thought. “Sir Pelleas, do you vouch that the lady’s desire for redemption is genuine?”
Pelleas stepped forward solemnly, head high. “I do, my liege. Nimue and I have become…close these past days. And I have seen the good in her heart. She wishes only to redress her sins. Forget not that the Lady of the Lake hand-picked Nimue as her successor. However misguided her actions, she loves this land as much as you do, my lord, and has acted only towards its preservation.”
Arthur was silent for a long time, considering this. He looked at the young priestess who had been his friend and advisor. Her head was still bowed and tears were beginning to form at the corners of her eyes. “Very well,” he said at last. “Lady Nimue is readmitted to the court. But on probationary status. For the time being, she will be outfitted with iron bracelets that curtail her magic.”
“But Arthur—” Tom began.
“It is done, Sir Tom,” the king said. “My judgment is passed. This is a civilized age and we will not wantonly execute our friends, especially if they come before us begging forgiveness.”
“That said,” Arthur continued. “The loss of Merlin is not something I take lightly. If Nimue’s intentions are other than they seem, there will be serious consequences. She will have to prove to us that she can be trusted.”
The priestess looked up and managed a weak smile at this. “You are a wise and compassionate leader, Arthur. I hope to prove worthy of your faith in me. As to regaining trust…there is another matter that brought us back to court.”
“Indeed,” Sir Pelleas added. “We bring word from the Summer Country. Morgan le Fay has resurfaced.”
At this, the king bristled. “You know this how?”
“She travels here and there disguised,” Nimue said. “But I would know her aura anywhere. Morgan was one of the strongest adepts to come from Avalon’s halls. I believe she is hiding somewhere near Glastonbury. And, Arthur…I do not think she works alone.”
“Then, we shall find her and any who aid her,” Arthur declared. “God willing, my sister may yet seek redemption as well.”
Guinevere shifted nervously in her seat, clearly distressed by this news.
“I know, my love,” Arthur told his queen. “As ever, you think that Morgan should be slain.”
“No, I…I understand your hope, Arthur,” Guinevere said. “Life was never peaceful between my own sister and me. I was Father’s chosen heir. My half-sister has always resented me for it. I…have sometimes wished that things were different. If Morgan can be saved, you must try.”
“So be it,” said Arthur. “I shall fetch my finest knights and make haste for the Summer Country.”
Just then, something stirred beneath the fabric of Nimue’s bodice. All assembled watched in astonishment as Thumbling emerged from the top of her dress. He attempted to clamber up the slope of her generous chest, sword drawn. The tiny tailor had apparently succeeded in scaling her during the League’s aborted attack.
“Ha ha! Die, foul sorceress!” he cried, swinging his needle-sword. A moment later, he lost his footing, slipped, and landed awkwardly halfway in her cleavage.
“Stand down, ‘Ling!” Tom called from the floor. “A truce has been called!”
“Now you tell me,” Thumbling grumbled.
To be continued...
Here's the next chapter. It contains a giant couple scene, which is new territory for me. My tastes being what they are, I don't linger too much on the giant man. But I wanted to give fair warning all the same.
A short time later, Arthur had summoned his most trusted companions to accompany him on the mission to the Summer Country. Assembled in the great hall were Sir Lancelot, Camelot’s champion; Sir Bedivere, Arthur’s first knight; and Sir Kay, the king’s foster brother.
As they were briefed on the situation, Guinevere stepped towards her husband imploringly. “Arthur,” she said. “Could not Lancelot remain behind? With you and your finest gone, I would feel more secure with a champion to protect me.”
The Leaguers, standing together on the edge of the famous Round Table, exchanged furtive and knowing looks at this. Many at court suspected the queen’s true feelings for Lancelot. Their secret affair was a frequent source of gossip but no one dared speak of it outright to the king. To cast aspersions on the queen’s character or that of Arthur’s best warrior was tantamount to treason.
“If that is your wish, my love,” Arthur said. His face was an impassive mask and if he knew of his wife’s secrets, he said nothing. “Lance, you will tarry here and attend to the queen.”
“Yes, my liege,” the handsome Gaulish knight answered.
“Your majesty,” a young man called from the other side of the hall. “Might I take Lancelot’s place in this quest?”
Everyone turned towards this youth curiously. The young knight, no more than eighteen or nineteen, had a head of long dark hair, as black as a raven’s feathers. He was fair of face and was clad in a tunic adorned with a red lion.
“Uwain,” Arthur said. “Are you certain you want this, nephew? Morgan is your mother. Can you divorce your feelings from your duty?”
“There is no love lost between my mother and me, uncle,” Sir Uwain stated. “My affection died the night she tried to kill my father. If she remains an enemy of the Round Table, I am prepared to treat her as such.”
“Spoken like a true knight of the realm,” Kay declared. The lanky, red-haired knight slapped Uwain on the back, causing the younger man to stumble.
Bedivere nervously stroked his long, Celtic-style mustache. A loyal warrior since before the founding of the Round Table, he had witnessed many of Morgan’s schemes over the years. News of the witch always made him uneasy and if she had allies in this latest endeavor, he wasn’t sure he liked Camelot’s chances. But he would never show weakness before his king. “It’s a long ride to the Summer Country, Arthur,” he said simply. “We should be off.”
Tom paced across the tabletop. “My lords, before you go, there is something we really must—”
But his tiny voice was drowned out by the knights’ preparation. Armor rattled and weapons clanked and the miniature League was all but forgotten. Moments later, the company had departed, leaving the little homunculi with their thoughts.
“So, uh, maybe I wasn’t paying attention,” Thumbling said, “but what happened to that idea of telling the king about the big bad prophecy and all that, huh?”
“We’ll talk when he returns,” Tom told him with a sigh. “He has other things on his mind just now.”
The little man watched suspiciously as Lancelot and Guinevere disappeared down one corridor while Nimue and Pelleas vanished down another. “In the meantime, I think there are other issues that should command our attention.”
* * * *
In the highest tower of the castle, within a small, cramped room cluttered with parchments, scrolls, books, beakers, test tubes, talismans, and assorted bric-a-brac, an old owl sat napping on his perch. Archimedes was on his own now that Merlin was gone and though he’d always known this day was coming, he missed his former master. They had fought and bickered like an old married couple but genuinely cared about each other, in their own way. Now, Archimedes was alone and not at all keen on the idea.
That didn’t mean he wanted his daytime naps interrupted however.
“Archimedes!” a tiny figure shouted after materializing in the tower. “Wake up, monsieur!”
The educated owl awoke with a start, loose pinfeathers flying in all directions as he squawked in annoyance. His broken wing was still bandaged and mending and he felt a sharp pain shoot through it with the sudden movement.
“Jehosephat, boy!” he said to Hop, reproachfully. “Don’t sneak up on a body like that! Is it so much to ask for a little peace and quiet?”
“My apologies,” said Hop. “We thought you would want to know zat Nimue has returned to court.”
The bird arched the feathery equivalent of an eyebrow. “Has she now? Well, I say, that’s a new wrinkle.”
Hop was puzzled by this nonchalant response. “You are not concerned by zis?”
“You mean do I bear any ill will for the lass?” Archimedes asked. “Not as such, no. Mind you, this wing of mine bloody hurts like the dickens. But as for the rest of it, it was always a foregone conclusion that she’d be the end of Merlin. He went on about it all the time. You know, sometimes, I think he was almost looking forward to it. Thought of it as a sort of vacation from politics and nation-building and wizardly duties, I expect.”
“Did he say anything about what Nimue’s activities would be after his imprisonment?” inquired Hop.
“No, can’t say as he did,” the owl answered. “I suppose now that Merlin’s gone, I’ll have to get used to not knowing every little detail about the future. Not sure if that’s good or bad.”
“If Nimue returns to her quarters here in ze tower,” Hop continued, “we were hoping you would keep an eye on her for us. Both her and Sir Pelleas. We are not sure if zhey can be trusted.”
“I’m getting a little old for espionage,” Archimedes grumbled. “But I’ll do what I can, lad.”
“Merci,” the tiny cavalier said, doffing his feathered cap and bowing politely. “Now, excusez-moi, I must to my comrades’ aid.” With a sweep of his cape, Hop disappeared. Archimedes harrumphed at the little show-off and settled down to resume his nap.
* * * *
If they could not yet warn Arthur of the prophecy, the League was determined to at least prevent it from coming true. One part of that was to put a stop to Lancelot and Guinevere’s adultery before it caused Arthur to war on his best friend. The queen thought of her tiny League like treasured pets. Surely, she would be more receptive to hearing the truth from them than from anyone else.
“Either that or she’ll just squish us like insects,” Thumbling said. The others looked at him in annoyance. “What? I’m just saying what we’re all thinking here.”
The League rushed to the queen’s bedchamber, hoping to stop her from making a terrible mistake. But when they arrived, neither she nor Lancelot were anywhere to be seen. They glanced at the staggeringly tall bed at the center of the room but could not see high enough to determine if it was occupied.
“We need to get to higher ground,” Tom informed them. At once, the little warriors took hold of the silky sheet and began to scale the side of the bed. Yet the bedding was undisturbed when they reached the top and no one was in sight.
“Maybe we’ve misjudged her,” Thumbelina reasoned. “Maybe the queen isn’t betraying Arthur after all.”
At that moment, a tapestry on the far wall slid aside, revealing a giggling Guinevere and Lancelot creeping through a secret passage. Wasting no time, the lovers began to strip off their garments. With seductively slinky motions, the queen slipped out of her gown, allowing it to plummet to the floor around her ankles.
The League was soon faced with the disarming sight of a stark naked Guinevere towering high above them. Each supple curve and smooth plane of flesh seemed like the features of a mountain to the tiny folk. Tom and Issun chivalrously looked away, while Thumbling leered without a trace of embarrassment. Only ‘Lina had the presence of mind to realize that the team was not in the safest spot.
“Run, you fools!” she shrieked to the others. Mere seconds later, the mountain of flesh above seemed to collapse as Guinevere let herself tumble backward onto the bed.
As she fell, Issun vanished under the colossal rondure of the queen’s backside, his inch-tall frame completely subsumed by it. Thumbling too failed to scurry away in time and became trapped in the hollow below the small of her back. ‘Lina and Tom had managed to bolt a fair distance away but found themselves tangled in silky strands of red-gold hair when the queen’s head hit the pillow. The lovers were so distracted by their passion for each other that they didn’t even notice the little folk caught in the middle of it.
Lancelot was soon similarly disrobed and lowering himself atop his paramour. What followed were some of the most excruciating moments in the League’s history. The force of the two giants’ lovemaking was overwhelming. Each thrust, each heave, each passionate movement felt like an earthquake and the tiny heroes were very nearly crushed by the violently shifting landscape of the queen’s body. Only the softness of the bed kept them from popping like grapes below her. As her massive weight pressed down on them and they felt their bones bruise, they thanked God that the royals had such luxurious bedding rather than the simple pallet and straw of the peasantry. Without the goose feather mattress and fine Arabian silks, they might have been smeared into paste.
Thumbling tried vainly to free himself from the giantess’ weight. His tiny, squirming upper body could just barely be seen as he attempted to wriggle out from under her back. But another few thrusts from Lancelot caused the woman to buck wildly up and down, slamming her body onto Thumbling again and again. He grunted in pain and dug his fingernails into the mattress.
Tom had managed to extricate himself from the queen’s hair and sat panting in exhaustion on the pillow. Behind him, ‘Lina was still trapped in the sea of gold, her ankle caught in a snarl of hair. She was trying to untangle it but the back of the queen’s head kept pressing down upon her, half crushing her leg. Bravely, Tom dove back into the flowing river of locks and fought his way through to save his teammate. Like a jungle explorer, he hacked at the silken underbrush with his sword, all the while watching nervously as the human mountains above continued their passionate embrace.
Moments earlier, Hop had returned from his errand to Merlin’s tower. He was now scurrying about the titanic lovers, trying to find a way to save his teammates without being crushed himself. But it was like witnessing the collision of two land masses. Everywhere he ran, his path was blocked by enormous body parts, some of which required quick footwork to avoid.
At last, rapturously, the two giants rolled over, switching positions. Now, Guinevere was on top and her weight had been lifted from her tiny, unnoticed bedfellows. Thumbling crawled away painfully but ‘Lina and Tom were pulled along with her in the tangle of hair, which now draped over her shoulders and back. At last, Thumbelina pulled her ankle free and she and her would-be savior tumbled through the queen’s hair and slid onto the surface of her shoulder blades.
The two homunculi tried to stand uneasily on the rocking landscape of her back. Just ahead, they saw the curving hillside of the queen’s backside, with tiny Issun caught in the crevice between her cheeks. His little arms and legs were flailing wildly as he tried to pull himself out. Now and then, her muscles clenched in moments of ecstasy, causing Issun to disappear entirely between the massive walls of flesh. Tom and ‘Lina rushed to help him but were thrown off by a heave of the queen’s body. As the two giants were stacked atop one another, the plummet to the mattress was quite a harrowing experience.
Seeing Issun’s plight, Hop took hold of one of Guinevere’s toes and carefully scaled the sole of her foot, using the wrinkles in the surface for handholds. Bolting over her heel, he hurried unnoticed along the back of her leg at super speed. Hop raced up the hill-like curve, pulled Issun free, and carried him away to join the others, who were now gathering at the edge of the bed.
“Oh, Issun,” ‘Lina cried, throwing her arms about the little samurai. Issun groaned in pain but seemed otherwise unharmed. “We thought you’d be squashed for sure!”
“I have survived enough lovemaking with my darling wife, Haru,” Issun said, “to know a few tricks.”
Despite his injuries, Thumbling could barely contain himself. “My God, you’ll never believe what I saw!”
“Yes, ‘Ling, we know,” Tom interrupted. “We’ve all seen more of the queen than we ever thought possible. Quite improper if you ask me.”
“Prude,” Hop chuckled. “Such beauty should be celebrated.”
