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Thread: Le Morte D'Arturia

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    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Le Mort D'Arturia



    Le Mort d' Arturia
    ---
    The Death of Arturia

    ***

    Chapter 1

    Sitting upon her throne, the Lion King gripped the hilt of her holy sword now returned to her tightly between bloodied fingers. A trickle of red dribbled down her chin. She let it drip onto its golden blade, gazing down upon the world she created as it began to crumble before her.

    "I see," she said, addressing the man responsible for defeating her.

    Behind her, in the distance beyond the sea, a dark storm brewed. Blue lightning streaked across the sky, and her eyes flashed in unison.

    "I finally recall…" she continued, finally looking upon him. Her voice trailed away as he, too, began to crumble.

    Below them was a beast born of devastation. Far out in the dunes, the desert sands were devouring everything not originally of the world. Soon it would reach the gates of her kingdom, just as the sea and its waves came crashing in from the back. Once the two converged, what she had strove so hard to maintain would be gone in an instant. Her newly founded Camelot would fall, and, so, too, would her ideals.

    "... That forest…"

    That was to say, if they had not already been shattered by the man who throughout everything and despite the hardships he endured, still knelt at her feet. The man who had pierced her heart. A heart that had long since stopped beating, or so she had thought.

    "That hill."

    Rising from her throne, she started down the steps. Eyes still centered on the man the whole way, she held the holy sword at her side and truly saw him for who he was for the first time in centuries.

    "So, you have wandered for time untold, to redress your regret. Well done."

    The man who, even though forgotten himself, never forgot her. That tear-stained face of the one who fretted over her to the very end. Her last and finest, most loyal knight. No, not just a knight, but a friend. The friend who had challenged fate and won. Fought a god, and came out victorious. Her most dearest friend.

    "Be proud, Bedivere," she said, a faint smile creeping onto her lips. "With this, you have, for certain, fulfilled your king's final command."

    Bedivere looked up, beaming. "I… I..." Fresh tears welled in his eyes, and he wiped them away.

    "On your feet." She bent forward, offering her hand to him.

    He accepted, and—for but a moment—there they stood, the King and her Marshal once again.

    Then, he disappeared forever, leaving behind the ragged mantle he’d carried on his long and weary journey, now finally ended. With his passing the memories of their time, once fragmented and scattered, surfaced in full. His final words seated themselves in her previously shattered mind as the Round Table was made whole again.

    —Thank you, my King—

    "Thank you, as well, my dearest friend," she said beneath her breath, watching the last of his essence float away into the sky as the small band who had given her much trouble made their presence known.

    "Mr. Bedivere has passed. Confirmation of the holy sword's return," the girl she recognized as having fought by Bedivere's side earlier, said; the one she sensed Galahad to be joined with.

    Even if it was only a part of him, it was still that same, undaunting purity from so long ago. The innocence all her Knights and she herself had lost, save for he, the boy who had touched the Holy Cup never to return.

    "We have confirmed the collapse of the singularity," another said from a place unseen. Though, with her eyes, she could see him clearly.

    Scrunched over his device, communicating through it to keep himself from potentially encountering that which he was blind to similar to she herself—of coming face to face with his past. It was squirming inside of him unbeknownst to those he kept company with.

    Ignoring them, the Lion King stooped to pick up Bedivere's mantle. She looked at it in her palm. It was the last of him. Closing her hand around around it lovingly, it was the proof that nothing could last forever. Even so stubborn an ideal such as hers.

    Once, there was a tower.

    A great, golden pillar that reached straight into the heavens. It had poured light, white and pure.

    With that tower, matched a spear.

    A powerful, mighty spear that seemed almost alien in its function and design.

    Together, they were the anchor of the world. She claimed them after the holy sword was lost and became a goddess, transcending the mortal plane into something that was absolute. Something righteous in its authority.

