“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”
The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and… Nothing.
“Will!” Allyn whisper-shouts. “That was your cue.”
“Wait, what?!” Will’s voice calls from who-knows-where. “The show’s live now?? But it’s Monday! Danielle never announced a blogging schedule switch!”
“As our band leader may have told you, Danielle has been rather busy turning her entire life upside-down,” Allyn points out. “The old schedule’s right out the window. I expect it’ll be like her days in Germany all over again – blog posts if and when she feels like it, no more predictable than that.”
“Fine, fine. Just lemme grab my other boot. Catch a fellow while he’s in the shower, why don’t you…”
Moments later, Will Scarlet himself hastens – smiling, waving, and briefly maneuvering on one foot – onto the bright, cozy set.
“Hullo, everyone! Sorry about that hiccup, coming out the gate. Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”
As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Wikipedia has made brief mention of her thus:
In many works outside the Lancelot-Grail inspired tradition[,] Gawain has sisters. They include […] Clarissant in Chrétien’s Cligés […] An important episode [in Perceval, the Story of the Grail] is Gawain’s liberation of a castle whose inhabitants include his long-lost mother and grandmother as well as his sister Clarissant, whose existence was unknown to him. This tale also breaks off unfinished.
“Welcome, Clarissant!” Will greets the noblewoman now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – why have I actually never heard of you until halfway through the drafting of #CamelotWIP? Like, what the high hell, you don’t even show up in our author’s brainstorming notes!”
Clarissant’s mild blink is a peeved cousin of her celebrated brother’s. “To the first, I can only suppose that legend did not find me enough of a villainess to be of concentrated importance to Uncle Arthur’s narrative. Damsels are quested for and forgotten. Girl-siblings, unworthy of mention, unless they provide a nephew of note.” A semi-smile touches her lips. “Only the wicked and the witches leave their mark. Danielle might never have come across my name, were it not for some muse-born conviction that her Gawain had a sister, lost to time. Why she doesn’t seem to have bothered to plan my story arc on paper before working it into her novel, I cannot say. Perhaps she worked out enough of her plans verbally, with Tirzah, that she felt confident she had things sufficiently ordered in her head.”
“What is your arc in the novel? Or, at any rate, what can you tell us of it without mega-spoilers?”
“My part in the tale begins where the first Camelot ends,” says she, tidying any runaway wisps in her thick brown braid. “Its civil war finished and the Round Table decimated, I’m placed in the sideline role oft allotted to women: Alive and alone, left to pick up the pieces. I could have chosen to remain where I was. Instead, I looked to the Fey and seized upon a quest for the future Camelot.”
“Audacity!” Will approves.
“Desperation,” Clarissant corrects. “When you feel you’ve already lost everything, what’s to fear of further risk?”
“That… sounds like a mood I know.”
She studies the sorrow at his smile’s edges. “Yes, I believe we do have that in common, however differently we channel it.”
“Not so very differently, in essentials,” Will maintains. “It’s not as if either of our paths could be called sane.”
“Or called separate,” Clarissant notes. “Indeed, my path intersected with yours in a most astonishing way.”
“And with Allyn’s!”
“Of course with Allyn’s. His powers of protagonism are nothing short of cosmic.”
“Because he is a Chosen One,” says Will. “Whereas you, lady of Orkney, are one who chose.”
“Lady of Listeneise,” says Clarissant, a pleased shade of pink rising in her plump cheeks at Will’s words. “I have been wed and widowed, you know.”
“Belated congrats and condolences. So, now that Danielle’s given you a space in her Camelot legend, what would you most like to be remembered for?”
“Part of me would say my destination,” Clarissant says thoughtfully. “Another part would say my journey. Each is its own kind of important, in a tale. Above all, I think I would like to be remembered as my own knight. My own champion and hero, lacking only the title and shiny trappings that would have been mine as they were my brothers’, had I been born a boy. I’d have been one of the Round Table’s best, I don’t doubt.”
“And which side would you have fought for, at Camlann?”
An indelicate snort. “For Arthur’s, naturally. And would have talked my more foolish brothers ‘round into doing the same.”
“Sounds like the right choice, to me! And while we’re on the subject of choices: Tell me, Clarissant, what is our author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” A smile of epic proportions. “Or would you rather kiss me?”
“Oh, I hardly think our author has much time for secrets, these days. You and I may as well share a kiss.”
Thus saying, Clarissant leans forward to set a kiss each to the smile lines bracketing Will’s mouth. Aforesaid lines crease into their customary position as Will calls out, “Ho, Allyn, what’s the word from our sponsor?”
“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “is brought to you by ‘The Once and Future Camelot’ by Danielle E. Shipley – available now in paperback (here) and e-book (here and here)
Everyone knows the story. Nobody knows the truth.
According to legend – and to Merlin’s prophecies – the great King Arthur Pendragon will someday reign again. But “someday” has been a long time in coming, with decades spent confined in Avalon, the ancient Faerie isle disguised in modern times as an everyday Renaissance Faire. What remains of Camelot’s court pass their summers by putting on famous faces for the Outside world, all the while questioning who they were before death and magical rebirth robbed them of their memories.
For Camelot to rise again, they must remember the fall.
With nothing but centuries of hearsay to mine for clues, the mysteries remain: Were Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot the betrayers, or the betrayed? How came Sir Bedivere to be known as “the One-Handed”, and what hand had he in the kingdom’s undoing? Did the inscrutable Morganne le Fey stand with Arthur, or with his enemies?
And do truly great enemies ever die?
In this epic successor to the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy, the time comes at last for “once” and “future” to unite, thanks to – (or in spite of) – a king and a wizard, the Round Table and the Fey folk, and one outlaw minstrel whose destiny has only just begun.
“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will. “Thanks to you, too, Clarissant! And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll talk to Danielle about getting them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”