“No, it’s not that!” ‘Ling insisted. “Though, uh, that was pretty nice.” ‘Lina rolled her eyes at him but the little tailor continued. “It’s her birthmark! The one on the small of her back!”
Tom glanced at him cock-eyed. “How do you know of such things?”
“All right, so I peeped a few times,” Thumbling admitted.
“A true knight would avert his gaze!” cried Tom, scandalized.
“He may be a pervert but he’s right,” ‘Lina said. “Guinevere does have a birthmark on her back, shaped like a crown. I’ve heard Arthur remark that it was God’s way of declaring her rightful Queen of Britain. I hardly see why that matters now though, ‘Ling.”
“Take a look over there!” Thumbling said, gesturing at the giants.
The League turned to take another glance at Guinevere (Tom did so most reluctantly). The queen was still on top of Lancelot, moaning and gasping and kissing him passionately, completely unaware of the little folk. Once again, they were awestruck by her size and grandeur, by the sea of strawberry blonde locks, by the smooth, unblemished planes and peaks that formed the landscape of her body.
The Leaguers stared in shock at the queen’s back. Not so much as a freckle disturbed the pale, pink skin. “The birthmark…it’s gone!” said ‘Lina.
“That woman,” Thumbling announced, “is not Queen Guinevere.”
To be continued...
The villains are revealed! Fun fact: This chapter features a lesser known character from the early Welsh Arthur stories. Not sure if many of you will care but I thought it was worth mentioning that I didn't make this bit up. Guinevere really did have a -- well, you'll see.
The League hid themselves in a corner of the room, below a wooden dresser, to observe the apparent impostor who had taken the queen’s place. Who was she? What could this mean? Meanwhile, Sir Lancelot had fallen quite blissfully asleep on the bed. They could hear the knight snoring contentedly in the distance.
Guinevere – or whoever it was – smiled at her lover as she slid, catlike, out of the bed. She wrapped a silky robe about her and padded over to a full length mirror on the other side of the room. Picking up a leather pouch from a nearby table, she reached within and drew forth a handful of shimmering dust. The woman flung this at the glass of the mirror and whispered something softly under her breath.
Gradually, the reflections in the mirror began to ripple like water. The images clouded, warped, and started to coalesce into a new shape. Facing the strawberry blonde queen was the figure of another woman, one small and dark but breathtakingly beautiful. Raven-black hair tumbled over her slim shoulders. A plain grey gown offset her lovely features and piercing, angry green eyes.
‘Lina’s breath caught in her throat and the other Leaguers tensed as they recognized the apparition. There was no mistaking Morgan le Fay.
The blonde woman bowed reverently before the image in the mirror. “My queen,” she said.
Morgan viewed her deference with pleasure and smiled slightly. “You summon me?” the sorceress asked. “How goes your mission?”
The false Guinevere returned her mistress’ smile. “Exceedingly well,” she declared. “Both Arthur and Lancelot have succumbed to the love potion. They are utterly under my thumb.”
“And neither of them suspects the truth?”
“Not a whit,” said the blonde. “Any subtle differences between my sister and me go completely without notice. By the by, how is my dear sister?”
Morgan stepped aside, revealing more of the phantom room behind her. A few paces away, another blonde—an exact double of the impostor—was bound to a chair by course ropes. She struggled futilely, much to the delight of two women that stood on either side of her. One resembled Morgan, possessing the same raven locks and stunning beauty but a slightly more careworn face and a regal gown. The other was a hideous old hag with dark, purple hair and a tattered dress.
The woman tied to the chair looked at the mirror and began to scream. “Guinevak, you horrid child! You’ll never get away with this!”
The false queen laughed at this pronouncement. “But Guinevere, my sweet, I already have. Your throne is mine. Your husband is mine. And after tonight, even your darling Lancelot is mine.”
Guinevere gasped and fought all the more against her bonds. “You spiteful, conniving, little—”
“Temper, temper,” the impostor chided.
“Guinevak?” Thumbling whispered. “Who the bloody hell is Guinevak?!”
“The queen’s half-sister,” Tom explained quietly. “Guinevak was illegitimate and she’s always hated and envied her sister. But, sweet Jesu, I never thought she would side with Morgan!”
“Oh, this is simply wonderful!” Guinevak laughed impishly as she watched her sister struggle. “Queen Morgan, may I see her in person?”
“Certainly,” Morgan answered, waving a hand before her side of the mirror and muttering a spell in ancient Brythonic. “We’ll be starting the ritual soon so now is the time. Come forward.”
The mirror began to ripple and shift once more, its images distorting and elongating. Guinevak reached a tentative hand toward the glass and found that it passed through the surface as if it were water. Satisfied, she stepped forward, lifting her foot over the base of the mirror and walking straight through it.
Tom saw their opportunity and frantically motioned to the rest of the League. “Move!” he hissed.
The little people scurried with all their might towards the mirror, scrambling up over the base and following Guinevak through the looking glass portal. Thankfully, Morgan and her allies were too preoccupied with their prisoner to notice the tiny stowaways. Issun followed at the back of the procession, his smaller legs slowing his progress. Thumbelina turned at the mirror’s edge and reached a hand down for Issun to take hold of, hoisting the miniature samurai up over the metallic base. They barely made it through the portal before the mystical liquid of the gateway began to shimmer and solidify again. Soon, the door was glass once more and the League realized that they were trapped on the other side.
A few paces before them, the barefooted false Guinevere towered like a castle turret. She had but to take a step backwards and she would surely crush them underfoot. Even if they avoided her, they’d be too exposed on the open floor and Morgan or her allies would see them. As such, the homunculi hurried for cover, taking refuge behind an ornamental suit of armor in a corner of the room. As the women continued to taunt and mock the captive true Guinevere, the League looked at each other in panic and confusion.
“All right, who are those other weirdoes?” Thumbling inquired.
“I’m not sure,” said Tom. “Let’s see if we can get a closer look.”
They crept ever nearer, staying to the shadows and hiding themselves behind any object or obstruction they could find. From the armor to a table leg to the dusty darkness below an armoire they scurried, all the while keeping an eye on the giantesses. There was something oddly familiar about the elder, dark-haired woman with such a strong resemblance to Morgan. They did not have to wait long for their answer.
As Guinevak approached her sister, she inclined her head respectfully to the two jailers.
“Queen Morgause, you look radiant as ever,” she told the dark-haired beauty. The Leaguers were kicking themselves for not recognizing her. One of their first missions had been to spy on Morgause, Queen of Orkney. The years had weathered her since but it was indeed the same woman. Like Morgan, Morgause was one of King Arthur’s sisters and, also like Morgan, had little love for her brother. Though her sons were all Round Table knights, Morgause usually had a personal agenda at odds with the High King.
“Haven’t ye a kind word for me, dearie?” the ugly, old crone cackled from the other side of Morgause.
“Always, Madame Mim,” Guinevak said politely, though she looked a bit uncomfortable. And with good reason. A frightful old witch, Madame Mim had been one of Merlin’s chief rivals in the early days. Her magic was strong, but spiteful and destructive. All things good and pure were anathema to Mim. Her name was used to frighten children when they misbehaved.
“God’s blood. Mim?” Tom whispered. “That old bat is still alive? She was older than the hills when Arthur was but a boy.”
“You heathens! You brutes!” Guinevere shrieked, struggling against the ropes. “Release me at once!”
“Oh, do shut her up,” said Morgan.
“With pleasure,” Guinevak answered, beaming. She took a cloth from a pocket of her robe and used it to gag her sister. Guinevere mumbled and moaned but finally bowed her head in defeat.
“The Sisterhood is nearly complete,” Morgan told the assembled women. “With that insipid Merlin imprisoned, we could not have a better time to strike at Camelot. We have only a few more allies to gather.”
Turning to Morgause, Morgan continued. “Any word from our sister, Elaine?”
Morgause looked up from the hand mirror she had been gazing into and frowned. “She’s not coming,” said the Queen of Orkney. “It seems Elaine does not share our resentment. I think that fool husband of hers, King Nentres, has made her soft.”
“The idiot!” Morgan spat. “How can she turn on us now? Arthur’s father murdered our own! King Uther’s bastard whelp sits upon the throne and leads the people away from the gods! Arthur must pay for all that he has done!”
“Preaching to the choir, my sister,” Morgause stated absently, running a comb through her luxurious black hair. “To borrow a phrase the Christians seem to favor.”
“Oh, I do look forward to seeing the Wart again,” Mim said happily. “Perhaps I’ll turn him into a chicken and fry him up for supper!”
“No, Wisewoman Mim,” Morgan told her. “We’ve already agreed how Arthur shall die. Sir Mordred will do the deed.”
“That’s right,” said Morgause. “My son will do what he was born for. And he will be King of Britain!”
“And where is the lad exactly, your majesties?” Guinevak asked.
“He should be arriving shortly with the final member of our Sisterhood,” said Morgan. “Then, we can begin the ritual. Come, my friends, we shall toast our impending victory. I have wine in the dining hall.”
As the women departed from the room, the League looked at each other in a panic.
“This is bad,” Thumbelina muttered. “This is very, very bad.”
“We should put a stop to these harridans’ schemes at once, mes amis!” Hop announced.
Tom frowned and rubbed his forehead. “How? You weren’t with us before, Hop. We barely survived the last time we encountered Morgan. Now she has an entire cadre of sorceresses at her side! I hate to admit it but we are very much out of our depth here.”
“A warrior never stops fighting,” Issun-boshi repeated quietly. “No matter the odds.”
“I’m with the little guy,” said Thumbling. “We’ve gotta do something!”
Tom thought for a moment. “All right, this is the plan. We find out where we are, first of all, and where it is in relation to the Summer Country. Then, we can locate Arthur and the knights and tell them what we’ve learned.”
“And ze queen?” Hop asked. “Zhey spoke of a ritual. What if she is to be a sacrifice?” They looked up at Guinevere, still bound to the chair with head hung low, resigned to her fate. Tears were streaking down her face.
“We can do nothing for her yet,” Tom said, sadly. “If we free her, the sorceresses will know we’re here.”
With a look of determination, Thumbelina depressed the button on her harness, releasing her artificial faerie wings. A split second later, she had taken off.
“’Lina, where are you going?” Tom cried.
“The queen is suffering,” ‘Lina called back. “I will comfort her.”
The tiny woman floated gracefully upward, a pale golden glow following behind her. In moments, she reached the side of Guinevere’s head and landed on her right ear. Thumbelina took hold of its sides, balancing precariously on the rim of the ear, and whispered to the woman.
“Don’t worry, your majesty.”
The queen’s head jerked upward at the unexpected sound, causing ‘Lina to lose her grip and tumble off. She recovered at once, spreading her wings and swooping back upward until she was in Guinevere’s line of sight. The eyes of the High Queen of Britain grew wide as she saw the tiny, glowing creature before her.
“We’ll get you out of here,” the miniature woman whispered. “Somehow.”
To be continued...
New chapter. We meet the last member of the Sisterhood (another little-seen Welsh character that fit the story perfectly) and learn the villains' ultimate goal.
While the sorceresses toasted their schemes in another part of the castle, the League was gathered by a window in the room that had become Guinevere’s prison. Thumbelina had floated up to the windowsill and was gazing out across the fields, trying to determine where they were.
“I’m not sure, but I think I see—yes! There it is,” ‘Lina called to the others as she spotted a familiar hill. “I see the Tor off in the distance. We’re in the Summer Country.”
“Then Nimue and Pelleas were telling the truth,” Thumbling said. “They did spot Morgan while they were here.”
“Unless they’re in on this with her,” Tom added darkly. “Nimue is a sorceress herself. She could be one of le Fay’s allies.”
“That seems illogical, mon capitan,” said Hop. “Why would she return to Camelot to warn ze king of Morgan’s plot?”
“To lure him into a trap,” Tom reasoned.
“All the more reason for us to find Arthur and that company of knights,” ‘Lina said. “They could be walking into an ambush.”
“Hop, you’re the fastest of us,” said Tom. “Those magic boots of yours can cover the most ground. You’ve got to find Arthur and warn him.”
“You can count on me, monsieur. But where shall I lead him?”
“Hold that thought,” said ‘Lina. She took off once again and flitted gracefully to where Guinevere was bound, landing on her right cheek like a butterfly. With some effort, the tiny woman was able to pull the gag from the queen’s lips, backing away cautiously as the huge mouth slid open and flexed a bit as she recovered.
“Your majesty,” Thumbelina said, hovering in the air before the queen’s eyes, “do you know where we are?”
“I’m not positive,” Guinevere admitted. “Guinevak and her thugs caught me by surprise when I went to visit my father in Cameliard several days ago. When I came to, I was here. It…seems familiar to me. Perhaps Castle Malagant, if we are in the Summer Country. I was held prisoner there once before, years ago.”
“I will mention zis possibility,” Hop said. In a flash, he had vanished and appeared on the windowsill above. “I go now to seek ze king. Fear not, mes amis. Help is on ze way.”
In the blink of an eye, he disappeared.
* * * *
Also on the way at that moment were two young travelers of royal blood. One was Sir Mordred of Orkney, the son born of the (unwittingly) incestuous union of Morgause and her brother King Arthur. A dark and brooding youth with thin stubble and a sour disposition, he rode on horseback beside a large, fancy, horse-drawn coach driven by palace servants. Within this elaborate conveyance was a beautiful girl of eighteen summers. Her skin was pale, her dress was a deep royal purple, and her long hair was as dark as midnight. She was busy reading a book and doing her best to ignore the restless escort beside her.
“I’m bored, Morvydd,” whined the young prince. He pronounced the girl’s name in the Celtic fashion, replacing the double “d” with a “th” sound.
“The shock of the century,” said Princess Morvydd of Gorre, daughter of Morgan le Fay. She did not look up from her reading.
“I want to take some of the servants and terrorize a peasant village,” Mordred insisted. “Or perhaps I’ll find some travelers on the road and demand a royal tribute. Aye, that would be a lark!”