    With the tower beneath her throne and the spear in her grasp, she’d done what she couldn’t back then as they shone with a light brighter than any star. More blinding than even her holy sword in all its splendor. So blinding that, perhaps, mesmerized by the beauty of it, enveloped in its rapture, even she’d lost sight of what truly mattered when she held that holy sword for the first time. Of who mattered. Truly, and deeply, mattered…

    Of those she left behind. Those she forgotten. The many she pushed away, and the few she held close. Her thoughts drifted to them, the sacrifices she told herself would be justified in the end. That everything would be saved if she just used the tower to rule over them and the spear to keep them.

    Now, the spear was broken and the holy sword hers again.

    She remembered it.

    The final battle, that hill. That forest where, at the end, nothing had been left. Nothing to be heard, nothing to be felt, nothing to be seen, only…

    Only something to hold onto.

    Something to hope for, to wish for, and, now, it was gone again.

    The tower was no more. Her utopia was no more. Her reign was no more. Her Bedivere was no more. And the only thing she could do was wallow in the memories of it all. Of her triumphs and her failures. Her negligences. Her faults. Dwell on the evil she’d hidden from everyone, perhaps even herself, and, knowing now—seeing clearly for the first time—that what she’d tried to accomplish, what she almost succeeded in doing, was wrong.

    She thought that if she assimilated and stored them, robbed them of their identities so that they may become a part of what she envisioned as the sole way to save them, that Solomon wouldn’t win. Though, by taking away what made humanity what it was, its very soul, she’d already given up. Admitted to defeat before the battle even really began, as Solomon wouldn't need to win—he already had.

    All because of that light which had blinded her to the truth.

    Just like when she’d been atop that hill.

    Except, this time, she was completely, and utterly, alone.

    There was nobody here to save her. No dear and loyal friend by her side anymore, to carry her from the field. She had only herself to count on, and honestly, bringing Bedivere's mantle around her neck, she wouldn’t have it any other way as though her knights would have followed her to the ends of the earth and back and might well as have it was time for she to be the one to save them. The opening battle might’ve ended, but, there was still a war left to fight.

    Touching his mantle fondly, there was still hope.

    Thinking of all he’d done for her, how could she forget even a single memory? There was no excuse for it. Becoming a being who had passed into godhood, how could she? How dare she?

    And, just like that, a new ideal sprout forth from the ruins of the old. The new ideal that as long as she believed it so and never faltered from it, fate could be changed. It was the same one she abandoned along with him, and she closed her fist around her holy sword.

    Never again would she either go, ever again.

    This was a war only she could finish now.

    Glaring at those who had accompanied him to his end, these were the ones… who…

    "Oh, are you still up for more?" the one unseen to her asked, bringing her back to the present. "With the sword returned, you are no longer subject to the bindings of the holy lance. Even if you still have power left, isn't there no reason to fight us?"

    After all, she was too stubborn for her own good. "There is no reason to let those who have defied the king to go free. I have the holy sword. You can hardly say that you have defeated me when I have yet to swing this even once."

    "You can't be such a sore loser….!" another shouted, raising his fist.

    He was that boy with the fiery passion in his eyes she had seen so often during these events that have now reached their end. Three strange red symbols on the back of his hand pulsated and, as he took a bold step toward her, two of them were fainted, like spilled blood dried and faded.

    But, she was. "Yes. Even if you are the restorers of humanity's order, I will answer with all that I have once challenged. That is my pride as a king, except it seems like that will not happen this time." Glancing down at Camelot as nothing more than another mound in the sand, she ascended back up the steps. She would have to act quickly.

    "She’s returning to her throne….! Is she not being returned to her era?!" the girl exclaimed.

    "She is no Heroic Spirit. She wasn't summoned into this singularity! She is a Divine Spirit who came here of her own power! Without the holy lance, that's the end of her! The Lion King is going to meet her end here, so even if you were to come to meet a King Arthur armed with the holy lance, that will not be her!" the unseen one explained, voice rising as the dark storm from earlier came ever closer, signaling that end was near.

    And that was something she couldn't allow.

    "That's…. But then, what Mr. Bedivere had done…"

    The Lion King scowled. "It was not in vain. As he had sought, I am released now. And I, too, despite being a mistake, was not in vain, because there is a truth only the me who has become the King of Storms can see."

    "A truth only you can see…?"

