THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XXIII: Drysi
While the war with the Saxons was going on, King Lot was up north fighting Scots and Picts and Irish invaders and having a grand old time. North of the River Trent his word was law, backed by the full authority of the High King himself. He was doing what he liked best, spending the eight months of the year when it wasn’t too cold to campaign leading men in battle, staying home just long enough to knock up half a dozen peasant girls (his wife had apparently long since given up breeding).
But if the crusty old king was content with his lot in life (pun intended), Morgause was decidedly not. Three of her sons, all rowdy strapping lads bearing their father’s features and fiery temperament, were already riding among Arthur’s companions by the Battle of Mount Baden; Gareth, still too young to be a companion although already a head taller than his eldest brother Gawain, would join them the following year. Orkney was cold even in summer; in the winter it was a tomb of ice, particularly now that it was empty of the sound of boys at play. Not to mention a long, long way from the excitement and intrigue of Arthur’s court.
Morgause’s youngest son, Mordred, was a moody child, looking nothing whatsoever like Lot, with a penchant for torturing animals and inflicting abuse on the servants’ children. As Arthur’s bastard son and closest kin, maybe he would be Morgause’s ticket out someday. But she often found herself wondering just what the hell she’d been thinking.
* * *
Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea, a young witch named Drysi (which means ‘thorn’) also grew bored with the routine and hardships of life in the wilds. One of those people who are only truly happy when elbow-deep in some scheme at the expense and pain of others. Forsaking her vows and abandoning her cult, she traveled to Ulster and there attempted to steal a prince from his betrothed with the use of a love potion. Exposed and condemned—the budding Christian community left behind by St. Patrick had no tolerance for witches—she managed to escape and fled to Orkney. There she practiced village magic and nursed her resentment until Morgause discovered her and moved her into the castle. Kindred spirits united by a common bitterness at life, the unholy trinity—Morgause, Drysi, and Mordred—simmered and schemed.
But barren scheming in Orkney was little more satisfying than healing the downtrodden in Ireland had been. The only real improvement was the company of misery and the occasional dalliance with mother or son, each of whom was ignorant of the other’s involvement, to take the edge off. When Lot grew ill and returned home a couple of years later, things became unbearable. So Drysi wandered south, eventually ending up in Avalon.
Where she encountered the happy lovebirds, eagerly waiting for Beltane.
* * *
Drysi wasn’t in love with Merlin—the only person she loved was Drysi, as I was able to verify when she handled me later. But there were very few men around, and while Merlin wasn’t a prince, he was available—not to mention infatuated with someone older and in Drysi’s eyes not nearly as attractive nor as deserving as herself. And so she promptly fell in lust and set about trying to steal him.
What folly. By his own admission, Merlin had gone seventy-five years without sex. Did Drysi think she was somehow more tempting than all the others who’d aspired and conspired over the years to draw his power and mystery into the dark triangle of their loins and capture, if not a piece of him, at least a treasured memory? All she really managed to do was to piss Nimue off and wear her welcome at Avalon thin.
So she fell back on the old tried and true, although it hadn’t really worked out that well the first time, so maybe it was just old and tried. But by whatever description, she managed to slip a double dose of love potion into Merlin’s Beltane brew.
Normally Merlin would have recognized a potion at first sip, but the bitter, hallucinogenic weaselwhisker-loco weed combination masked the true nature of what he was drinking. Not to mention that he was already pretty addled by the deadly one-two punch of lust and performance anxiety. So he downed the whole thing. And then the proverbial shit hit the fan, which of course hadn’t even been invented yet.
Merlin started dancing with Drysi. She closed in and drew her nails down his neck and chest; he responded by pulling up her long skirt and fondling her buttocks right there on the packed earthen dance floor. I was dangling from the fingers of his other hand, but none of my messages or warnings were getting through.
About that time a wildcat in the person of Nimue launched herself at Drysi, pummeling her to the ground. There followed a classic catfight where the two women scratched and gouged and tried their best to claw each others’ faces off. Mother’s brew is supposed to enflame sexual passion, but apparently bloodlust is close enough kin to be enflamed as well. Merlin dropped me in the dirt—the wisest man alive was so bumfuzzled that he tossed aside his best tool for resolving the situation—and then, instead of dragging them away from each other, tried to convinced them to both go out in the fields with him.
I tell you, Bradley, it was a hell of a mess.
The Lady of the Lake, Vivian, finally enlisted the villagers to get them separated. But in the end they had to resort to tying them up, bloody and bruised, to keep them from getting right back into it. And so Beltane came and Beltane went, and nobody got laid.
THE GRAIL’S STORY, PART XXIII: OUTTAKES
“You’re shitting me, right?”
It’s such a great story, it shouldn’t matter if it’s true. But then you’re a historian, so of course it matters. Well, the truth is, it happened exactly like I described it.
“I’m totally shocked Merlin behaved that way.”
You’re shocked? I’d lived with him for more than twenty years and never suspected he was capable of losing control. Well, like they say, love makes fools of us all. Who designed this system anyway?
“Yeah, but only half of it was real love. The other half was a potion.”
It’s all brain chemistry. And having no brain as such, I’ve never really experienced either kind. Although, as you’ve pointed out, motherly love is the best description of what I do feel. But I’m not sure the difference between natural love and love-by-potion is significant.
“So if somebody today knew the recipe, we could brew us up a batch of love potion?”
As far as I can tell, yes.
“But you don’t know it, I suppose.”
I suppose not. But then if you had a love potion, who would you use it on?
“It’d be awful handy in talking women out of their undies.”
You don’t need a love potion for that. You have me.
* * *
“So far I’ve at least heard of all the characters in this tale. But Drysi doesn’t show up in any of the Arthurian stories I know.”
On the other hand, Razuni is also a critical part of the Jesus story. And Layla. You never heard of them.
“Yeah, but. Now we’re talking about a story that a lot more has been written about.”
Must not have impressed any of the bards. That would be my guess. If you want to be remembered after you die, you have to impress the bards.
“I’ll make a note of that.”