When a futuristic chalice transports San Francisco videogame designer Marian Tyler back to 1100 AD it turns her life into a living knightmare. Dashing Sir Thomas de Percivale is on his way to his execution—unjustly accused of a crime he didn’t commit—when a ‘witch’ drops out of the sky, knocks him off his horse and saves his life. Together they must flee for their lives, outwit the Bishop of Durham and stay alive long enough to reclaim Sir Thomas’ birthright. When given the chance to return to her own time, will Marian go back to hot showers, Diet Coke and Reality TV, or stay with her knight in slightly tarnished armor?
Marin County, California
From her perch behind the counter of Maid Marian’s Herbal Delights, awash in scents of lavender, mint and chamomile, Marian Tyler tapped her foot in time to the music and reveled in the spectacle. A lusty redheaded barmaid sloshed dark ale onto a scarred oaken table and flirted outrageously with her young male customers. Two knights clanged metal blades in mock battle. A troubadour filled the air with his mournful ballad of unrequited love. Marian’s long black braid swung to and fro across her back as she sang and swayed to the musician’s tune.
There was nothing better than the Renaissance Pleasure Faire on a Sunday afternoon.
The sun shone in speckled glory through the leaves of this temporary Sherwood Forest—at other times of the year a state park located just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. She almost felt transported back to the days of King Arthur and the knights of old. She closed her eyes to savor the bliss.
“We got any more fennel breath freshener, uh, my lady?” An adolescent girl’s quiet voice interrupted her reverie. Looking first towards her inquisitive assistant and then across the counter at the regal middle-aged woman smiling in her dark blue kirtle with matching veil and silver circlet, Marian sprung into action. She pulled her extra stock box from beneath the curtained table and handed Leticia ‘Tish’ Gordon a stoppered blue glass bottle filled with fennel seed.
“Runnin’ low on rosemary shampoo and that almond milk complexion cream too,” Tish added, pushing her thick glasses back up her wide nose.
Marian rummaged around and retrieved ample replacement stock for her perennial best sellers. She made a mental note to create a new batch of both items as she tallied the blue lady’s purchase and smiled at the girls wearing crop tops and low-rise jeans who approached her booth.
Several hours later, business had waned to the point where she could send her assistant home for the day. Tish was one of the bright high school students she tutored as part of FairGame – the non-profit organization she had founded. Marian mentored low-income teens about programming so they could turn their love of playing videogames into a career creating them. Already three of her kids had secured jobs at Electronic Arts and Capcom. Tish was her current superstar. Together they had nearly finished Marian’s three-year project – GrailQuest – her videogame homage to Dungeons and Dragons.
“Don’t forget to finish your homework,” Marian teased as she handed Tish $50 from the cashbox as payment for her day’s work. They didn’t have grades high enough for students like Tish.
“See ya Saturday at the office,” the teen replied, stuffing the wad of cash in her baggy trousers. Marian frowned as she watched the girl lumber through the crowd, head down, soul weary. She’d get that girl to meet the world head-on if it killed her.
“What potions and elixirs can my lady offer a lovesick lord?” a reed-thin male voice broke in from her left. She swung around to see a nerdy-looking young noble sporting a chestnut colored wig that fell in cascades to his shoulders. A three-quarter-length black linen tunic hung on his gawky frame. It was padded to a ridiculous degree in a failed attempt to compensate for his scrawny chest and stooped shoulders. Still it was a beautiful garment. White contrast stitching ran in an intricate Celtic pattern around the sleeves, hem and neckline, glowing in the bright sunlight. Tight forest green breeches hugged his thin legs and peeked above silver hose that were tucked into pointed black leather boots. It was the most historically accurate outfit she’d seen in a long time, even if was draped on a scarecrow.
“Doest thou require a love potion to ease thine own heartsickness, or one to make the object of thy affection return thy favors, milord?” she asked, a smile twitching at the corners of her mouth.
“Well, that would depend on thee, Maid Marian. Doest thou fancy me?”
He reached across the counter and grabbed her hand. His other hand held a silver chalice filled with frothy ale. It was a magnificent goblet, also etched ‘round with Celtic symbols. The elaborate silver engravings intrigued her. She had seen a lot of goblets in her years as a RenFaire merchant, but this was craftsmanship of the highest quality. In fact, it looked like it belonged in a museum. This guy had major bucks.
“I fancy thy coin, good sir. Beyond that, I would recommend the tavern wench yonder or a good lady from Queen Elizabeth’s entourage.” Marian tried politely to extricate her hand from his tight, sweaty grip to no avail.
His face fell.
“’Tis thee and no other, I’m afraid.”
Marian had always felt her beauty was more curse than blessing. She valued her brains and her compassion, traits she’d worked hard to develop, over the good looks she’d done nothing to earn. Too bad much of the world saw her only as a pretty face. Time to put the Thin Man in his place.
“Then I recommend a hawthorn tonic to ease thy heartache, or a ginseng and skullcap infusion to offset the depression of rejection. I, Sirrah, have no time for love.”
“As you wish, mistress,” he said with a courtly bow causing more of his ale to slop over the sides of his chalice.
In the distance, Marian heard the rumble of Queen Elizabeth’s retinue. Right on schedule. It was one of the RenFaire highlights. The Queen, perched atop an open carriage pulled by two powerful white horses and flanked by a cadre of her most loyal knights on their destriers, would wind their way through the crowd ending up at the center stage where she would encourage the guests to be hale, hearty and generous with their favors. Her trade usually picked up after this bit.
He released her hand, fanning his own over his heart, and took a step back right into the path of the oncoming procession. The drunken fool was about to be crushed by the Queen’s matched set of horses.
With no thought for her own safety, Marian leapt over her counter, scattering jars and bottles, yelling, “Lookout!”