    "Yes. I attained the same field of vision as the King of Magecraft. I came to know his plans, and his end goal. The temple he inhabits does not exist in proper time. Only the Seventh Grail will show the way to him."

    And she would be the one to claim it. Gritting her teeth, condemning the world she created to run away and hide, she would abolish her cowardice.

    No longer would she think that something couldn't be done.

    The unseen one started to inquire further, but a bolt of lightning from the heavens silenced him, crashing upon the ground and shattering the earth between them. His fellows backed way.

    There was no time left.

    As they began to disappear one by one, back to whence they came, she focused on their destination; pinpointed its location underneath the dying world she had so foolishly abandoned because she once thought it couldn't be done. The impossible that this small band had shown her was the opposite, and the ones who Bedivere entrusted the salvation of humanity to instead of her. A role she’d chosen to leave and would never do so again. She would be the one to defeat Solomon because that was what her dearest friend would’ve truly wanted.

    She frowned. If only she h—

    "... My King! Are you still well?!" Agravain, bloodied and injured, said. He stumbled into what remained of the throne room, panting and gasping for breath. Searching for her in the dark that was currently swallowing the room, he groped around before finally touching the first step below her throne. "The enemy forces… they will be here soon..."

    And there he lay, an all but broken man, kept together by the iron willed devotion to his King, his single remaining eye gazing up at her in the growing gloom. Holding onto a dream, an ideal, that she herself no longer believed in.

    Seeing him in such a state, her frown sunk further. Her sorrow deepened.

    "Sir Agravain, are you not the one in need of more concern? Your limbs are broken, your body ripped open, and you have lost an eye. Have you fought against a strong—no, a hated enemy?"

    "Indeed. Till the last that man had nonsensical strength, but… just this time, my tenacity has triumphed. Ah, forgive me for not having brought you a trophy of the battle. For even if it is but a corpse, I cannot allow you to see that man's head."

    "I see. Come here, Sir Agravain. I will allow you to approach the throne. Though nothing can be done about those wounds, show me your hands. Some of the pain can be alleviated."

    "No, I fear that is too much. There is... still too much to do. Even though, there is still so much…" Blood began to pour from his mouth, his injuries having finally taken their toll. "... I had planned to offer you the ideal kingdom, but… my plans have once more gone awry." He reached for her.

    She rose from her throne, holy sword in hand. She didn’t want him to see him suffer any longer. "That is so. But it is not a sin. Overworking is your only flaw."

    "No way. Compared to you, I am still…"

    She grasped his hand, slippery with blood. "It is time to rest, Agravain."

    "... My King… I…" He gave his last breath upon her shoulder.

    And, the world finally vanishing into the abyss, the only remaining light from the pale blue glow of her divine eyes, for the first and last time, did she allow herself to cry.

    "Bedivere…"

    Granted the ability to see the World for what it was, had been, and might be, she would gladly trade them for the chance to right her own sins.

    Her ultimate decision was made then, the deed done.

    No longer would she be the Lion King or King of Storms, but simply... "Your mistake had meaning, and, I..." Just… "I had..." Arturia. "A purpose… that… I…" The King of Knights.

    A light which would never burn out again.



    Time seemed to pass without end.

    Arturia could no longer see anything. The war she still had yet to wage was far from her reach now, and any hope of continuing where the battle with those at Bedivere’s side faded further and further away.

    Looking down at the holy sword in her hands and her Marshal’s mantle now tied around its hilt, these two things proved she still existed, that her continued existence served a purpose even with the singularity being no more. If she waited long enough—held on for as long as she was able with the last of her remaining power—eventually, would it be worth the trouble.

    Or so she kept telling herself.

    So again she thought of the past to keep herself occupied, of Bedivere and those other knights who swore fealty to her. Raised her upon a pedestal as the ideal knight, as their King, and sorrowfully wondered for but a brief moment that if she had done differently, she would’ve wanted to be in their midst not as their king, but, a fellow knight. What the outcome might be and who would be worthy of the holy sword in her stead. She remembered her resolve on the day she’d pulled it from the stone.