“Now, cousin,” Morvydd scolded. “What would Uncle Arthur think of such behavior?”
“Oh, hang Arthur!” the young man said. “Fie on him and his bloody morality! ‘Might for right,’ indeed! What’s the point of being royalty if we can’t abuse the commoners now and then? Besides, Arthur won’t be king for much longer. Not if our mothers have any say in the matter.”
“So they keep telling me,” said Morvydd, distractedly.
“And that’s another thing,” Mordred added. “If Auntie Morgan is your mother, why does she need me to go and fetch you? Can’t she just snap her fingers or twitch her nose and magic you away or something?”
“Mother is a fugitive since her last conflict with Uncle Arthur,” Morvydd explained. “We needed a cover story, two cousins on a vacation to the Summer Country. That way, my father won’t be suspicious.”
“Oh yes, fat old King Uriens,” Mordred laughed. “Such a clueless bumbler.”
Morvydd looked up from her book, her green eyes flashing in anger. “Mind your tongue.” The princess shot him a look of daggers that contained a subtle threat. Beauty was not all that Morvydd had inherited from Morgan le Fay.
“My…apologies, Morvydd,” the young man said, somewhat shaken. A moment later, he was his regular self again. “Morvydd, Morgan, Morgause—doesn’t anyone in this family know any other syllables?”
“You’re one to talk.”
Mordred pulled a map from his pocket and checked it a few times, glancing about at the scenery. He reined his horse to a stop and beckoned for the coachman to do the same.
“Well, here we are.”
Just before them were the ruins of a once mighty fortress. Castle Malagant had once belonged to Sir Malagant, an enemy of the Round Table with a lust for Guinevere. He had been slain by Sir Lancelot many years past and the castle had fallen into disrepair. Its stone walls were cracked and crumbling with whole chunks of the castle seemingly missing. The moat was dried up and overgrown with weeds and ivy. A broken, rotting drawbridge led to a fallen portcullis where a man-sized hole had been roughly hewn by some sort of weapon.
“Gads, what a dump!” Mordred scoffed. “We’re really to stay here?”
“That’s an illusion,” Morvydd informed him matter-of-factly. “Mother created it, no doubt. The real castle is about forty paces west.”
“How do you know that?”
Morvydd rolled her head back and sighed with exasperation. She pointed to her eye.
“Oh, of course. The bloody ‘Sight,’” said Mordred, waving his hands dramatically. “All my life, I’m surrounded by sorceresses. And now I have to spend holiday with them. Well, point me to the real castle then and let’s get inside. I don’t want to trip and fall into an invisible moat. This is a new tunic.”
* * * *
Once the two youths entered the castle and greeted their kinswomen, Morgan was anxious to begin the much-discussed ritual. She hesitated to delay, fearing that Arthur would tumble to their plans and arrive to stop them, as he so often had in the past. The League barely had time to replace Guinevere’s gag and scurry for cover as the enchantresses returned. In haste, they dashed beneath the folds of the queen’s gown, hiding themselves behind her feet and ankles. The woman held as still as possible so as not to harm her tiny saviors.
Even in the life and death situation they found themselves in, Thumbling could not resist sneaking a glance up Guinevere’s dress. His eyes nearly bulged from their sockets as he traced the long, shapely towers of her legs to the distant curves and frilly petticoats above. ‘Lina caught him staring and slapped the back of his head.
One by one, the sorceresses filed into the room with Sir Mordred behind them. Guinevak expressed a desire to stay and watch the ritual but this was deemed too risky.
“We need you back at Camelot to maintain the charade,” Morgan informed her. “Remember, as far as anyone knows, you are the queen. If any at court become suspicious, the game is lost.”
The beautiful blonde sighed. “I suppose you’re right. But I want a full report when I return!”
Morgan’s eyes narrowed at this demand. “Forget not who is in charge here,” the sorceress-queen hissed. “I have deigned to include you in my plans, Guinevak. Do not abuse the privilege.”
Guinevak muttered a sheepish apology but was promptly marched back to the mirror. Once the incantation had been recited, Morgan practically shoved her through the looking glass portal.
“Impudent cow,” muttered Morgan. “Thankfully, we won’t need her much longer. Now, everyone take your places, as we discussed.”
The League felt the floor rumble and shake as the various giants shifted position and assembled themselves around the chair where Guinevere was bound. Peeping out from under the hem of the gown, the homunculi saw the massive feet of their numerous enemies on all sides. They were surrounded.
Morvydd, Morgause, and Madame Mim were arranged in a semi-circle around the captive queen. Sir Mordred, meanwhile, was busy untying her and forcing her up onto her feet at knifepoint. The League members backed away fearfully as Guinevere began to stand. Pulled from the chair roughly, she staggered a bit, coming dangerously close to stepping on the little folk that cowered below. They quickly leaped out of the path of those colossal, shuffling feet.
Seeing the edge of the gown lifting from the floor, the tiny heroes feared exposure. Desperately, Tom grabbed hold of the fabric of the dress and was lifted along with it as the queen stood up. The others quickly followed his lead and were soon suspended a few inches from the ground, clinging tightly to the inside of the gown as it swayed around her ankles.
“They’re starting,” Thumbelina whispered. “It’s now or never, Tom. We have to stop them!”
“How?” he whispered back. “The minute we’re discovered, we’d be crushed to death, placed under a hex, or turned into slugs by Mim!”
“We fail and the queen dies,” Issun said. “We must act!”
“Aw, bollocks,” Thumbling swore. “I’m game for biting their ankles and running like hell. Who’s with me?”
Mordred untied and removed the gag from Guinevere’s mouth, though he left her hands bound behind her back. “If you kill me,” the queen said quietly, “Arthur will hunt you down and slay the lot of you. There will be nowhere you can run.”
“Kill you?” Mordred said with a derisive laugh. “Now, Gwenny dear, why should I want to kill my lovely bride-to-be?”
The League members’ jaws dropped simultaneously with the queen’s.
“His what?” ‘Ling mouthed, almost losing his grip on the dress.
“I wouldn’t expect a Christian to understand,” Morgan le Fay explained, stepping towards Guinevere. “But to my people, the queen represents the sovereignty of the land. In the king-making rituals of old, the woman embodied the Mother Goddess and the man, her divine consort. Their coupling would renew the kingdom and establish his lordship. Once you and Mordred are bound to one another, he shall be the rightful and spiritually ordained King of Britain.”
“But—but I already have a husband!” Guinevere stammered. “This is sin! Mordred, I’m your stepmother, for God’s sake!”
“Oh, now you care about sin!” Mordred mocked with a grin. “It seemed no impediment to your late night trysts with good Sir Lancelot.”
“Enough chatter,” Morgan announced. “Give her the love potion. Quickly now, its effects will not last long.” Mordred pressed a small vial to Guinevere’s lips, holding her nose until she was forced to gulp its contents down. Moments later, the queen seemed obedient and complacent, gazing upon the young man with smiling adoration.
“She’s ready,” said Mordred. Silently and efficiently, Morgan le Fay lit three torches that were positioned around the group. As the others readied themselves, Morgan pulled the hood of her robe over her head and began the ritual.
“Goddess of the land, your priestess beseeches you. The old traditions are not dead and your Children are not forgotten. I offer you a vessel so that your wisdom and your strength may return to this kingdom. I offer you this youth of royal blood to be your king and consort, your true servant and champion. I offer these gifts attended by initiates into your mysteries, each in aspect of your sacred cycle.”
“A Maiden,” Morgan continued, walking past her daughter Morvydd.
“A Mother,” she said, passing Morgause.
“And a Crone,” she finished, standing before Madame Mim.
Morvydd shifted uneasily in her place. “Er, Mother dear,” she said. “Might I have a quick word?”
“Hush,” said Morgan. “Mommy’s working. Blessed Goddess Dôn, please accept these offerings so that the land may be healed.” A cold wind blew in through the window and the torch-fires flickered and danced. Morgan stood straight and proud, raising her hands to the heavens as her voice became magnified in volume.
“Reclaim the Island of the Mighty from the blasphemers and false prophets who deny you! Strike down the usurper who has cast you out! In the sacred union of these vessels, let your power return to us!”
With proper solemnity, Mordred began to disrobe. He slipped off his tunic and helped the potion-addled Guinevere with the buttons of her dress. There could be no doubt what sort of “union” was to take place between these two.
Having seen enough, Thumbling dropped to the floor and into a crouching position. He stood ready to sprint across the room and attack Morgan before she could finish her ceremony. “Ankle-biting in three, two…”
“Mother, I am not a maid!” Morvydd suddenly blurted. This caught everyone quite by surprise.
Morgan could barely suppress her rage. “W-what did you say?”
“Oh, hell,” Morgause muttered, rubbing her temple.
“What’s goin’ on? Why’ve we stopped?” Mim wondered aloud. “This isn’t how we did rituals in my day! Very unprofessional, my ducklings.”
“Explain yourself,” Morgan commanded her daughter.
“I-I did not know how to tell you,” Princess Morvydd babbled. “Mother, I am in love. Sir Colgrevance and I have been courting for several months now. I…have been to his bed. I’m sorry, Mother, but I am no longer a maiden.”
With cat-like speed, Morgan was upon her daughter in an instant, dragging her out of the circle by her hair. “Do you know what you’ve done, you willful child?! Each aspect of womanhood must be present for the ritual! This is blasphemy, Morvydd! You have insulted the gods!”
“I didn’t know, I swear!” the princess protested. “I thought you just wanted my help with one of your spells! I didn’t know you needed me to represent the Maiden!”
“Did you learn nothing from those years of instruction?” Morgan demanded, slapping the girl hard across the face. “Nothing of our faith? And to betray me with a Round Table knight of all men? One of Arthur’s lapdogs?!”
Clutching her by the hair and arm, Morgan dragged her daughter across the room and towards the door of the chamber. Mordred watched them curiously, standing shirtless with his breeches already halfway down his legs.
“So, uh, we’re stopping then, are we?” the young man inquired.
“It seems that way, my son,” Queen Morgause sighed. “Do put your clothes back on. You look disgraceful.”
Madame Mim sized up Mordred’s half-clothed physique and gave a loud cat call. “Woo-woo! What’s the hurry, hot stuff?” The prince wrinkled his nose in disgust and quickly pulled his pants back on.
“First, I will deal with this trollop,” said Morgan, giving her screaming daughter’s hair another yank. “Then, we find another Maiden. The ritual will continue.” With this, she dragged Morvydd out of the room and was gone.
Thumbling ducked back under Guinevere’s skirts and called to his teammates. “Looks like the queen’s got a temporary reprieve. What do we do now?”
To be continued...
Something for the vore fans in this one. The way this story is turning out, it looks like it's going to be the longest of the League's adventures. Hope you're all still enjoying it.
The League knew they could not hope to defeat the sorceresses themselves. There was simply too much power gathered in that castle for the tiny warriors to have any chance against them. At best, they could secretly undermine the Sisterhood and delay the ritual further until Hop returned with reinforcements. To this end, they sought to determine the enchantress’ weaknesses, some flaw that could be exploited in each.
“Queen Morgause is vain,” Issun-boshi remarked. “See how she constantly gazes into her hand mirror.”
“Yes, I remember that about her,” Tom added. “She’s the eldest of the sisters but I believe she uses potions to hold back the effects of aging.”
Thumbelina smiled slyly. “I think I can work with that.”
“And Madame Mim?” Thumbling asked.
“She’s a morose old thing,” said Tom. “Hates purity and goodness and –” He paused as a thought occurred to him. “Sunshine. She hates sunshine.”
“Perfect,” ‘Lina gasped. “We can use that as well. How about Morvydd?”
Tom shrugged. “I know nothing of her or what she’s capable of. But it seems she’s been taken out of the equation for the moment.”
“What do you think Morgan will do to her?” Issun wondered with a shiver.
“I don’t know,” Tom admitted. “She’s Morgan’s child so one hopes that would stay her hand somewhat. But I can’t help feeling we should intercede.”
“Don’t get chivalrous now, Tommy,” Thumbling chided. “We don’t have time to rescue a damsel in distress. Besides, she’s one of the bad guys, remember? Whether she has magic or not, we’d still squish just as flat under her feet.”
Tom reluctantly agreed. “I suppose you’re right. Assuming she’s out of the fight, that still leaves Morgan and Mordred. I’ve no idea how to stop them.”
“We’ll have to hope they’re kept busy seeking a new maiden for the ritual,” said ‘Lina. “Maybe by then, Arthur and the others will have arrived.”
“Let us hope so,” Issun said.
* * * *
As they suspected, Morgause’s quarters were littered with potion bottles, alchemical beakers, and even a large metal cauldron bubbling with some unknown brew. Jars of arcane ingredients lined every table and shelf and the floor was blood-stained from the sacrifice of animals. The Leaguers felt their skin crawl upon entering the chamber but set about their plan nonetheless.
Thumbelina still carried her arsenal of faerie potions, which had served them well against Morgan le Fay months ago. They hoped it would do so against her sister. ‘Lina believed that she had just the right formula that would lessen the age-defying magic of Morgause’s concoctions. With her much-valued beauty fading fast, she would hopefully be too preoccupied for the ritual.
The tiny folk scurried over the table dropping ‘Lina’s sabotaging formula into the beakers and bottles. They had to scale up the sides of the taller beakers and cling to the rims as they dumped the potions inside. Each time, the foul-smelling liquids within began to bubble and hiss in response and gave off a sickly steam as the chemicals and herbs interacted. The homunculi gagged from the stench but continued their work.
Standing by the doorway, which was open a mere crack, Issun suddenly gave a shrill whistle and began to motion wildly to the others. He had been positioned as lookout and could see the room’s occupant heading down the hallway. The floor quivered from Morgause’s approaching footfalls and the League quickly scattered.
‘Lina remained on the rim of a particularly large beaker, straddling the opening of the bottleneck and pouring the remaining formula into its depths. Her teammates hissed and called to her.
“Come on, gal,” Thumbling whispered. “We gotta make ourselves scarce!”
