Goodbye, Shalott by Lisa

It’s not just a boat. In her distressed state, she can’t quite bring the word to her mind just yet, but it’s something much, much more than a boat.

She has distant memories of a normal life, a happy childhood, protected in the small but solid castle that stood behind her now. Those memories were faint and distant, though, bleached away by years of pain, inhuman torment and the even more inhuman solitude that had come with it.

Her father had always done the best he could, of course, but a curse was a curse, and a bath of continuously boiling water that you could not leave of your own accord was maybe not even the worst of curses in existence—but then she couldn’t imagine anything to match it.

She didn’t even remember the rescue itself. Her mind was, as it had been for so long, dulled and shaded over by pain. Even the relief had hurt, at first. And the waking up to life. It wasn’t all she woke up to, though.

She hadn’t known it then, but she’d stepped from one torment, into another.

She’d been foolish, but she couldn’t blame herself. How could you see the man who had saved you from what had once seemed endless torture, and not be affected as she had? He was no beauty—his face was twisted and harsh—but he was kind, and noble, and there was a burning in his eyes.

How could she have known that burning was not for her? That no heart could sway him but that of the already taken Queen. She’d given him a token to wear at tournament, but he wore it only to hide himself, hide the shame of loving his best friend’s wife.

Certainly not in any reverence to her.

She’d thought she could make him love her—but she’d only succeeded in making him lie with her, exciting his hatred instead of his love. There was a child—a child who would one day become a formidable knight himself… but a child he neither knew of nor cared for.

When he wandered back into her life it was madness that had brought him—madness due to the cruelty of the selfish queen, who hadn’t spurned him as she rightfully should have.

Still, it brought hope into her heart. She lead him in, bathed him, nursed him back to strength and clarity.

All which lead him back to her.

Oh there were other factors—the kingdom, the trial… but that was the one that mattered, in the end.

She shivers as the water laps at her feet. It’s dawn, and she knows that if she waits any longer someone will try to stop her. As if they could will her heart into beating longer, when she was determined it would stop today.

She holds a letter and a single lily in one hand, the tiny vial of poison in the other. The small boat is already in the water. It takes little effort for her to push it to where it floats freely. She steps in quickly, before it can escape her down river. At sunset, they’ll find her on the shores of Camelot.

She stretches her body the length of the boat, at peace for the first time in so very, very long.

It’s not just a boat, though.

It is rebellion and revenge and escape.

It’s not just a boat.

It’s freedom.


This story is a shameless melding of two Elaines in Arthurian legend, Elaine of Astolat and Elaine of Corbenic, of very similar fates. I couldn’t help myself.

About Lisa Asanuma

Lisa is a professional freelance writer and editor, along with a bookbinder and knitting obsessee. Lisa has a passion for YA literature (inside her passion for literature in general) and is currently working on her first novel. View all posts by Lisa Asanuma

One response to “Goodbye, Shalott by Lisa

  • Isabelle

    OMG, Lisa. This is just… I have no words. This is gorgeous, and magical, and tortured, and morbidly beautiful all at once. I’ve always loved that painting, and I can just absolutely see it, as you closed the story out.

    This line in particular is sheer brilliance: As if they could will her heart into beating longer, when she was determined it would stop today.

    ❤ Hands down, one of your best.

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