    Merlin told her that she’d become something inhuman, that she would be resented for her decision, that the path she chose to walk would only end in destruction. But, that day, many people had been smiling. The path she’d chosen by pulling the sword from the stone… she hadn’t believed it to be a mistake.

    —Every miracle comes with a price. For yours, you will lose the thing most dear to you—

    Left to wander in those memories forgotten, Arturia remembered a many great deal of things. Out of them all, the memories of Bedivere were those she cycled through the most. The memory of his saving her life during one of those first decisive battles to reunite Britannia, and the same battle where he’d lost the entirety of his right arm as consequence. Of his tending to her after long hours spent in court, sunrise and sunset, never leaving her unless dismissed forthwith—or, amusingly, whenever Guinevere requested his aid. Though, not even she could keep him for very long, as he always had to be by his King's side. Exceptions to this were few.

    Feeling the shadow of a smile coming on, it dropped instead. Did she even have the right? Recalling again the first time she had laid eyes upon that timid boy who was later to become her Marshal, a frown set in.

    Feminine-looking, scrawny, and scared of his own shadow, Bedivere had been a weakling unworthy of even the most forgiving of a king's affection, and, yet, she, despite this, made him the first of what was to be the Round Table.

    At the time, fifteen years of age and just having pulled Caliburn from stone, so overwhelmed had she been, that when he approached her afterwards to pay respects she’d accepted his father's proposal without a second thought. Elated at the prospect of having her very own follower, no longer would she have to tag along behind Kay and Sir Ector and Merlin. As, though their adventures together had been filled with nothing but joy, now it was her turn to have someone accompany her. The first of many, and, unbeknownst to her ignorant mind, the only of those who would till the end of his days.

    —My name is Bedivere, your Majesty. M-my King!—

    He’d knelt clumsily, his head down, and, fidgeting as he was, eyes comically wide, and what she first perceived as a bushy white tail peeking just behind his back, she thought him to be a fawn. She even checked for one—a tail—not seeing a boy nor the eventual man who she’d chosen as her first and would become her second—but an animal.

    —Bedivere, you said?

    —That's what he said. Or are you deaf, Artorius?—

    —Quiet, you!—

    How naïve she’d been, to let the opinions of others sway her own. Of fools no better than the enemies who constantly invaded their shores and coasts, pillaging and plundering and taking their lives away from them. Those kings, queens, lords, and ladies who from the very start had scoffed at the thought of her rightful place as heir to the throne and then criticized her first decision as King.

    Cowards… the lot of them…

    Not that her fifteen year old self could’ve helped their taint overriding her purity with their feeble-minded doubts. She might have been the one to pull sword from stone, but, was she indeed fit to rule, if her first choice from what they all had seen thus far was this sorry excuse for a knight? Nay, just a boy? No, a fawn?

    —You may stand—

    She said this afterward, only for him to grow pale, flubber something, and faint on the spot. He’d fallen back straight and stiff just like a fawn caught in torchlight, too.

    —Oh! Ha! You were so ugly he fainted!—

    —Shut up!—

    Flushing red, she’d immediately crouched down beside him and felt his head. He was burning up. She chuckled at the memory. Just what she’d needed, for him to pass out from the heat at a time like that!

    —Get Vivian! Someone! Fetch the Lady!—

    Holding Bedivere's hand and wondering just what she had agreed upon, she looked up at his father, a knight who had once served Uther Pendragon and Vortigern before him. The man's grizzled gaze had never left his son.

    —Allow my son to become an extension of your right-hand—

    —That kid? Really? Of all those here, and that's your first pick?—

    Again, how naïve. It was only until now that she understood Merlin's words after the ladies accompanying Vivian had carried him away.

    —He will be your most steadfast companion, in both life and death—

    Thus she wallowed in those memories of what was and never would be, still waiting for something to happen, keeping her holy sword and his mantle close for warmth in the darkness, wishing she could have done differently, and closed her eyes in the everlasting silence, thinking of him.

    The boy he’d been, and the man he would come to be.



    “... Water. We need water over here!”

    “Yes, raise him like that! Gently now!”