“Right behind you,” she answered. Swiftly and silently, she stood up and released her wings, ready to launch herself into flight. But the rim of the beaker was slippery and she soon lost her balance, tumbling backwards into the potion with a splash.
“’Lina!” the others cried. There was no time to mount a rescue for the door swung open and the towering witch-queen entered. The Leaguers ran for cover, Tom hiding behind a stack of old books while Issun and Thumbling sequestered themselves in the hollow eye sockets of a decorative human skull.
Morgause walked over to a chair beside the table, the train of her dark, queenly gown dragging behind her. With a tired sigh, she plopped down heavily in the chair, sending a powerful vibration through the little folk’s surroundings. She took up her hand mirror and looked long and hard at her reflection. A few grey hairs were forming in her luxurious mane, prompting a frown from the lovely monarch.
Morgause was far older than her appearance indicated. She was a mother many times over, having birthed and raised Sir Gawain, Sir Gareth, Sir Gaheris, Sir Agravaine, and Sir Mordred, each of whom was now full grown and serving at Camelot. For many years, she had been Queen of the Orkney Isles and the land of Lothian, and the weight of the crown could have easily weathered her. But as Tom had rightly observed, her dark arts were usually focused on one goal – the extension of her youth. Morgause valued her beauty and, since the death of her husband King Lot, had used it to win a string of young lovers (many of whom could have been her grandchildren!). Such rare feminine charms required a bit of work to maintain and, sometimes, a little push from her mystic tricks.
It was time to replenish.
The witch-queen extended a delicate hand and took hold of the closest reserve of formula. Tom cursed the League’s rotten luck as her fingers wrapped around the beaker containing ‘Lina. “Of course,” he thought to himself. “God forbid it be easy for us, right?”
Mist and steam continued to pour forth from the potion, shrouding its contents, but Morgause did not notice anything out of the ordinary. She caught of whiff of the foul brew, wrinkled her nose slightly, but lifted it to her lips and proceeded to guzzle it down.
Thumbelina was sloshed about in the bubbling liquid as the beaker was upended. Above her head was the rounded glass ceiling formed by the bottom of the beaker. Distorted images of the room were just barely visible through the walls around her. She treaded in place as best as she could but could feel the level of liquid depleting in time with each echoing gurgle and glug that came from below.
The potion continued to drain until ‘Lina could see the circular opening leading to the long bottleneck of the beaker. As her legs and hips were pulled into this narrow tunnel, she grabbed the edges of the entrance, trying to hold herself in place. Sensing some obstruction clogging the beaker and keeping the last drops of potion from her, Morgause lifted her other hand and lightly tapped the bottom of the glass bottle. The tremor this sent through the beaker caused the tiny woman to lose her grip and slide the rest of the way down the bottleneck as it drained into the sorceress’ mouth.
‘Lina slid out of the bottle and was deposited onto a huge, slippery tongue, tilted at a dizzying vertical angle. The potion washed her ever downwards past walls of thick, white molars as big as her head. Above, she could barely see the ridged roof of the woman’s mouth and, seconds later, a large dangling uvula as she and the potion slid into Morgause’s gullet. The faerie princess had not even time to scream before she tumbled into the darkness and was swallowed whole.
Morgause felt something large and squirmy slide into her throat. It took a few determined gulps to get it down but it soon resumed its journey. She couldn’t remember – was this the potion that required whole frogs for its full potency? That last one didn’t seem to be quite dead yet. No matter, it would serve. She set the empty beaker down and rubbed her belly with satisfaction as the little creature landed with a plop within. Morgause covered her lips and gave a demure, feminine burp.
The League stared in shock, barely able to accept what they’d seen. Their friend was gone, swallowed alive. The thought of losing her was devastating to them. Although ‘Lina was married to Prince Cornu of the Flower-Folk, most of the other Leaguers carried a torch for the beautiful, redheaded princess. They shuddered to think of their sweet, lovely teammate trapped deep inside Morgause’s body.
Peeping around the tower of books, Tom sank to his knees and fought back tears. First he had lost his “father” Merlin, and now, potentially, one of his closest friends. The League’s commander anxiously tried to formulate a plan to save her.
On a past mission, Issun-boshi had spent time within the belly of Morgan le Fay and knew firsthand the horrors that his friend was now facing. The samurai gritted his teeth and reached for his katana.
“I shall gut the witch and free Miss Thumbelina,” he said, preparing to leap from the interior of the skull.
“Issun, no!” Thumbling cried. He grabbed the warrior’s shoulder and held him back. “She’ll kill you!”
“Then she will kill me,” Issun accepted. “But I will not abandon Miss ‘Lina.”
The inch-high samurai jumped from the skull’s socket and began to march determinedly across the table, sword in hand, towards the giant woman’s chair. Even seated, Morgause loomed above him like a mountain. Though smaller than her pinky finger, Issun was prepared to meet this curvaceous monolith in single combat. Completely oblivious of this, the enchantress returned her attention to her hand mirror. She scrutinized the image within, seeking signs that the potion was working. But the tainted formula was producing an effect she had not anticipated.
In moments, the sorceress’ long, silky black hair began to grey at the temples. Morgause leaped to her feet in surprise and stared at her reflection. To her horror, the salt-and-pepper effect spread throughout her hair while some of the original greys started to turn white. Wrinkles appeared on the witch-queen’s face and crow’s feet became visible at the corners of her eyes. She felt her round full breasts that had seduced many a knight begin to sag. The sharp pangs of arthritis spread through her hands, causing her to drop and shatter the mirror. Morgause gave a shriek of abject terror. She was old – the dowdy middle-aged woman she had long fought to keep hidden. The youth potion was working in reverse!
Even Issun was taken aback by the swiftness of the potion’s effects. He stopped in his advance and gaped as the woman aged before his eyes. Morgause’s legs gave way to sudden weakness and shock and she reached out to steady herself against the table. A massive hand struck the tabletop, its curled fingers forming a cage over Issun’s position. The tiny warrior gazed up in fright at the smooth ceiling formed by her palm. But she was not attempting to grab him, merely grasping desperately for a solid surface. Long, claw-like fingernails that could slice the speck of a samurai in two raked across the wood, coming towards him. He quickly dashed through a gap between two fingers before the barrier closed and the hand slammed down flat on the table behind him.
Morgause steadied herself and hyperventilated. But her transformation was not yet finished. The woman’s face began to pale and beads of sweat gathered on her forehead. Her color turned greenish and sickly. Wave after wave of nausea washed over the Queen of Orkney and she fell to her hands and knees, spewing the contents of her stomach all over the stone floor. Morgause moaned and collapsed beside this mess, sinking into unconsciousness.
A tiny shape twitched in the puddle of bile beside the queen’s head. Soon, a wet and miserable creature was seen crawling away from the prostrate giantess, coughing and sputtering a bit herself.
“That,” said Thumbelina, “was disgusting.”
Overjoyed, the other Leaguers leaped down from the tabletop and rushed to their friend. Caring not a whit about the layer of spit-up soaking her dress and skin, they threw themselves at ‘Lina and embraced her.
“Oh God, I thought we’d lost you!” Tom declared. “It’s a miracle!”
“Hardly,” insisted ‘Lina. “I got out the same way we rescued Issun from a similar fate: uncorked every potion I had and dumped them all at once. Only Morgause didn’t have to drink them. They were already inside her with me. That much magic unleashed directly into one’s digestive tract must be a horrible experience. She’ll be feeling that for a while.”
“Well, that’s one down,” said Thumbling. “She won’t be performing any rituals any time soon.”
“Come on,” Tom said, helping ‘Lina back onto her feet. “Let’s get out of here and get you cleaned up.”
* * * *
Elsewhere, Hop o’ My Thumb raced across the hills and marshlands of the Summer Country searching for signs of Arthur and his knights. Travel by magic mirror was considerably faster than horseback, however, so the League had arrived long before the company from Camelot. The knights were likely still some distance away. Hop began to broaden the circuit he was making around the area. At superhuman speeds, the seven-league boots took him through the dirt roads of Glastonbury, along the shore of the lake entrance to Avalon, past the River Brue, through the great circle of Stonehenge, a relic of an ancient and forgotten people, and back to the lake once more. Arthur’s men were nowhere in sight.
But no, Hop realized, this was not entirely true. There was one knight of Camelot approaching on the road before him. Hop wondered why he was separated from the group until he saw the knight’s companion – a slender, willowy brunette in a green gown. Pelleas and Nimue!
Bravely, the little Gaul stood in the center of the road, sword drawn and at the ready. Whatever their intentions, he was determined to confront them.
“Good morrow, mes amis,” he said. “What brings you to—?”
His tiny voice evidently was not carrying far enough for he soon saw Nimue’s colossal bare foot descending directly over him. So close was this five-toed juggernaut that Hop could see dirt and debris from the road across the wrinkled surface of her sole. He gasped and darted away as the foot fell to earth with a crash. A second later, she would have squashed him.
Changing tactics, Hop called upon his seven-league boots and vaulted upward with a burst of incredible speed. This carried him up the length of the priestess’ leg, past the folds of her gown, over her ample bosom (under other circumstances, he would have liked to linger there), and onto the woman’s soft, delicate shoulder. Nimue gave a startled cry as he landed.
“Hop! Where did you come from?”
“I might ask you ze same question, mademoiselle,” he returned. “How is it zat you and Pelleas have arrived here faster than Arthur’s company? And without horses, from ze looks of it.”
Nimue paled slightly but reluctantly answered. “There are other paths to the Summer Country. Avalon can be reached from any body of water if one knows the right spell. We simply traveled there first then took a barge across the lake to arrive in Glastonbury.”
“I see,” Hop said dubiously. “And you did not think to tell ze king about zis shortcut?”
“That knowledge is forbidden to all save Avalon’s initiates. And our guests,” Nimue said, reaching out to take Pelleas’ hand. Hop fought to maintain his perch as the muscles of her arm and shoulder shifted below his feet. He scrambled over the back of her neck and through a wall of thick, black hair to her other shoulder rather than be dislodged by their flirting.
“And if you can magically reach Avalon at any time, why did you travel ze conventional way in ze past?” Hop cocked an eyebrow and continued to eye her with suspicion.
Nimue did a double take when she saw the little man suddenly on her opposite shoulder. She shook her head and resumed the conversation. “I like riding,” the Lady of the Lake said simply. “But our current crisis necessitates speed. Why am I being grilled so, little one? We have come to help.”
“Aye,” Pelleas added. “We could not stand idle with Morgan le Fay on the loose.”
“Or perhaps you could not wait to rush to her side and warn her of Arthur’s approach!” said Hop accusingly, pointing with his miniature needle-sword.
“I do not like your tone, sirrah,” Pelleas said quietly, eyes narrowed.
“I do not like your face, monsieur,” Hop answered, meeting the knight’s icy stare. The two continued to glower at one another, grasping the hilts of their swords.
Nimue sighed. “Men. Honestly. I’d tell you to simply whip them out, gentlemen, but I don’t think you’d measure up very well, Hop.”
She lifted her hands to shoulder level, allowing Hop a good look at them. The lady was still bound in the iron manacles Arthur had decreed she should wear.
“Look,” the High Priestess said. “I still honor the king’s sentence. Pelleas could have cut these chains at any time but he did not. We are not here to betray Arthur. We’re here to help him.”
Hop nimbly slid down Nimue’s arm to the crook of her elbow. With practiced dexterity, he clambered up to her hand to inspect the shackles. They were still locked tight and nasty-looking burn marks had begun to form on her wrists.
Iron was well known as a deterrent of magic. Supernatural beings, like the creatures of Faerie, could not bear its fatal touch, while human enchanters found their powers greatly lessened by its presence or subject to magical backlash.
“Even casting the travel spell to bring us to Avalon – one of the first I ever learned – was painful,” Nimue explained, rubbing her singed flesh. “But I did it anyway. I am not your enemy, Hop. I want to stop Morgan.”
The miniature man stared up at her in thought. He frowned and tried to determine if she spoke the truth. Looking her straight in the eyes might have helped but these were high above the dainty wrist he now clung to.
“I do not have time for zis,” he decided. “I must find Arthur and ze others. But know zis, mademoiselle: Queen Morgause, Madame Mim, Sir Mordred, and ze Princess of Gorre are aiding Morgan.” The priestess’ eyes grew wide at this revelation.
“If you truly want to help,” he continued, “Sir Pelleas may want to consider cutting zose chains after all. You are outnumbered, Nimue.” In a flash, he was gone, resuming the search for Arthur.
To be continued...
Here's the next part. Future chapters might be a little delayed as I broke a finger recently. Typing one-handed is a bit awkward.
With Thumbelina somewhat recovered from her ordeal, the Leaguers proceeded to the quarters of their next target, Madame Mim. They hoped to surprise and weaken the witch using the light of the sun, which she shunned at all costs. But the daylight was fading fast and they would need to work quickly.
The homunculi stood upon a windowsill, gathered in a circle. They stared up at the dark curtains that shrouded the room in shadow.
“As soon as she arrives,” Tom said, “we pull these open. The sun will be setting soon so its rays should come in directly through this window.”
“The old biddy won’t know what hit her,” Thumbling chuckled. Issun and ‘Lina smiled in agreement.
“That’s a good plan,” said a tiny woman with purple hair, leaning in on the group’s huddle. But for the shade of her tresses, she seemed like ‘Lina’s double. The Leaguers turned in surprise. “There’s just one problem.”
Instantly, there was a burst of dark smoke and the mysterious little newcomer was replaced by a towering hag with a hideous visage and a tattered burgundy dress. The horrifying giantess leaned in close until her warty face was inches from the little people.
The League ran for their lives, fleeing in all directions and jumping down from the window. Madame Mim let loose a joyous cackle of a laugh and gave chase to her tiny quarry. Despite being positively ancient, she was surprisingly agile and came dangerously close to seizing them in her gnarled fingers on several occasions. Another smoke cloud transformed her into a mangy violet cat that bounded after the terrified heroes. Mim screeched and yowled in a feline voice and cackled a bit more for good measure.
