AD 499 (Part Two): The Maid of Stevington Well

The eventual safe arrival at Medbourne only provided relief on what was to prove a surreal quest - one that would test and redefine the very character of Sir Erec & Sir Gaelavin. Made welcome by the Steward Cadfannon who had taken charge since the disappearance of Cousin Eric they drew up their plans for finding him. Cousin Erec had, it was confirmed, been searching for Stevington Well, the water from which was reputed to be holy and to cure all kinds of ills. There was little doubt that such water could bring relief from the 'curse' that appeared to have blighted Medbourne since its control by Gorboduc. Maybe if they sought out this Well they might find Cousin Erec there, and also bring back water for the healing of the manor as well?

How to find the Well in the Forest Savauge, a realm that seemed to have a life of its own with vanishing paths and growing boundaries? That would be a challenge in itself, nevermind what they found there. Steward cadfannon seemed to think that enlisting the help of Cousin Erec's squire would help - he after all had accompanied Cousin Erec on the first part of his quest. Where could they find him? It turned out that the peasant they had stumbled across who had shown them the way to Medbourne was in fact none other than Squire Dougal himself. Asserting his status Erec demanded that he showed them the way - and although highly reluctant, Dougal obeyed.

They travelled on horseback, accompanied by hounds to help them track. Erec had brought some old clothing of his cousin's in the hope that the sent would assist. The Squire led them to the river Dougal, but then refused to go further, pointing upstream and saying that Erec had gone that way. Have left him the order to stay there, Sirs Erec and Gaelavin followed the stream, Steward Cadfannon accompanying them.

After a while they came accross two pure white doves, perched cooing at each other on a bough. Erec eyed them with suspicion - since his armour had begun to glow green when they entered the Forest, he had become increasingly concerned about the possible influence of magic. Gaelavin apeared not to share his concern and held out his hand. Promptly the birds alighted and landed on it - only to fly off again when Erec clapped his hands at them.

Having lost the doves, they continued on their path into the Forest, only to hear enchanting singing coming from within the woodland. Leaving the river, they headed into the thick of the wood to investigate, whereupon they stumbled across the most beautiful maid they had ever encountered. Overcome by her beauty they stumbled out their greetings, belatedly remembering to introduce themselves. This, it turned out, was Lady Vithelen, who dwelt in her bower, alone in the woods. Passing them each a white chrysanthumum, she affirmed that she did indeed know of the Well they sought, and maybe had seen someone fitting Cousin rec's description a year before. Could she help? She was more than willing to lead them to the well, but only one could accompany here there, one man who was true and chaste. Was one of them such a fellow?

True and chaste? It was decided that Little Erec was the only one who might fit that bill - Gaelavin knew in his heart that he was 'free with his love', and so it was that Erec found himself being led into the forest with this breathtaking stranger... Once away from the others, she gestured to him to sit on a rock, she herself taking a seat on a tree stump. 'Erec', she queried, 'tell me honestly, why do you seek the well?' Erec replied with truth, he came to find his cousin who had been lost there, and maybe to gain some water at the same time to revive the hamlet of Medboure. As they talked, entranced by Lady Vithelen's presence, Erec couldn't but help notice that her gown had slipped open, revealing a fair and perfect breast. His heart leapt as she leant towards him, and welcoming her embrace he entered an afternoon of passion unlike any that had befallen him before...

As their afternoon came to a close and the sun began to set, Vithelen arose, leading Erec with her hand in hand, to come with her to their awaiting bower. Deciding to remain with her, Erec accepted her lead, his lust only broken by the appearance of his cousin at the bower, now transformed into a rabid creature, attacking him with venom for taking away the object of his love! With care, Erec defended himself from his cousins blows, without harming him at the same time. After sometime of deflecting his wild lashing, Erec knocked him to the ground with the side of his sword, and kicked the side of his temple, rendering him unconscious. Lifting him onto his horse, he took his leave of the Maid of the Well, finding freedom in the over-riding love he felt towards family. That said, he went harbouring a love of her inside.

Gaelavin, meanwhile, had spent the day searching with the hounds for Erec, growing increasingly concerned for his companion. What had happened to him? Had he been detained? Slain or worse? His searching, however, was to no avail. As dusk fell, he gave in and settled at the place where the Lady and Erec had left them, hoping that maybe he might find a way back to his companions. And so it proved. In the middle of the night, Erec leading his horse bearing his unconscious cousin and crashing into the glade, and here Erec and Gaelavin determined to overnight, having sent Squire Leigh back with Cousin Erec to Medbourne.

During the night, Erec revealed all that had transpired to Gaelavin, and so when the Lady of the Well returned, he was prepared and ready for what was to come. This time he accepted her invitation and headed into the woods. Once more he replied truthfully, but before the Lady's gown once more slipped open, he deliberatekly averted his eyes and focussed with all the passion he could muster upon his wife and the love he had for her (passion: love spouse - success). Keeping her in his minds eye, he was able to resist the temptation to succumb to the Lady's charms; quite a feat for the lustful Lord! Presently, the Maid of the well drew her gown around her and congratulated him on passing her dual test. Leading him but a few paces away, she revealed the well and drew a cup of water for him. Together they walked back to the glade where a relieved Erec awaited. As the party prepared to leave, they discussed with the Maid of Stevington Well the nature of the Forest - why was it that it seemed to have this life of its own. She told them again the story of its enchantment cause by the loss of Excalibur when Uther died when it should have been returned. They learnt one more important truth though. The Otherworld that had broken through in the wood and brough with it a King who ruled over it, King Madog.

Finally they came back to Medbourne. Taking the water they springled it around the grounds of the church, saving a little to give to Cousin Erec to hasten his healing and a single drop for each of them to taste. They were sure as they completed this, that the mood over Medbourne lifted...