    “Kay, quit laughing, boy!”

    Arturia opened her eyes to the sound of her foster-brother’s childish laughter, staring at Bedivere collapsed on the ground with a gaggle of ladies and Sir Ector tending to him. Thinking the event to simply be a recreation of her own memories by her desire to see him again, she went to touch his forehead as before, only to be pulled back.

    “No, Griflet!”

    She glanced back. Bedivere’s father had swiftly grabbed her forearm, keeping her from approaching her would-be Marshal any closer than those other lords, ladies, and knights in attendance. His grip was like iron.

    “The King is…”

    His deep, gravelly voice trailed away down the beaten and bloody path of nostalgia as his attention was solely focused on the events unfolding before him. She’d never seen the man so starstruck, so in awe, that he’d even loosened his grip.

    “Look.”

    She followed his unwavering gaze back to the center of the pavilion, and all the air left her lungs. Crouching down, with a hand to Bedivere’s cheek, was… it was... It was herself.

    That… wasn’t possible.

    She was Art——.

    “Ah…”

    Arturia cradled her head, feeling a headache coming on. She ignored it and raised it again, still trying to fully comprehend what she was seeing. Her eyes traveled from her own appearance to that of the young girl’s now addressing the crowd that everything was under control as Bedivere was being carried away by the ladies with Vivian at their front.

    They were the exactly the same.

    But… she was Ar——.

    A large, heavy hand clasped her on the shoulder. “Are you not feeling well, either, Griflet?”

    Bedivere’s father was looking down at her, those normally cold eyes and grim expression she’d known him to have showing a twinkle of concern.

    “I…” Arturia opened her mouth to say something, but, no words came to her.

    Her name wasn’t Griflet. It was A———.

    She covered her mouth, nauseous. Fighting the sensation back, the headache resurfaced two-fold.

    “Lucian! Escort your cousin to the Lady! Hurry now!”

    A young boy with light, chestnut-colored hair came up then, taking her around the shoulder. “Come on, Griflet. Let’s get going!”

    He led her out of the pavilion, and the last she saw within its flaps was Bedivere’s father kneeling before the King, same as h—

    “Ah…!”

    She bared her teeth from the pain like spikes exploding at the front of her mind. The headache was growing worse. She couldn’t…

    Arturia collapsed in the grass, and heaved.

    Hair falling into her vomit as she gagged on her hands and knees, vision fading, delirious and unable to feel any strength in her body to rise back to her feet, she noticed her hair color wasn’t truly blonde, but, brunette.

    But, that made no sense.

    She wasn’t Griflet.

    She was ————.

    She was…
    Last edited by Historia; February 18th, 2020 at 08:05 PM.

  2. #2
    A Dragon Once More Draconic's Avatar
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    Okay, you’ve got my attention with this. The premise is interesting, and you have decent style. There were a few grammatical issues, ‘Her most dearest friend.’ standing out to me in particular. However, overall, the story is well written. I’ll be sure to read the next chapter when it arrives.
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    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Draconic View Post
    Okay, you’ve got my attention with this. The premise is interesting, and you have decent style. There were a few grammatical issues, ‘Her most dearest friend.’ standing out to me in particular. However, overall, the story is well written. I’ll be sure to read the next chapter when it arrives.
    You're saying it should be "Her dearest friend?" because the -est already implies most, yeah? I'm not gonna change it, but, what else stood out to you?

    Second chapter is almost done btw.

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    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Chapter 2


    Arturia opened her eyes with a start, waking from a cold sleep. They darted around the tent she was in, going from its folded flap from where wafted the aroma of salted sea, sparkles of light floating in waning sunlight, medical utensils and herbs laid out on the table beside her cot, and the woman seated in the corner of the room. Dressed in all white like the clear, calm waters which came after those dark waves gently crashing upon the cliffs at Camelot, she knew from one look that this woman wasn’t human—not entirely—and raising herself up further, pain jolted through her body. Clutching her chest, she gagged, drools of crimson spit dripping onto her tunic.

