They had come from the hills, the dangerous Saxon hordes.  The threat to the countryside was such that every Companion of the Table was recalled from their individual quests across the land to defend Camelot against the encroachment of the savage invaders.  Now they fought valiantly, outnumbered and surrounded, but still bravely facing these seemingly unstoppable barbarians.

            “Watch your back, Galahad!”  The famed Lancelot swung high, taking the sword arm off of the Saxon warrior behind the fair-haired Galahad, who was busy pulling his own blade from the guts of another barbarian.  Lancelot bravely bore a shield with the sign of the cross, for Arthur’s was a Christian court.

            Galahad swung his now free sword around, taking the head off of the now disarmed Saxon with a surprise blow.  The two smiled at one another, Galahad clapping his white shield against his father’s to acknowledge that they made a good team, before jumping back into the fray.

            Arthur, with his dragon shield, was locked in mortal combat with the Saxon chieftain, with Kay at his back defending him from any sneak attacks with a shield decorated by a lion.  Tristan, with a shield bearing the likeness of a harp, danced his way around his opponent, striking at his arms and legs to tire him before dealing the death blow.  Only Lancelot was a more talented fighter, wielding his sword with flair and style. 

            Bedivere’s sword was stuck in his opponent’s leg, so he used his mighty strength to lift his opponent over his head, then bringing him crashing down on the rocks.  He then regained his sword and shield, marked with a snarling bear’s face.  Nearby, Gawain fought with none of the talent of Lancelot, but made up for it through ferocity and endurance, battling like a man possessed.  He had been separated from the others, surrounded by a snarling pack of the savages.  He was growing weary, but snarled back at their challenges, daring them to come at him.

            Suddenly from over the hilltop came a shrill war cry, and a fresh army came over the crest to attack the Saxons.  They fought with a vigour the wearied knights had not possessed since the beginning of the battle, for they were newly arrived and fresh, ready for war.  Their armour shone like new, while the Companions’ had been stained by blood and dirt.  One, on horseback, impaled one of the Saxons at Gawain’s back, saving him from an unknown assailant.  He turned to stare at this new warrior, and realized that he was a she, a warrior woman!

            “Hold it!”  Dan shouted, “Who invited the girls?  There weren’t girls in King Arthur’s army!”

            He stood atop a rock in one of the cow fields, and at his feet was a bucket with a painted-on face and a body made of old clothes and broom handles.  Below him at the foot of the rock was Evan, pulling his wooden sword out of a cardboard-box man.  Both were dressed in old football and hockey gear for armour.

            Neal and Owen looked up from the remains of the men around them, carefully built from old chairs, cardboard boxes, plywood and two-by-fours.  Owen pulled off his helmet, a large pot, and ran his hand through his sweaty hair.  Alex and Jason stood back to back, surrounded by more of the box-men in the field, and now lowered their swords.  Ethan looked up at the girl on the bike, and realized who she was as she took off her bike helmet.  The sun had been in his eyes at first, but now he recognized her.

            “Genevieve, what are you doing here?”  He demanded of his sister.  She was a year and a half younger than he was, having just turned six a few weeks before, while his birthday was earlier in the year.  Perched above him on her bicycle with training wheels, she smiled.

            “We came to play.”  She gestured at the other girls with her, dressed in armour made of cardboard and old sports equipment.  Ethan looked at them, recognizing not a single one other than his sister.

            Neal did know one of them, however. “Zoë.  What’s up?”

            His dark-haired sister, a little more than a year older than he was, smiled brightly.  “I followed you here last week to see what was going on.  I was wondering where you went every day.  Genevieve explained the game you all play, and we watched for awhile, all last week actually.  We decided that we wanted to play too.”

            She gestured at the two strange girls who had come with her and Genevieve.  One was a beautiful young blond girl with tan skin and dark eyes.  Zoë introduced her as Hope Kelley, a girl Neal’s age that lived down the street from him and his sister and was good friends with the slightly older Zoë.  She was in Neal’s class at school, though the two of them had never spoken.  The other was a pretty strawberry blond with brown eyes, a girl by the name of Faith Sheridan.  Both she and Hope were very solemn and intelligent young girls, generally studious and quiet, but possessed of great warmth for those they knew well.  Their similarities in character were not all that surprising, as they were cousins and had a very close family.  Their differences, however, could be very surprising, as sharp a contrast between them as there was between Faith’s blue eyes and Hope’s brown ones.

            “Well, that’s all very good, I like the armour you’ve put together and everything, but I don’t think King Arthur ever had girls in his army.”  Daniel said sternly from his rock.  “You can’t play.”

            “So what if Arthur didn’t have any?  Doesn’t mean you can’t.”  Genevieve protested hotly.  “And who made you boss?  It’s our field and our house you play in.”

            Dan glared at her, but realized she had a point.  He looked to the others for help and still managed to pipe out a meek “It just seems like it’s against the rules.”

            At this Neal’s ears pricked up.  He realized that there was dissension in the ranks over the presence of the girls.  While Dan was the only one saying anything, he could tell that Alex was none too pleased.  Jason would follow Alex’s lead, and it was clear that Dan didn’t want the girls to play, which meant nearly half the group was opposed to the girls’ presence.  Neal thought that it didn’t matter either way to Evan or Owen, but he himself was torn between loyalty to the group and to his sister, and he was certain that Ethan felt the same way.  As a leader, and king, he told himself that he had to do something.  Dan’s comment gave him an idea.

            “Dan’s right.  Knights are champions of the kingdom.  It is not right for a girl to be a knight…” He got glares from each of them, “…because they are more valuable than a man, for they are the mothers of our children and caretakers of our homes.  Men go out to war because they are better suited for its roughness and to protect their families, so that they need not experience it, out of a respect for the higher value a woman has.”

            They all looked at Neal with a great deal of respect and even awe as he finished his speech.  For an eight year old it was quite a feat of reasoning.  The girls seemed without an argument, and Dan and Alexander smiled smugly, thinking that Neal had found a way to exclude the girls from their game.  Alex whispered to Dan “Nice save!” in admiration of Neal.

            “But we wanted to play.”  Genevieve sulked.

            “But you can.”  Neal said.  This time there were glares from some of the boys.  “Every knight needs a lady to champion, and who shall care for his castle and home.”

            “Yeah, and wasn’t there a Lady or something, in the Lake?”  Evan asked.  Ethan nodded, confirming the information.  “We could use one of those, couldn’t we?”

            “Yes, she gave Arthur Excalibur, a sword that made him unbeatable.  Its sheath also prevented him from bleeding through an enchantment.”  Ethan explained.

            “And Arthur had a sister, Morgan le Fay.”  Zoë said.  “I can read too, you know.”

            “Well then, Sister, welcome.”  Neal bowed low to Zoë.  “I thank you for your aid in our battle.  Have you come to help tend the wounds of my soldiers?”

            “I have, dear Brother.”  Zoë bowed in return with much grace.  She smiled as her brother offered her his hand, although she didn’t really need any help to get off of her bicycle.  She took his arm as he led her around the body-strewn battlefield.

            “Allow me to introduce my champions, Lancelot and Gawain.  Both are the most loyal men in the kingdom, willing to lay down their lives in defence of England and the crown.”  Neal gestured at Alex and Ethan, who bowed low.  “Gentlemen, the Lady Morgan.”

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