At last, she pounced on Thumbling and pinned him to the floor with her paw. “Hee hee hee hee hee!!! I win! I win!” the witch declared.
Her fur covered frame stretched and distorted in a dismaying fashion, finally shedding its feline coat and resuming her natural shape and dimensions. Mim held the struggling little man in her fist.
“Oh, don’t fight so, my chickadee,” she cooed. “What’s the matter? Scare ya, do I?!” The horrible face swooped in close once again, causing Thumbling to cry out.
“Here, little mousey,” Mim said. “Does this help?” The witch waved a hand in front of her face. As it passed, her features transmogrified into those of a young, beautiful woman. Mim shot up another foot in height and ludicrously enormous breasts suddenly bulged from under her dress, wobbling slightly as they came to rest. Her legs became long and shapely and her ratty mop of hair became a luxurious curtain of purple silk. By all accounts, she now had the appearance of a fair maid of twenty – a ridiculously well-endowed one.
“Not bad for someone who’s over a hundred and twenty, eh?” the now gorgeous Mim said in a dulcet voice. She batted her eyelashes winningly at Thumbling. “This is more your style, isn’t it, my squirrel? I know all about you and your wandering eye. Can’t resist the ladies. I thought I’d throw you a bone. Now, how would you like to die?”
“B-beg pardon?” ‘Ling stammered.
“How should the winsome wench dispatch you? Shall I crush you with my pretty feet?” Mim lifted a bare foot and wiggled her toes.
“Smush you betwixt my thighs?” The witch held Thumbling before her meaty legs and slammed them together with such force that his hair was blown back.
“Perhaps you’d prefer to be sat on.” She turned slightly and hoisted up her skirt, holding the frightened little man in front of a huge, rounded backside. Mim gave a playful shake of her hips and Thumbling was nearly hypnotized by the resulting jiggle.
“Or would you rather be smothered to death in my bosom?” She pressed him tightly against her disproportionately large chest until the tiny tailor was almost swallowed up in the deep crevasse of her cleavage.
“Then, of course, there’s always my favorite,” Mim proceeded, pulling Thumbling from this fleshy ravine and lifting him to face level. She held him close to her full, luscious lips. The tip of a tongue poked out briefly to lick at the lips in anticipation. “I could just gobble you up.”
“So choose, little manikin,” she said, drawing him away from her face. “Choose your death.”
Thumbling gulped. “Quietly in my sleep when I’m an old man?”
Mim threw her head back and laughed. It was more of a melodious tinkle than a scratchy cackle this time. “No, sorry. That’s not part of the game. Tick tock, tick tock. If you don’t choose soon, I’ll do it for you. I’m ever so hungry, you see.” The fair damsel pulled him close again and snapped her teeth an inch or so above his head.
Thumbling gave a start and went white as a ghost. “Uh, uh – I don’t – I mean, er, well…” Mim stuck out her tongue and slowly licked his tiny face.
“The bosom, the bosom!” he blurted.
“Fiddlesticks,” the sorceress grumbled. “Oh, very well.” She roughly shoved the little man deep into her décolletage until only his face was visible. Mim placed a hand on either side of her watermelon-sized breasts and prepared to squeeze.
“Travelers beware,” she chuckled. “There be dangerous curves ahead! Adieu, my wee chipmunk.”
A sharp pain suddenly shot through Mim’s foot as Issun-boshi stabbed his katana into it. The woman shrieked in pain and stood up straight in alarm. As soon as she released her breasts, Thumbling slipped further down between them, plummeting through a long tunnel of rosy pink flesh. He fell out of her chest, tumbled through the gown, ricocheted off her foot, and hit the floor hard.
“Ow,” he muttered. Issun frantically helped him up and the two of them scurried away.
“Not fair, not fair!” Mim screamed at Issun. “You wait your turn, Knight of the East!” The witch’s exaggerated curves deflated like balloons and her wrinkles and warts popped back out on her skin. She shrank down a foot and once more became an ugly crone. With a snarl, Mim resumed the chase.
While she was distracted, Thumbelina shot through the air on golden wings and seized one side of the curtain. Tom grabbed the other half and pulled with all his might. As the velvet barrier parted, light burst into the room.
Mim howled as if she’d been run through with a sword. “Aieeeeeeeeee! Sunshine! I HATE sunshine!!!!”
The hag exploded into a massive cloud of black smoke. As it gradually cleared, a small purple raven emerged from the miasma, squawked angrily at the little people, and flew up the chimney.
“’The bosom?’” Thumbelina mocked, arching an eyebrow at Thumbling as she drifted back to the ground.
“I panicked,” he said.
Tom scurried over to the fireplace and pulled a tiny tinderbox from his pocket. He struck a small piece of metal against the flint sending sparks into the dry kindling within the fireplace. A few moments later, it was ablaze. Madame Mim would find it difficult to fly back down the chimney and the alternative would be to face the hated sun and depleted power.
“That’s two,” Tom announced with a satisfied smile.
* * * *
The League scurried down the hallway, elated by their surprising victories. But the worst was yet to come, for they still had to find a way to stop or delay the most powerful member of the Sisterhood – Morgan le Fay. Not to mention Sir Mordred, who was a trained knight and warrior and, like the rest of them, a towering giant compared to the League. The little folk peered around a corner and saw their two remaining enemies passing the chamber where Princess Morvydd was now imprisoned. Quiet sobs could be heard emanating from within.
“She will think twice before disobeying me again,” the sorceress stated. “The youth of today need discipline and a strong hand. Though that’s never been an issue with you, has it, Mordred?”
“No, Auntie,” he answered with a smile.
“You have always been a good, obedient lad,” Morgan continued, stroking her nephew’s hair. “A truer child to me than my own offspring. And Morgause never had much time for her brood, so I have been like a mother to you, have I not?”
“Such a good boy,” she said. “Now, go and fetch my seeing stone and meet me in the study. We must locate a new Maiden if the ritual is to continue.” Finished with this exchange, Morgan turned and disappeared down the staircase. As soon as she was gone, Mordred slouched and rolled his eyes.
“A ‘good boy?’ What am I, a hound?” he muttered. “The things one puts up with to be king.” A moment later, he turned down an adjacent hall and walked off.
The sound of Morvydd weeping could still be heard through the great wooden door as the League crept out of hiding. Tom looked towards this chamber and frowned, his chivalrous nature tortured by the sound of a damsel in pain.
“All right,” Thumbelina said, motioning to the others. “Any ideas on how we stop them?”
“You’re all out of potions, right, beautiful?” Thumbling asked.
‘Lina nodded. “Dumped the whole supply to escape Morgause.”
“Can we exploit Queen Morgan’s nature?” Issun asked. “Her arrogance or her need for revenge?”
“Can’t think of how just yet,” ‘Lina admitted. “There must be a way though. Tom, what do you think?”
The Leaguers turned but found that Tom was gone. Moments earlier, he had squeezed under the door of Morvydd’s room, determined to save the lady fair.
* * * *
Tom Thumb stealthily crept into Princess Morvydd’s cell. It was a sparse, nearly barren room, dank and dark with a dripping leak in the ceiling. Only a barred window and a plate of untouched food provided a break in the plain grey stonework of the chamber. Morvydd sat huddled in a corner, hugging her arms about her knees in an almost fetal position. Her face was bruised and tears were in her eyes.
Tom cautiously approached the lovely young giantess, eager to give comfort. Even lying on her side, Morvydd loomed over him dramatically, the curvy silhouette of her figure seeming like a distant mountain. Her flowing gown pooled around her body and her disheveled black hair covered part of her face as she wept.
“My lady?” Tom ventured. “Is there anything that I can—?”
Instantly, a giant hand shot forth with lightning speed, wrapping tightly around Tom’s body. Fingers the size of ballistae threatened to crush his torso. He felt himself whisked through the air as the girl sat up and inspected this tiny intruder.
“Who…what are you?” Morvydd inquired, bringing the little man dangerously close to her enormous face. Baffled green eyes stared at him from above, widening larger than his head. The welt from where Morgan had slapped her was magnified at Tom’s close vantage point but her youthful beauty was still rather striking. Full, red lips hung open in a surprised yet charming “O” shape.
“Some sort of…pixie?” she guessed doubtfully.
Tom squirmed about, completely powerless in her grasp. He improvised. “Er, yes! I am a magic pixie of the Otherworld come to grant thy dearest wish, fair lady. Release me now so that I may work my wonders!”
“Pull the other one,” said Morvydd. “Do you take me for a child? Now, what are you really?” She squeezed her hand tighter, causing the tiny man to wince and gasp for breath.
“Oh, yes?” the girl challenged. “And what if my dearest wish is to feast on magic Otherworld pixies and absorb their power?” She opened her jaws wide, allowing Tom to peer into the vast, deadly cave within. Pretty, white teeth flashed and hot breath bathed the minute warrior’s face. She brought her hand close and made as if to pop him inside.
“All right! All right! I’m not a pixie!” Tom admitted.
Morvydd pulled him away from her mouth with a slight giggle. This teasing temptress clearly took after her mother in certain ways. “I thought not. So let’s have it, little one.”
“I am Sir Thomas Thumb of the League of Homunculi,” the traumatized captive said.
“Homunculi?” Morvydd repeated. “Sounds very exotic. Do they taste better than pixies?” Grasping him by the arm, she let him dangle over her lips as she tipped her head back and opened wide expectantly. Tom stared in horror at the dark chasm below and let out a shrill cry.
Morvydd lowered Tom a few inches and positioned his foot between her lips. She clamped down on his boot with her teeth and carefully began to slide it off of his leg. “You’re funny,” she mumbled, never releasing her bite. “But tell me the truth before you start to bore me.” The princess closed her lips around his boot and started lightly sucking on it, slurping it the rest of the way off his foot.
“That last part is true, I swear it!” Tom shouted desperately. “We are servants of King Arthur!”
Morvydd gave a start and accidentally swallowed the tiny boot. “Uncle Arthur? You were sent by Uncle Arthur?”
Tom looked around nervously. “Uh…’sent’ is a bit of a strong word but yes, we work for the High King.”
“Tell me something only his friend or ally would know,” Morvydd demanded, still dangling him by his arm and shaking him like a rag doll.
Tom thought for a moment and began to babble. “King Arthur laughs at terrible jokes. Loudly. He’s allergic to cinnamon but too kind to the royal chefs to admit it. His childhood nickname was the Wart.”
The girl gently lowered the little creature into the palm of her hand. Tom laid there in a heap, quite dazed. “You do know him! My apologies, Sir Thomas,” she said. “Mother raised me to trust no one. And I have never seen a knight as small as you. The Round Table really does welcome all, doesn’t it?”
“Er, yes, your highness.”
“You must think me a beast,” Morvydd continued. “I wouldn’t have really eaten you. Just wanted to scare you a little. And I never wanted to be part of this silly rebellion of Mother’s, by the way. We hadn’t seen each other in many months and…I missed her. I suppose she hates me now.”
“Did she hurt you, my lady?” Tom asked.
“A little,” Morvydd said quietly. “She is…not herself when pursuing that damned vendetta against Uncle Arthur. It blinds her with rage, turns her into a different person. I wish you could have known her in better circumstances, Sir Thomas. Mother has such wondrous gifts, such passion. No one is more knowledgeable of the natural world or the secret arts. But she is too quick to anger and too slow to forgive.”
“Princess, I am sorry but she must be stopped,” said Tom. “My friends and I cannot allow this ritual of hers to take place.”
“Friends? There are more like you?” the girl gasped. Tom nodded. “And all wee mites like yourself? You’d never survive.”
“We have already incapacitated Queen Morgause and Madame Mim,” the little man said proudly. “Do not underestimate the League.”
“All the same, you will need help if you take on my mother. I would hate to see cute little wonders like you annihilated under her heel. Free me from this cell and you will have my aid, Sir Knight.” She lowered her hand and set him carefully on the stone floor.
“Thank you, your highness,” said Tom, walking unevenly in his single boot. “I know it must pain you to war with your own kin.”
“Oh, dear me,” Morvydd cried, coming to a sudden realization. “I swallowed your little shoe.” The towering princess leaned down until her face was directly in front of Tom, licking her lips with mischief. “I suppose you wouldn’t want to go in and fetch it.”
“Uh…thank you, I’ll pass,” Tom stammered.
Morvydd gave him a playful poke with her fingertip, knocking Tom over. “Sweet little Thomas. I think I quite like homunculi. When I am more adept with magic, I shall create one to be my pet. Unless, of course, you’re interested in the job.”
Tom looked into those sparkling green eyes and wasn’t entirely sure he wouldn’t be.
To be continued...
New chapter, sorry for the delay. A broken pinky finger and writer's block are an awful combination. This is the penultimate chapter. There will be one more after this.
Morgan le Fay stood at a table in the royal study, hunched over a large globe of translucent crystal. Waving a hand over its surface, she whispered ancient words and peered intently at the mystic seeing stone. Gradually, a faint, distorted image began to appear in the crystal, slowly but surely coming into focus. The sorceress spoke faster, increasing the volume and intensity of her spell. Nearby, Sir Mordred sat in a tattered easy chair, bored out of his mind. He thumbed through an old book with indifference.
At last, the image on the glassy surface became clear. It was the face of an attractive woman with long, brown hair. Her facial features were similar to Morgan’s and a golden crown sat upon her head. The woman cocked her head to the side and leaned closer as if watching the sorceress through a window pane.
“Morgan,” the face said in surprise. “Well, this is unexpected. I didn’t think these old seeing stones still worked.”
“Hullo, Elaine,” Morgan greeted her. “It is good to see you.”
“And you, my sister,” the face on the stone answered. The image was that of Queen Elaine of Garlot, the youngest of King Arthur’s half-sisters. “I assume this isn’t a social call. To what do I owe your presence?”
“Why, Elaine,” Morgan said, feigning offense, “you cut me to the quick! Can a sibling not check in on her dearest kin?”