    “I wouldn’t be so quick to leave,” the woman said playfully. A cup of water appeared on the table, and she motioned for her to take it. “Drink this, it’ll help relieve the pain.”

    At first, reluctantly, she only took a single sip, then downed the drink in its entirety. She touched her hair. Frowning at the brunette strands, other than the color of her hair, she never recalled her palms ever feeling so smooth before, rubbing her fingertips together. There was not one callus, not one honest day’s work worth of toll and toil to be seen. Not one bump or a bruise or knot. It were almost as if she’d...

    “Oh, but, you did, my King,” the woman said, answering her unfinished thought.

    Her eyes widened. No, that was inconceivable. She hadn’t the power to travel to another space and come out unscathed enough to keep herself whole after so much time already passed—let alone transmuting herself to this extent. Furthermore, there’d never been a Griflet at her court. Not a lady nor a sir, or a squire or a page or jester. Not even so much as a horse with the name, and meeting the woman’s mischievous, sea-green eyes, unsurprised that she knew her real identity beneath the chocolate curls, if she knew this… Then...

    The woman swayed side to side. “I had nothing to do with this.” She shrugged. “For once.”

    Arturia went back to her hands. She opened and closed and reopened and closed them again, wiggling about, fists clenched, and unclenched, her brow lowered, thinking intricately. If this were indeed the case, then why she wasn’t the one to have touched Bedivere’s flustered face and was now undoubtedly hearing the spoken oaths of fidelity from the good knights of her father and uncle’s reign after he was carried away? If this place was of her own making, then why wasn’t she, the one who supposedly created it, at the very least, a knight? Perhaps more importantly, why also was he not the same, either? Making another pass from somewhere in-between the green-jeweled lace around her neck and the start of an ample bosom shamelessly covered, it focused on that glint in the Magician’s own. Though his appearance had changed considerably, some things never did.

    “What? Oh, this?” Merlin laughed. “You know, surely I should be the least of your troubles!”

    She raised a brow. Looking around the tent again in a gathering gloom, soon the evening would be over and she, her retainers, her uncle, her brother, her cousins, Merlin, and those others joined with her company would be preparing their march to address the country’s woes. She, the girl-king, petit golden-haired, this beardless boy of low blood as opposing lords and ladies decried, with Caliburn and her first knight and others anointed at her side, off to right the many wrongs had since the death of her father. To challenge Vortigern the Usurper and rebuild Camelot atop his smoldering remains. Several years of struggle and survival. Only, if she wasn’t the one to do so… Was her role to follow after, not as a knight, but, a lady in service to the new-appointed king?

    Merlin was now up and about, fixing her person and righting her cowl. Sceptre in hand, she gave her a wink and told her it was the time to move on, first peeking out the tent then motioning her to come see. Life filling her lungs anew, the Lady’s lake fresh on her tongue, Arturia joined her outside. Pavilions were being torn down and carted, wheeled away by servants, peasants, and commoners alike as their lords, ladies, knights, gentlemen, and gentlewoman, too, all said farewell to king and company; soon to be king and host. A splendid array of colorful banners, surcoats and shields, all manner of trappings and symbols of custom, rules, trade, tradition…

    She looked upon these and then herself riding at the helm, and the words of her sister leapt to the forefront.

    —Oh, my dear little sister, how I await the day you crumble and fall and open those perfect eyes to truth. The day, you peer behind you in all your perfection and see those you lead for what they are and what they see of you. What they knew, have always known, and you yet to learn—

    Her heart sank. She lowered once immortal eyes to the earth, the dirt and the dew. The bootsteps and hoofprints. Raising her head after Merlin clapped her on the shoulder, awaking her from her spell, the Magician smiled wholeheartedly.

    “Not quite what you imagined?”

    Thus there the two of them stood, grass swaying to and fro, watching the parties disperse until only the king’s was left. She looked into their number recognizing the people she knew, thinking more if this were truly her own doing, or the work of someone—something—else. Turning to Merlin, she was going to ask what else was changed from the experiences she knew, but, the Magician was gone. Vanished as he was ought to do on multiple occasions, leaving her to feel through events without a guide. So, she mustered herself together and sheltered those thoughts for another time, before catching up and sticking to the end of the king’s company with the pages and cooks.
    Last edited by Historia; February 18th, 2020 at 08:05 PM.

