When Gawain at last lay down to rest in that castle beyond compare, his thoughts were strange indeed, and wandered far.
He recalled the Green Knight’s arrival in Camelot, standing proud and fearless upon the saddle. Whether he was mad or bold, the knight bared his neck for the axe as if it were an old friend. In that strange dream, the Green Knight’s locks were as lovely and soft as any Gawain had ever touched, even with blood running through them like molten rubies.
Gawain, for his part, had no fear of battle, or of killing. Gentle in spirit though he was, it was clear: the Green Knight had besmirched King Arthur’s honor, and needed recompense. Thus, Gawain traveled through a hundred desert roads, battled a hundred foes, and so found himself here. This was no Green Chapel, to be sure. But it put his heart at ease to lie in such comforts after his weary journey.
And yet, his mind and body were restless and tense. For the lady of the castle was a bright and beautiful one, and Gawain’s heart and body were all aflame at the very thought of her. Their evening talk felt too short, even as he paid her every courtesy.
“I wish to see her once more.” Gawain’s heartsick murmur pierced the darkness.
His fingers brushed against his lips, remembering the fair cheeks they had kissed.
And yet, did this knight not have a quest to fulfill? He knew that in his heart. The Green Knight, of elfin mien and mocking laugh, awaited him somewhere close by. There was no time for the joys of love, despite how sweetly they tempted him.
When at last Gawain dreamt, it was of the Green Knight astride his horse cantering into the castle, eager for sport and blood alike. The bright lady of the castle beheld silently as Gawain tried, again and again, to behead the intruder before them.
At last, when Gawain's arms were like lead and could swing no longer, she clasped Gawain’s wrist in her dainty hand.
“Look well,” said she, and slipped Gawain's hand beneath the Green Knight’s breastplate as if it were a silk doublet.
Gawain stood in a swoon as, through him, the bright lady caressed something tender there. Something lay warm and defenseless against his hand. The Green Knight merely smiled at them both, as if receiving a blessing twice-over. A momentary amusement, perhaps, or something beyond Gawain’s ken.
After that…there was nothing to acknowledge. Those were not virtuous sights to witness, or pure thoughts to entertain.
When Gawain awoke, the moon passing the window like a pearl on the lady’s kerchief, he felt as though he was being peered at by a giant’s eye. His bedchamber felt as wide as a battlefield, yet smaller than a cell. All was quiet, as if the castle itself had beheld his dream. Perhaps the very walls had...but no, the folk here attended Mass. There was no pagan sorcery here. There could not be.
Gawain felt sick to his marrow, and not from unrequited love. His heart was drenched in shame and anxiety.
Leaving the bed, he slid to his knees and prayed, his hands trembling no matter how tightly he clasped them. The stone floor ground against his legs. It burned his fair skin like cold fire.
In the morrow, he would set out on his quest, as he had sworn he would. Perhaps, if he focused his body and soul on that certainty, he would awaken with a gladder heart. When in times past he had thought such things, they had come to fruition. This madness would be no different.
If he heard familiar laughter dancing among the trees, japing at his troubles, it was due to his weariness. Nothing more.