“I know you better than that,” Elaine remarked. “Come now, out with it. What is it that you want? I already told Morgause that I have no interest in this foolish war of yours.”
“I am not the fool here,” Morgan said darkly. “Does the murder of our father still mean nothing to you?”
“Duke Gorlois is many years gone. And his killer, King Uther, lies moldering in the ground as well,” Elaine reminded her. “Do you still insist on blaming Arthur for the sins of his father and the theft of our supposed birthright? We have had this debate many a time, sister.”
Morgan checked her anger and tried to compose herself. “Forgive me. I forget myself at times. I did not contact you to renew old arguments.”
“Oh? And why did you contact me?”
“We have not seen each other in so long,” said Morgan, adopting a lighter tone “How do you fare? I hear it is lovely in Garlot this time of year.”
“It’s the rainy season,” Elaine said flatly, still mistrustful.
“And what of your darling children? Galeshin was knighted recently, yes? And your daughter, little Elaine…she must be what, fifteen, sixteen now?”
“Seventeen this month,” Elaine told her. She arched an eyebrow suspiciously. “Why do you ask?”
“Seventeen! Good gracious! I’ll bet she’s quite the heartbreaker,” Morgan exclaimed. “Any handsome lads in her life? I trust she has…kept her virtue?”
Elaine stared at her sister curiously before suddenly catching on. “So that’s it,” she gasped. “You need a maiden for one of your rituals. Morgan, I will not have my daughter involved in your madness!”
Morgan lost her calm at once, flying into a rage. “Madness?! Will you still call it madness if the gods of our people are forgotten? If women are reduced to domestic servitude in the Christ-god’s patriarchy? That is the world that Arthur—”
“Blah, blah, blah,” Elaine muttered. “Learn a new song, my sister. The House of Garlot will not aid you in destroying Arthur. And you will not corrupt my daughter.”
The image leaned to the side as Elaine tried to gaze over Morgan’s shoulder. “Speaking of the corrupted…hullo, Mordred.”
Mordred looked up from the aged tome in his lap. “Hullo, Auntie Elaine.”
“Lured you into her schemes, has she?”
“I’m going to be king,” the young man declared with pride.
“Of course you are,” Elaine said doubtfully. “Do me a favor, dear ones, and forget this talk of treason and regicide. For your own sakes. Now…how does one turn this blasted thing off?”
Morgan let loose a banshee-like shriek and grabbed the seeing stone, flinging it violently at the floor. The crystal ball shattered into dozens of tiny pieces.
Blinking in surprise, Sir Mordred looked down at the pile of crystal shards. “I’m not cleaning that up,” he said.
* * * *
When Tom returned, his fellow Leaguers were ill at ease about working with Princess Morvydd. Though her kindness seemed genuine, she was, after all, Morgan’s kin. Her true loyalties were a mystery and some of the homunculi feared betrayal. That said, none of them relished the thought of fighting Morgan themselves. An ally who knew sorcery would be of great value.
“It’s decided then,” Tom announced. “We will help her.” He had already slipped back under the door to tell the princess before the group had had a chance to continue the debate.
Freeing Morvydd from her cell proved to be simpler than the League anticipated. Unlike an earlier adventure where they risked life and limb (not to mention digestion) to retrieve a dungeon key, no such extremes were needed this time. Castle Malagant was in such disrepair that the lock on Morvydd’s door was old and rusted. ‘Lina held Issun under his arms and flew the two of them up to pick the lock with his katana blade. Moments later, the door swung open and the towering beauty stepped out.
At floor level, Thumbling quickly darted away from the princess’ immense feet as she walked into the hall. Unaccustomed to three-inch-tall partners, Morvydd was not watching where she stepped. Instead, her gaze was fixed on the glowing winged figure that was hovering before her. Wide-eyed with wonder, she reached forth and snatched Thumbelina out of the air.
“A faerie!” Morvydd cried excitedly. “Gods above, I wondered if they were real!” Her powerful fist squeezed the tiny woman in its grasp, leaving only her head, shoulders, and the tips of her wings visible. Still held in ‘Lina’s arms, Issun was completely enveloped by Morvydd’s enormous hand. He found himself sandwiched between ‘Lina’s body and the smooth surface of the giant princess’ palm. Little light filtered through her fingers and he feared he would be smeared into jelly if her grip did not relax.
“Gently! Gently, your highness!” Tom called from his perch on Morvydd’s shoulder. “You’ll crush them!”
“Them?” said Morvydd curiously. She tilted her hand upward and opened her fingers, allowing ‘Lina to settle in her palm. At last, she spotted the inch-tall Issun, now lying sprawled on top of Thumbelina’s stomach. Morvydd gasped in surprise and plucked him up between thumb and forefinger, holding the tiny warrior in front of her eye. Issun-boshi could only stare at his reflection in the wide green iris before him.
“Oh, how precious!” Morvydd cooed, her voice booming in the samurai’s ears. “He’s even smaller than you, Sir Thomas! I shall have to be very careful with you, my wee gigelorum. I so much as breathe wrong and I could inhale thee!”
Morvydd took a distracted step forward, causing Thumbling to scurry and leap away from her royal slippers once again. A giant foot crashed to the floor a few inches behind him, the displaced air shooting the little man away like a leaf.
Tom called out another desperate warning. “My lady, mind your step! Our company has one more member!”
Morvydd looked down at her feet and laughed at the sight of Thumbling lying face down in a heap. She bent down to scoop him up as well but quickly realized that her hands were full. Seeking somewhere to place one of her catches, the princess smiled with mischief and began to lower Issun towards the neckline of her gown. As her colossal curves loomed closer and closer to the frightened mite, Morvydd suddenly stopped and reconsidered.
“Better not,” she muttered. “I could lose you in there. We’d have to send in a search party!” The princess giggled at the thought, imagining tiny knights and hunting hounds clambering over the cliffs and valleys of her bosom, seeking the imperiled Issun.
Instead, she lowered her other hand and stuffed Thumbelina down the front of her dress. The tiny woman struggled futilely, submerged head-first in the narrow depression between Morvydd’s breasts. As she fought and kicked, sparkly faerie dust was scattered over the young lady’s chest. Satisfied, the princess reached down and grabbed Thumbling with her free hand. Watching this spectacle, Tom could only cover his face and shake his head wearily.
“Oh no, Sir Thomas! A horrible monster is gobbling up your faerie friend!” Morvydd said, indicating ‘Lina’s position in her cleavage. “You must save her!”
The mischievous young woman gave a sudden shrug of her shoulder, sending Tom hurtling forward to slide down her collar bone and chest. Tom crashed into ‘Lina’s upended legs, his added weight pushing her further down into the hollow of flesh. He wrapped his arms about these flailing limbs to prevent him from tumbling off the giantess’ front. Ever chivalrous, Tom looked away and pulled the hem of ‘Lina’s dress back up so that her shapely legs and frilly undergarments were covered. High above, Morvydd laughed at their plight, causing her bosom to shake and quiver below them.
“Your highness, this is all very amusing,” Tom called as soon as the quake subsided. “But should we not focus on the task at hand? Stopping your mother and cousin?”
“Oh. Yes, I suppose so,” Morvydd agreed. She set Thumbling on one shoulder and scooped Tom up to perch him on the other. Carefully, she placed Issun inside her right ear, fearing for his footing on her slippery shoulder amid the strong drafts of the castle. Reluctantly, she glanced down at Thumbelina, who had—with some effort—righted herself to peer up out of the gap of cleavage.
“Are you comfortable in there, little sprite?” asked the princess. “I’m running out of places to put people so that will have to do. Now, everyone hold on tight! Here we go!”
As Morvydd made for the long winding staircase to the castle’s ground floor, Thumbelina gave a heavy sigh. This was going to be a bumpy ride.
* * * *
Morgan paced back and forth through the castle’s main hall. “Think, blast it!” she raged, though whether at Mordred or herself none could say. “Where else can we find a maiden?”
“What about that friend of yours, the Queen of Northgalis?” Sir Mordred suggested. “She dabbles in the mystic arts, right? Has she any daughters?”
“Only sons,” Morgan sighed.
“The Queen of the Wasteland?” offered Mordred. “She always seems to have a few spare damsels hanging around.”
“That pious bore?” Morgan scoffed. “Do you honestly think she’d lend us a Grail-Maiden for a pagan rite? Where’s your head, nephew?”
“I’m just throwing out ideas here.”
“Your kingship is at stake here!” she reminded him.
By this point, Mordred was beginning to feel a bit put out. “Look, just because your daughter turned out to be a slattern, there’s no need to get snippy with me!”
“We’re so close! So close!” the sorceress cried, wringing her hands. ”Revenge on Arthur is within my grasp! The gods themselves would be on our side in the coming battle once you are married to the queen and bound to the land, Mordred. If I could just complete the ritual!”
“You’ll do nothing of the sort, Mother.” Morvydd had appeared quite suddenly at the base of the stairwell, catching the duo by surprise.
Morgan went wide-eyed but soon noticed the tiny figures dotted about her daughter’s person. “How did you—of course. The League. Arthur’s little spies. I should have stomped those rodents when I had the chance.”
Mordred wrinkled his nose when he saw the tiny homunculi. “Ewww. Cousin, you’re infested!”
“What you’re doing is wrong and I can’t stand by any longer,” Morvydd insisted, though her voice was noticeably cracking. “I will stop you.”
“Think you so, daughter?” Morgan challenged. “You’re no match for me. I have dedicated my life to the Goddess’ arts and mastery of the elements. But very well, let’s see how much of your training you remember.”
Both women assumed a battle-ready pose but neither made a move to physically attack the other. Instead, they gestured forward with their hands and recited incantations in the Old Brythonic language of their ancestors. With little more than a thought, Morgan loosed a searing fireball from her fingertips and sent it hurtling towards Morvydd. Though shaken, the princess called out a counter-spell. With a wave of her hand, the fireball dissolved into a shower of harmless rose petals.
Undeterred, Morgan continued her assault. Each object she gestured at levitated into the air and was flung at the younger woman. The entire hall was Morgan’s arsenal. Books, silverware, candelabras, sculptures, and even pieces of the room’s stonework sprang to life and were launched at the princess. Most she was able to deflect with well-placed sweeps of her hands, telekinetically altering their path. But the objects simply returned and began to swarm around her like a cyclone. More and more, the improvised weapons slipped past Morvydd’s defenses, striking her body and eliciting cries of pain and surprise.
As the mystic battle intensified, Issun fought to maintain his position in the princess’ ear each time her head shot back and forth. Ignoring her pride, ‘Lina ducked down into the girl’s bodice for shelter. Tom and Thumbling clambered onto the back of Morvydd’s neck, seeking refuge behind a curtain of raven locks. When this proved insufficient, they darted around the slender throat to slide down into her gown as well, landing in a heap beside ‘Lina.
Sir Mordred, meanwhile, watched his relatives’ duel with a wicked joy. He clapped for each blow struck and laughed at Morvydd’s ineffectual attempts to counter them. Born of incest and forged by the hate of his family’s rivalry, the lad found few things as entertaining as kin-strife.
While the princess continued to fend off the dancing objects, Morgan simply strolled forward with ease and confidence. Her daughter was too focused on the inanimate army battering her to keep an eye on her opponent. With a sigh of disappointment, Morgan muttered another spell and lightning shot from her fingertips, flowing into Morvydd’s body. The girl screamed in agony and collapsed to the ground, almost crushing the Leaguers under her weight.
Morgan le Fay stood over her fallen enemy. But triumph mixed with sadness as she saw the sorry state she had put her daughter in. Pity swelled in her chest as the sorceress knelt beside her and stroked the girl’s hair.
“That was for your own good, child,” said the enchantress. “You cannot see it now but I fight this war for you. Arthur’s Christian kingdom would make slaves of all women and throw down the true gods of this land. That is not the world I want my children to inherit. Now please…hand over the little spies so we can end this foolishness.”
With a gasp, Morvydd clutched her arms about her chest protectively, shielding the League. This motion almost squashed the tiny heroes between her breasts but they appreciated the gesture nonetheless.
“I’m not playing, Morvydd,” Morgan insisted, more forcefully this time. “Give them to me. You can’t hide them forever.” Morgan’s patience was quickly wearing thin and her legendary anger could not be held back for long. “Give them to me at once, you willful brat, or I swear by the Goddess, I’ll pry them free and feed them to you one by one!”
Mordred had just pulled up a chair for a front row seat of this spectacle when the doors of the great hall burst open. A powerful wind swept into the castle, sending a chill through all assembled. Once this passed, a pair of figures stood in the doorway, primed for battle. Nimue and Pelleas strode into the hall.
“Morgan! Cease this madness!” the High Priestess of Avalon declared. The chain of her iron manacles had at last been sliced in half by Pelleas’ sword.
Morgan looked up from her crouched posture at Morvydd’s side. “Nimue…” the sorceress growled low in her throat like a wildcat. She stood up and approached this newcomer, all thoughts of her daughter and the League forgotten.
“How I have dreamed of this moment,” said Morgan. “I should have been Lady of the Lake, not you! I was Viviane’s greatest student! Why she chose you as her successor, I will never know.”
“Your lust for revenge blinds you, Morgan,” Nimue stated. “You would make war on an entire religion and bring Avalon and all of Britain down with you! Viviane knew this, though it pained her to see you fall so far. She could not leave the Isle of Apples in your command.”
“So she left it to you?!” Morgan raged. “A spineless weakling? Avalon recedes into the mists. Its gods and its wisdom are all but vanished from the Earth! Job well done, Nimue. You have doomed our holy order.”
“Better to fade gracefully than bring further bloodshed to this land,” Nimue returned.
“Well, at least you did one thing right,” conceded Morgan. “You got rid of that pompous meddler Merlin for me.” Nimue shut her eyes for a moment and breathed in sharply, stung by Morgan’s words.
“I’m sorry,” Mordred interrupted suddenly, “but are you two going to fight or simply talk each other to death?”