  5. #5
    Dead Apostle Eater Historia's Avatar
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    Chapter 3

    The company stopped at a small village skimming the fringes of the unkempt wilderness. The river Trent ran parallel, a green bubbling brook to the vast foam expanse a ways down, and Arturia went to the water’s edge, already knowing what lay through that thicket before them. What she witnessed and who she faced, in her first taste of battle against they, the turquoise-dyed berserkers, the red-painted raiders, those foreigners from the shores and coasts with their open boats. She recalled that final battle with their leader, and what it’d cost though still years away. Of Bedivere’s rage, pushing in and screaming her name, hacking, slashing, rampaging his way to her side where he lost his arm in exchange for his severer’s heart. The moment after, when her eyes were opened just a little to the true meaning of fear. A fear for his life, but, also, fear of what he were truly capable of. The moment the fawn blossomed into a buck. A beautiful beast. An unshackled being of nature, unbeholden to his oath to king. That same man, facing her as her World crumbled around them, silver shining, piercing her through. Straight to the core.

    Bedivere’s father came beside her then, asking how she felt, dressed in his armor. Helm under an armpit, he knelt level with her and stared into the water awaiting her answer. In the water, his expression was stern, carved like rough stone, but, out the corner of her eye she saw past it—those smooth edges once shaping a handsome man, sharp of mind and wit. Upright in his beliefs, his devotion to king and kingdom. There was no wonder why Bedivere was the way he was, not a doubt in her mind that he was his father’s son. And, she felt a pain in her chest. A slow burning hatred, a smoldering contempt, for the man who sacrificed life for loyalty, leaving him behind. A wonderful, foolishly proud man who during the last several weeks she’d grown much more familiar with than she ever might’ve as his king. Except, here, she was his niece, the mirror image of a younger sister lost to cold, and the flames became ash in her mouth at his and hers reflection. A feeling she never would’ve had as king.

    “I’m well,” she said quietly.

    “I see.”

    Bedivere’s father betrayed a small smile. A crack of relief, barely noticeable to even those who knew him. The reminiscent of her and the blood of her blood and an unspoken promise between them in a letter received on campaign, of grief read aloud with dry tears, from then on kept close to heart with unbridled love.

    He turned his head to look at her. “Then, go join your cousins and help prepare the horses. We’ve a lot still to do.”



    It took them the better part of the day with the horses. None of them spoke. Arturia wondered if it was always this way between the brothers. She couldn't remember them ever quarreling like the Balin and Balan or the Orkney siblings. The three of them sat there for a time in disciplined, peaceful quiet until they were called again.

    The company was finally ready to move on.

    Springing into action, her horse's name was Llamrei, the mount of a friendly knight from across the channel, a warhorse full bred. His hair, as his mane, was dark, an ominous black death rolling over his master's enemies. Though she also didn't recollect encountering any steed with the name, somewhere, someplace, removed from her memory as the King of Knights or the insight as the Lion King, she felt a faint connection with this horse in particular. Something only the King of Storms could see. But, other than this, in these weeks following Merlin's disappearance, she'd come no closer to discovering the reason for her presence here.

    Guiding Llamrei to the feeding trough outside the local stable, the company's journey from place to place, rallying those willing and promising those that weren't they would be protected it was expanding into a host as she'd thought. Thus, events were panning out as she remembered and if that were the case then next would be that first battle. Stroking his side, she couldn't recall its exact details. Only, when it was over, she stood alone. A girl, covered in the blood of men twice her age, chin held high by a fate she'd accepted without hesitation, wanting to press forward, end it soon, because many people had been smiling and thus many more certainly would be, too. Or so she'd thought at the time. She nuzzled Llamrei's thigh. The horse paused, raised his head, snorted then went back to eating.

    "He's taken a liking to you, that one."

