8. Puff Puff

Sir Balan and the Damsel hadn’t walked a very long distance upon the highway to Camelot before the Damsel revealed a metal horn low on her hip.

“Thirsty, sir knight?” she asked Sir Balan as she unhitched the horn from her belt and brandished it. “They brew some mighty strong stuff in Dál Riata, I’m not sure if you southern folk are used to it.”

The knight chortled.

“I’ve got quite the tolerance, and fondness, for strong drink,” he said. “Let me be the judge of its strength.”

The Damsel handed over the horn. It was filled with a love potion, and Sir Balan took a sip of it. He paused for a moment, then smiled before taking a large gulp.

“It’s not bad!” Sir Balan said, wiping his mouth as he handed the metal horn back to the Damsel. She took a swig, then threw herself at him. They kissed and embraced for some time before she pulled him off the road and into the bushes along the side of it. Together, they shared a little romp behind the hedges. And, thanks to the love potion, he immediately fell under the Damsel’s love spell.

They tidied up after their delightful afternoon frolic, and then continued on their way to Camelot.

The Damsel arrived at King Arthur’s, brought by a smitten Sir Balan who had a stupid smile across his face.

The royal guards of Camelot’s great hall stopped them before they could enter.

“Halt,” one of the guards ordered. “What business does this woman have with His Majesty, King Arthur Pendragon, Ruler of Logris and King of the Britons?”

“It’s alright, guard,” Sir Balan said. “This Damsel comes from the Kingdom of Dál Riata, hoping to meet with the great King Arthur. I have vouched to bring her here safely, so kindly let us pass.”

The guard looked at Sir Balan, then at the Damsel, before stepping aside.

Sir Balan and the Damsel entered the great hall of Camelot, which was filled with loud discussion, hearty laughs, and the sounds of full tankards of mead crashing against one other.

The Damsel approached the center of the hall with Sir Balan, where King Arthur said with his closest knights eating meat and drinking heavily.

“Your Majesty,” the Damsel called out as she knelt. “I hail from the Kingdom of Dál Riata, and I bring to you a weapon of great power that is to be availed to anyone as their own should they be able to unsheathe it.”

King Arthur took a bite out of the half-eaten and heavily buttered puff pastry in his hand.

“I let everyone at the royal court of King Rience have a go at it, but none prevailed,” she continued. “I’m sure there is someone here that could succeed where they have failed.”

King Arthur wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Hand it over,” he said, gesturing for her to pass the weapon as he set down the pastry upon the table. “Of course Rience’s pansies couldn’t free your sword. Here, I’ll take a crack at it.”

The Damsel handed over the sword to the king with both hands, head bowed low submissively.

The king studied the hilt, then studied the scabbard, then gripped them both before attempting to yank them apart, grunting as he did.

The sword, however, was not freed.

King Arthur tried again and, to the Damsel’s surprise, he was once again unsuccessfully in dislodging the sword.

“Maybe, don’t pull on it so hard,” the Damsel said. “Try pulling lightly… uh, for the one who pulls it out shall do so with ease.”

King Arthur tried once more, tugging lightly at first before resorting to using all his might in an attempt to rip the sword from the trick scabbard. His efforts, however, were in vain. He looked at the sword, flushed and frustrated.

At this point, Balin had entered the great hall to deliver the bad news to King Arthur that he needed more time to fix Merlin’s broken machine. He had already retrieved some one-and-a-half-inch gears from Camelot’s quartermaster, and was ready to head back north. He joined the crowd of knights, incognito, and waited for a lull in the excitement so that he might speak to the king.

“Allow me, my king,” Sir Lanceor of Ireland said as he rushed to the foot of the throne and knelt down. Reluctantly—and to the Damsel’s horror—King Arthur handed Sir Lanceor the sword that was still stuck in the scabbard.

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