Morgan smiled broadly, green tendrils of energy snaking from her fingers. “Come, Nimue. Let’s not disappoint the boy.”
At once, the two sorceresses launched into mystical combat, a tumultuous wizard’s duel. Fire and ice, lightning and thunder, and energies of every shade and hue filled the chamber. The earth rumbled and the skies cracked. Animating spirits were summoned to imbue the objects around them, creating two armies of debris and bric-a-brac to wage a deathless war. Nimue and Morgan screamed shrill spells at one another in Old Brythonic, Latin, and the lost tongue of the Pretani Hill-Folk. From across the hall, they assaulted each other with magicks, drawing ever nearer in a slow but determined advance.
Fearing for their lives, Morvydd, Mordred, and Pelleas fled the chamber, seeking sanctuary. The League was bounced violently in the princess’ bodice as she ran but it was better than the alternative. Slipping from Morvydd’s ear, Issun-boshi clung tightly to her earlobe for dear life as she escaped.
Sir Mordred peered cautiously around the doorway after he and the others darted into an adjoining room. He could only stare, agog, at the supernatural warfare raging a few paces away.
“Gods almighty, would you look at that?!” he said breathlessly. “Now that’s what I call magic!”
“They’ll tear down the castle!” Sir Pelleas cried.
“I know,” the younger man answered. “Isn’t it wondrous?”
Morgan and Nimue had at last drawn closer to one another, beams of white light blasting from their hands to collide in the space between the two combatants. “You’re…stronger than I…remembered, Nimue,” Morgan struggled to say.
“I have the Merlin’s power…in me now,” Nimue said. “It is he that you face…as surely as me, Morgan.”
“Then I’ll destroy you both!” the queen of sorceresses snarled.
“No, Morgan,” answered Nimue. “I don’t think you shall.” She called out another spell and lifted a hand, redirecting the burst of light. Like a glowing serpent, it weaved about the chamber, striking the stonework all around the hall.
“Sweet Jesu, she does mean to tear the castle down!” Pelleas exclaimed. “Nimue, my love, what are you doing?!”
Issun called into the darkness of Morvydd’s ear canal. “Princess, you must make them stop before we all perish!” The startled girl jumped, having forgotten he was in there.
However, she recognized the incantation. “Everyone relax. The castle is safe. Just wait for it…”
Indeed, the structure of the building remained intact as the beams of light struck. The walls, ceiling, and floor glowed faintly and the air shimmered but there was no immediate effect. With one hand occupied by this new spell, Nimue could no longer hold back Morgan’s assault. A bolt of energy struck her hard in the stomach and sent the woman flying backwards to crash into a corner. Her opponent stepped forward, ready to make the killing stroke. But Morgan hesitated, glancing at the palace walls around them.
“What did you do?” she demanded.
“Your…illusion is broken,” the wounded Nimue choked out, lying in a heap and clutching her belly. “Castle Malagant is once again visible…for all the world to see.”
“And what good will that do you?”
“Me? None,” the Lady of the Lake answered. “But they certainly appreciate it.”
As Morgan whirled around, she saw King Arthur and his knights charging into the hall, swords drawn. Hop o’ My Thumb rode proudly on the king’s shoulder, a satisfied smirk on his face. Fooled by the illusory castle to the east, they had almost given up searching this area when the true Castle Malagant had reappeared as if a veil had been lifted.
Screaming in defiance, Morgan loosed a lightning bolt at her half-brother. But the king merely hoisted Excalibur and deflected it, the magic of the blade shielding him.
“Give up, sister,” he said. “You are undone. Come quietly and I shall grant you clemency.”
“Keep your mercy, Pendragon!” Morgan screeched.
“Please, Mother,” called Sir Uwain, standing beside his king. “Do as he says.”
“As usual, my children betray me,” said Morgan. “You are no son of mine, Uwain!”
“We don’t want to harm you,” Uwain insisted.
“Speak for yourself, youngster,” said Sir Kay. The burly carrot-topped knight pointed with his sword. “Say the word, Arthur, and I’ll lop off the witch’s head.”
“I beg of you, Morgan,” Arthur continued, ignoring Kay’s request. “Let there be peace between us! I have no wish to fight my own kin.”
“At any rate, sorceress,” Sir Bedivere added, “you are outnumbered.” Sir Pelleas and Morvydd emerged from the adjoining room, helping Nimue to her feet and taking their places beside Camelot’s warriors.
“Fools!” Morgan declared. “We have not strength of numbers but we have power! My spells combined with those of Morgause and Madame Mim—”
“—Shall do nothing,” Thumbelina said, emerging from Morvydd’s dress (much to the surprise of the bewildered knights). She floated into Morgan’s field of vision triumphantly. “Morgause we left decrepit and unconscious in her chambers. And Mim is either sapped of power by the sun or dead from smoke inhalation by now.”
Morgan looked over the growing crowd of her enemies, her eyes darting back and forth like a cornered animal. Even with her much-vaunted powers, battling solo against five knights, two enchantresses, and a surprisingly resourceful team of imps would be a challenge.
“You haven’t won,” she muttered. “You merely delay the inevitable. Camelot shall fall and mine will be the hand that brings the hammer down!” Uttering a string of strange syllables, Morgan le Fay raised her hands and summoned a cloud of smoke that swirled about her. When at last it cleared, the sorceress-queen was gone.
The assembled warriors relaxed at last, lowering their weapons. Morvydd ran to Uwain and threw her arms about him in an embrace that half-squished the remaining Leaguers in her bodice.
“Morvydd?” the knight said in surprise. “Sister, what are you doing here?”
As reunions and explanations echoed through the hall, a lone figure crept stealthily towards the door. Sir Kay caught the motion in the corner of his eye and charged across the room, blocking Mordred’s escape. He grabbed the boy by the collar of his tunic, dragging him out of the shadows.
“Kay!” the lad cried. “Arthur! Oh thank heaven, you’ve all come to rescue me! She—she had me ensorcelled! Bewitched! An unwilling accomplice to her dark arts stripped of my free will! I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t arrived!”
Arthur eyed his son with suspicion. “Indeed. Well, you’re safe now, Mordred,” he said. He gave a knowing look to his knights. Watch him, it said. Watch him close.
“Do you believe him?” Kay whispered to Bedivere.
“I trust Mordred about as far as I could move this castle,” Bedivere answered.
The company searched the premises but found no trace of Morgause or Mim. Both had no doubt fled as their powers failed them. Kay urged Arthur to gather the Round Table’s warriors and lay siege to Morgause’s stronghold in Orkney. But the king shook his head. With no proof, it was the League’s word against hers that Morgause was ever even there. And Arthur had no wish to war with yet another sister.
At last, the Leaguers led the knights to the room where Guinevere was held captive. The lady cried out happily as they entered. “Arthur, you came for me!”
Arthur was astonished. “What devilry is this?” he said breathlessly, backing away from her outstretched hands. “I left the queen safely back home in Camelot!”
“That was an impostor,” Tom called from Morvydd’s shoulder. “Her sister Guinevak is in league with Morgan.”
“Impossible,” Arthur swore. “Do you think I don’t know my own wife, Sir Tom? This is some new trick of Morgan’s. A double to confuse and vex me!” He drew Excalibur and advanced on the queen.
“Back, demon! Assume your true form that I may dispatch you!”
“H-husband?” said Guinevere, shocked. Arthur lunged forward, the point of his sword aimed at her heart.
To be continued...
Here's the conclusion of League: Book 3. Thanks to everyone who read and commented. As I said at the beginning, I'm pretty much writing fantasy fiction with fetish mixed in so I really appreciate those who enjoy what I create. I know it's a bit off the beaten path but I love writing this stuff.
Excalibur flashed, its blade descending with terrible swiftness to run Guinevere through. Kay and Bedivere were upon the king in an instant, grabbing his arms with shocked desperation and holding him back.
“Arthur!” Sir Bedivere cried. “Have you taken leave of your senses?”
“Away! Release me!” Arthur growled, struggling against the knights. “This demon mocks me with my beloved wife’s visage!”
“This IS your wife!” protested Bedivere. “Did you not hear Merlin’s homunculi? An impostor holds court in her place!”
Arthur fought and kicked like a rabid dog, trying to free himself. “Lies! Falsity! I know my Jenny, Bedivere. Who would you believe – your king or a troop of scuttling mouse-men?”
The monarch’s harsh words stung the Leaguers as they sat gathered on Princess Morvydd’s shoulders. They had served Arthur valiantly and risked much for him over the years. Was this all he truly thought of them?
“Brother! Wart…” Sir Kay said, using the king’s childhood nickname. The tall carrot-topped warrior hoped this familiarity would bring Arthur back to his senses rather than enrage him further. “What if they’re right?”
The king’s struggles subsided and a cold calmness returned to him. He said nothing but continued to stare at the bewildered and frightened Guinevere.
“Sir Tom. All of you,” Bedivere said, turning to the little folk. “Do you swear by God and country that this is the true Queen Guinevere?”
“We do,” Tom declared.
“And you, my lady.” Bedivere turned to the woman. “You are the Queen of Britain and no devil summoned from Hell to bewitch us? No faerie glamour disguises your true form?”
“It’s me, Bedivere, I swear it is!” the queen babbled, fighting back tears. “You must believe me!”
“She’s telling the truth,” Morvydd insisted. “My mother kidnapped her for a ritual.”
“You saw her capture the queen?” Bedivere asked.
“Well, no, but…”
“I see.” Bedivere sighed, stroking his mustache thoughtfully. “We have no choice then. It is the League and this lady’s word against that of…the other queen. Let us bring her back to court and see if we can sort it out there.”
* * * *
The dour and bewildered company began the journey back to Camelot. The king was still inflexible on the matter so they had no choice but to take Guinevere as their prisoner. Amiably, the queen agreed to have her hands bound and ride on the back of Sir Bedivere’s horse, though it pained everyone to see this done.
The League remained upon Morvydd’s shoulders for the princess was loath to part with the wondrous little creatures. Strands of jet black hair were tied around their waists to keep them from falling as she rode behind her brother Uwain. Playful as always, Morvydd had offered to carry them in the bodice of her gown where they would be safe and “cushioned.” But the League feared the violent upheaval of this region that would result from their hostess being on horseback. A bouncing female bosom was no way to travel. ‘Lina’s aching ribs from the trip down the staircase could attest to that.
Before departing the Summer Country, the company bid farewell to Nimue and Sir Pelleas. The battle with Morgan had nearly killed the young enchantress. Her energy, both conventional and mystical, was sapped and she was still nursing numerous wounds. Only a dip in Avalon’s healing Red Spring would restore her.
“I thank you for your service, dear lady,” Arthur said, using Excalibur to remove the last vestiges of Nimue’s iron shackles. “You have more than proven your loyalty to the crown. Your sins are forgiven.”
“By you perhaps,” the Lady of the Lake said, rubbing her scalded wrists. “I’m not sure I will ever forgive myself. But I have my own penance to make. Myrddin Emrys’ power is within me and it will take my all not to be overwhelmed by it. Fighting Morgan unleashed something in me. I see the world so differently now – spirits of the air and earth, gods and faerie folk hidden from mortal eyes. And even now, the visions come. Dark days are ahead, Arthur. Be ready for them.”
The king frowned at the priestess with concern. He turned to her handsome escort. “Look after her, Pelleas.”
“To the end of my days, your majesty,” Pelleas said. He reached out to lend Nimue a supportive shoulder and guided her to the shore of the lake where the Barge of Avalon was waiting.
As the boat glided silently into the mist, the knights remounted their horses and were off. The League’s hearts sank for they feared they had lost a potential ally in proving the queen’s identity.
* * * *
When the troop at last returned to Camelot, there was, unsurprisingly, much confusion. The false Guinevere maintained that she was the genuine article, as did the true queen. Most of the Round Table was gathered in the great hall to debate this point, though Sir Mordred had slunk away to his quarters, hiding himself from suspicious eyes and denying everything.
Astonishingly, Arthur continued to side with Guinevak and believed her to be his wife. Some form of magic still held him in thrall. Though Morgan le Fay was defeated, she had left behind a lasting legacy.
“Of course she’s the real queen!” said one of the knights, Sir Bertholai. “Arthur would know the woman he married!”
Guinevak smiled at his endorsement from her stolen throne. Sir Bertholai, a knight of her homeland Cameliard, was in fact one of the hired thugs she had sent to capture Guinevere days earlier. He was fiercely loyal to Guinevak and more than a little infatuated with her.
“This is ludicrous!” Tom called from a tabletop. Morvydd sat in a chair beside him, idly stroking the little man with slender fingers. Tom pushed the trunk-like masses away in annoyance. “Not now, my lady! Thumbling, tell them about the birthmark! You were the first to spot it!”
The rest of the League was nearby, sitting on overturned teacups and the edge of an empty dinner plate. Eager to be involved, Morvydd snatched up a wooden spoon and used it to scoop Thumbling into the air. She held him high for everyone in the hall to see.
“Whoa!” he cried, sitting uneasily in the hollow of the spoon, his legs dangling over the side. “Er, yes. The real queen has a birthmark on her back that—”
Guinevak gasped in mock horror. “You’ve been spying on me? In my boudoir?! This is an outrage! Arthur, these horrid little imps should be put to death at once!”
“No!” the real Guinevere shrieked. “You mustn’t!”
“Her as well!” Guinevak added. She turned and reached out a hand to Sir Lancelot, who was standing vigilant beside the throne. “Surely you can see the truth, Lance. You know I am truly who I say I am.”
But Lancelot merely stared at the floor with unblinking eyes, lost in concentration. He seemed as if he were trying to recall something, an elusive memory which flitted just beyond his reach.
“Lance,” the real Guinevere said, her wrists still bound by ropes. “Please…you know me. You can’t believe her as well!”
“Enough lies, pawn of Morgan!” Arthur barked. “We will not fall for your tricks. I accuse you of treason!”
“The birthmark! Check the birthmark!” the Leaguers cried desperately. But their little voices were drowned out by the cacophony of arguments that erupted in the hall.
“You will be tried,” Arthur continued. “And if the verdict is guilty, you burn.”
“NO!” Lancelot suddenly bellowed. Whatever spell he’d been under was broken and the champion of Gaul charged across the room, pushing past his fellow knights. Drawing his sword, he cut through Guinevere’s bonds and grabbed her by the arm.
“Stop them! Stop them!” Arthur yelled to his warriors. The knights looked about in puzzlement, hesitant to fight the best among them.
“Lancelot! This way!” a voice called. Lance’s friend, Sir Galehaut, a towering bear of a man, had cleared a path through the crowd, pushing and intimidating everyone around him.
“We make for Sorelois!” the tall man said as Lancelot and Guinevere ran to him. If Arthur had gone mad – as indeed it seemed – Galehaut was prepared to offer Lance and the queen sanctuary in his own castle. It was rumored that Galehaut loved Lancelot in a way neither of them was prepared to deal with, but his loyalty to his friend was unwavering. In moments, the three of them had fled from the palace.
Arthur was already ordering a search party to retrieve the so-called traitors but the knights were at a loss. Their king swore loyalty to one queen and Lancelot to another. Who was to be believed?
“Mon Dieu, what brought Lancelot back to our side?” Hop wondered as the hall descended into chaos.
‘Lina snapped her fingers as a thought occurred. “Guinevak’s love potion! It must be wearing off! If we can destroy her supply, maybe we can snap Arthur back to reality as well!”
“Come, my friends,” Tom called to the team. “There’s still a hope!”
As the others gathered to him, Tom looked for Thumbling but saw only a guilty-looking Morvydd with the wooden spoon in her mouth. The princess smiled sheepishly with her lips wrapped around the utensil. She slid the spoon back out and opened wide, revealing a moistened Thumbling face down and clinging to her tongue as if riding a wild bull. As it undulated beneath him, he raised his head and looked out at his teammates through the gates of her teeth.
“Oh. Uh…new mission, eh? Sorry, kid, maybe we can finish this later.”
Morvydd thrust her tongue out and let him slide off it, catching him in her hand. She wiped him off with a napkin and set him on the table with the others.
“You disgust me,” ‘Lina told him.
* * * * *
The League hurried once again for the royal bedchamber, seeking Guinevak’s stash of love potion. They searched the surface of the bedside table and climbed up each wooden chest and armoire in the room. It took some effort but they were able to use their tiny swords like fulcrums to pry open each drawer and scour the interior. But the potions were nowhere to be found.
“Looking for this?” a dulcet voice called from the doorway. The towering Guinevak stood at the entrance haughtily, dangling a glass vial from her fingers.
“I heard your squeaking about my sister’s birthmark. Very clever, little ones,” she said, walking slowly into the room and closing the door behind her. The League froze where they stood on the edge of a dresser drawer. “You almost blew my cover. Lucky that Sir Lancelot provided a distraction with his oh so dramatic escape. That should keep Arthur and his lackeys busy long enough for me to…tie up loose ends.”
Guinevak tucked the vial of potion into the top of her dress. As she gently pressed down on it with two fingers, the small bottle vanished into her bosom. “My last one,” the false queen said, patting her chest protectively. “I’m sure Queen Morgan will be glad to replenish my stock once I’ve disposed of the only witnesses who can identify me.”
At once, the woman lunged at the dresser and attempted to swat the tiny homunculi. The League scattered, dodging each slap and grasp of her giant hands. Most of them managed to clamber or fly over the sides of the drawer and disperse. But as always, Issun-boshi’s tiny legs carried him much slower than his comrades. Guinevak took notice of the little figure sprinting across the folded linens. With a devious smile, she reached for him next.
Huge, delicate fingers began to close about Issun, forcing the samurai to leap headfirst through a rapidly shrinking gap at the side of her hand. He barely made it through before the gap closed and the fingers balled into a crushing fist behind him. Undeterred, Guinevak let him scurry a few more inches away, bolstering his confidence. She then simply leaned down, pursed her lips, and blew on the inch-high warrior.
Her breath was like a gale force wind at his scale and he was soon swept off his feet and sent somersaulting forward. Issun collided hard with the side of the wooden drawer. With a chuckle, Guinevak reached down and plucked him up between forefinger and thumb.
“So small, so fragile. And so easy to get rid of the evidence,” she told him, bringing him inches before her bright red lips. “Can’t have the court finding your remains. I’m afraid it’s down the hatch for you, like a good little shrimp.”
Casually, the lady flicked him into the air, leaned back, and opened wide, seeking to catch him in her mouth like a popcorn kernel. Issun felt himself plunging towards her jaws, a dark abyss yawning below and strewn with long strands of saliva. “Please, gods,” he screamed in his mind, “not again!”
As he closed his eyes, Issun felt something collide with his body. Yet it was not a monstrous tongue or a crushing white molar but a teammate! ‘Lina had shot across the room like a tiny battering ram, snatching him out of thin air.
“My – my thanks, Princess,” Issun stammered. “Being eaten once is enough for a lifetime.”
“I know the feeling,” she agreed.
With two little folk flying out of her reach, Guinevak turned her attention to those on the floor. Tom, Hop, and Thumbling were scrambling away in fright like startled mice. The woman sprang forward intent on stomping the closest homunculus, a dubious honor that belonged to Tom. Guinevak resolved to cover the resulting blood stain with a rug and clean up the mess later.
Tom ran for his life, staying just ahead of each stomp. The ground rumbled beneath him every time the gigantic foot made landfall and it became increasingly difficult for him to keep his balance. Taking note of his plight, Guinevak jumped rapidly up and down in place, shaking the floorboards. This soon caused Tom to fall and she was upon him in an instant, slamming her foot down one final time. The little man disappeared under the colossal appendage and Guinevak ground her foot back and forth to smear his innards over the wood.
With a satisfied grin, she lifted her foot to observe the gory remains. But nothing was there. A few feet from the spot, Hop was dragging Tom away with a burst of speed from his magic boots. Screaming in defiance, Guinevak turned away from them and set her sights on Thumbling. She tried to stomp him as well, only to witness a similar disappearing act. Now Hop was on the other side of the room, dragging a teammate behind him with both hands.
The false queen was enraged. She began to see why Morgan and the others had not simply crushed these Leaguers like ants. For such insignificant pests, they were remarkably resilient.
Once Tom and ‘Ling were hidden beneath a table a safe distance away, Hop turned around with determination. He eyed the furious giantess in the distance, set down his feathered hat, and rolled up his sleeves. “I shall fetch ze potion,” he said. Activating the boots, he vanished at once.
Faster than the eye, Hop sped to the mountainous woman and grabbed the hem of her dress. He began scaling the back of this garment, pausing only briefly to admire the fine curves of her backside. Moments later, he had reached her shoulder. Thanks to the seven-league boots, all this had happened in mere seconds and Guinevak had not yet noticed him. She still searched angrily this way and that, seeking the fleeing little people.
Hop peered over the edge of the shoulder and down into the shadowed bodice where the potion lay hidden. He smiled. “I love my work,” the miniature adventurer said as he dove headfirst down Guinevak’s dress.
The little man slid down through her décolletage, grabbing hold of the potion vial. He was about to whisk himself away with the power of the boots when a crushing weight closed in around him. Guinevak had at last felt his presence and quickly pressed her breasts inward with both hands, trapping her tiny foe. Hop was now suspended upside down, caught in the suddenly narrow confines of her cleavage.
“Not so fast, you wee pervert,” she said. She inspected the small, kicking legs that protruded from within her flesh. Wrapping an arm about her chest to keep her endowments in place, she reached down with her other hand and pulled off each of Hop’s boots. “You’re the one with the magic shoes, yes? I’ll just be taking these, thank you.”
Guinevak tossed the tiny boots aside and returned her attention to the now helpless creature imprisoned by her feminine charms. “I wonder how much pressure it would take to crack your little skull or ribcage,” she mused. She continued to squeeze her bosom together until Hop grunted in pain. Mountains of pink flesh pressed in against him, enfolding him in their deadly embrace. In minutes, he’d be little more than a red smear across her skin.
“Ah, but such pressure is sure to crack the potion vial as well,” the lady realized. “You’d like that wouldn’t you? You’d sacrifice yourself to take the potion with you. Not on your worthless life, little man. Give it to me!”
Delaying her torture for a moment, Guinevak released her grip and reached two fingers into the depression between her breasts, fishing for the glass container. Though every centimeter of him ached, Hop seized his moment. He slipped deeper into the chasm and grabbed the vial first. As the woman tried to snatch it from him, he flung it suddenly upwards into the open air.
Guinevak was unprepared for this and quickly fumbled to catch it. As she did so, ‘Lina swooped at the back of her head and grabbed two handfuls of red-gold hair. The tiny princess shot upward, yanking hard on Guinevak’s tresses until they were nearly pulled from her scalp. The woman shrieked in pain and the vial slipped from her fingers. The glass vessel fell to the floor and shattered into a hundred pieces, spilling its precious liquid across the floor.
“No!” Guinevak yelled, dropping to her knees. She tried in vain to gather up the remnants of the magical mixture. As she bent forward, Hop slipped from her décolletage and fell to the floor in a heap but she hardly noticed.
“She must have gone this way, men!” a voice called from the corridor. Guinevak looked up in alarm.
“How do we know if she’s the impostor?” the voice of Sir Uwain spoke from behind the door.
“We don’t. Yet,” Sir Bedivere answered. “But I don’t want her out of my sight until this whole thing is resolved. Arthur is behaving most oddly.”
“No, no, no, no!” the false queen hissed under her breath. With the love potion gone, her hold on King Arthur would soon slip and she would be found out. Desperately, she crawled on hands and knees to the full length mirror on the other side of the room. Guinevak pulled a small pouch from her pocket and flung its shimmery dust at the mirror, babbling out the spell to contact her employer.
“Open the door, my lady,” Bedivere called, knocking determinedly.
As before, Guinevak’s reflection distorted and transformed into that of Morgan le Fay. The image of the dark-haired sorceress stood over her frenzied follower, who was still on her knees.
“You have failed me, Guinevak,” Morgan said coolly.
“No, my queen!” Guinevak protested. “I just need more potion! Arthur can still be ours!”
“Open, I say!” Bedivere continued. “We can’t allow you to roam free until the truth of your words is determined.” He tried the handle of the door but found it locked. “Kay, break it down.”
“More potion? There’s no time, you fool!” Morgan told Guinevak. “The enemy is at your door!”
“Oh God! Please, you can’t leave me here!” cried Guinevak. “They’ll try me for treason, burn me at the stake! Morgan, you must take me with you!”
Something large and heavy slammed against the outside of the door. This repeated several times until the wood slowly began to splinter.
“You are of no further use to me,” said Morgan. She began to turn away.
“Please, my mistress!” Guinevak shrieked. “Don’t consign me to the fire!”
“Very well,” Morgan conceded in annoyance. “You shall not perish by fire.” She spoke an eerie string of syllables and made a gesture with her hands. But the mirror gateway did not open. Moments later, Guinevak suddenly felt warm and feverish and the color began to drain from her face. Every muscle ached and lost its strength and a sharp pain filled her belly.
“W-what…have you done?” she stammered, sinking to the floor.
“Your end will be swift, Guinevak. I can grant you that at least,” Morgan told her. “This is the price of failure. Farewell.”
Weakly, Guinevak reached a hand up to clutch at the mirror. But the image of Morgan le Fay was already fading from sight. As it winked out of existence, the door of the chamber burst open and the company of knights charged in.
* * * *
Guinevak’s strange malady continued to worsen in the days that followed and soon Sir Bertholai was stricken with the same symptoms. On their sickbeds, they admitted their complacency with Morgan’s scheme and verified the real Guinevere’s identity. Both conspirators were dead before the week was out. Sir Lancelot brought the true queen back to court where she was reunited with Arthur, now free of the love potion’s madness.
“Jenny, my darling, can you forgive an old fool?” the king asked, head bowed solemnly. With tears in her eyes, Guinevere embraced her husband. Chivalrously, Lancelot turned away. If he had harbored any hopes that Arthur’s rejection of the queen meant that he himself could win her, Lance said nothing.
Of Morgan le Fay, there was no trace. But it was only a matter of time before she struck again. Madam Mim, it was said, had fled back to her cottage in the Forest Sauvage, bored of this latest game. Queen Morgause had returned to her castle in the far northern Orkney Isles, where she set about seducing a family enemy, Sir Lamorak. This was a love affair doomed to tragedy and death for both parties (though that is another tale).
Sir Mordred continued to deny his involvement in the Sisterhood’s schemes. Though few believed him, there was no proof that he hadn’t been under a spell. The brooding youth returned to his own secret plans and his own counsel.
As for the League, they were brought forth and honored for their efforts, recognized at last as more than mere toy soldiers.
“For your bravery in combating the Sisterhood and helping to root out this conspiracy, at great risk to thyselves,” Arthur said, holding Excalibur over them, “I dub thee each true knights of the realm. Arise, Sir Thomas Thumb, Sir Issun-boshi, Sir Thumbling, Sir Hop o’ My Thumb, and Dame Maia Thumbelina.”
The League stood in a semi-circle on the Round Table, the king and queen gazing down at them with gratitude. Guinevere leaned down and gently kissed each tiny head. Nearby, a lady-in-waiting stood with a familiar owl napping on her outstretched arm.
Archimedes awoke with a start as the knights cheered their rather unorthodox new members. “Eh? What, what? Oh, you’re back, are you? Well, I hate to break it to you but Nimue never did return to the tower. Afraid I haven’t seen her.”
“Er, yes, Archimedes,” Tom said. “We know. You don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
“Ah. Good to know,” the owl said, closing his eyes. A moment later, he opened one again and stared at the clamor in the hall crossly. “What’s all this racket? Can’t a fellow get some peace around here?”
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.