    Sir Brastias appeared behind her, juggling four apples between seven fingers. He tossed her one, one to Llamrei, and one to his own horse. Grabbing his saddle, he threw it over his horse's back and asked her to fetch the spurs and stirrups and fasten everything together as he unhurriedly put on the rest of his armor. Their king wanted every knight to gather round for strategy. When she finished securing the saddle she helped him up, holding the stool steady. He thanked her, cracked his reins, and rode out the stables and it wasn't long before the owner of Llamrei, too, required assistance. She saw him off as well, and when the stables were empty again set her apple down on a bale of hay, uneaten.

    It was only a few days away.

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    Chapter 4

    There was, long ago, a barbarian queen. Tall and terrible, a bringer of destruction. Once, a mother. Loving and kind. Then, a warrior. Horrible and cruel. Later, a goddess. Indifferent and disposed. She was the Queen of Carrion, nourishing her appetite on the corpses of those who dared to stand in her way. She was Boudica, a woman of rage, and regret. And, nothing, not the fates, nor the Eagle, could hold back her fury. Not until Rome itself, and the one responsible for her pain, burned.

    They'd won their first battle to unify the north.

    Crouched knee-deep in the battle's aftermath, Arturia thought of that barbarian queen and her other self in the wet, iron-scented rain. Voided bowels and blood-churned mud. Broken teeth, punctured flesh, scattered brains and bits, split bone and torn limb, bodies littering the field friend and enemy both. Arrow cushioned knights drowning in their own gurgled cries. Crushed by hammer, cut by axe, skewered by spear, hewn by sword. Silenced with the coming down of steel upon skull. The survivors, brandishing dented armor and bandaged wounds galore. Stained blades, shattered lances, splintered shields. Her, standing alone, staring out into the horizon, oblivious to the carnage behind, eyes ever on that light which blinded them, looking forward to the glimmering sunlight of a destiny she was born to lead, fading beneath dark clouds further on into rugged valley and tundra. White, rolling hills and clusters of mist, masking a land with a history of savagery and violence indigenous to the invader's homeland an ocean away. Barbarians. Horned horrors, helmeted marauders, crow-loving fiends. Terrorizing the people she vowed to protect when pulling sword from stone. From where the Tall and Terrible once marched, burning and bleeding the land in her war of vengeance. A perversion of what she'd been before and, watching Bedivere's father and others in the shadow of the naive girl-king she herself had once been, Caliburn under clasped hands, now simply another amid that carnage and helping tend to those she previously kept her back toward, Arturia better understood the monster she too would become—the unshaken ideal—to those very same.

    Helping move bodies and body parts drowned in the mud with Lucian, rolling them over face-up to identify them, the total tally of their dead was only little more than a handful. The rest, the overwhelming majority, were the enemy's. A cloth covering her mouth to safeguard from disease and smell, one of their dead in particular caught her attention. A knight, the symbol upon his breastplate the only way to distinguish him for he was missing his head. She ran her hand across it—the blood-splattered golden flower across the channel. The lily of the battlefield, fleur-de-lys. The owner of Llamrei. There were no words, and she raised her eyes to Bedivere offering pitchers of water to those still alive, making rounds with several others. Instead of the boy he is, she saw the man he was and yet to grow up to be, and the sorrow on his face, sobbing over friends and allies slain and not for the arm he lost after that final battle. After he knew she was safe. There'd been no words then, only tears, as she felt one of her own roll down her cheek.

    Something had to change. Even if it were her destiny to falter, stumble, and ultimately fall, didn't mean she had to pull those she held dear along with her. In the dark of her mind, she heard those dark waves gently crashing upon the cliffs once again. Another dark storm brewed and its focal point was becoming clear through eyes only a King of Storms could perceive.

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    Chapter 5

    A feast was being held in Wales after countless battles won, it, the north, and surrounding lands finally free of the larger bands of invaders. A second Pentecost, hosted by King Leodegrance, another lord loyal to Uther and once Vortigern before him. More notably, the one who commissioned and gifted the large, circular table that was to be the Table of the Round and his daughter, Guinevere, later to be her wife. Both were generously received, though she remembered how defiant the girl was when her father first introduced them. The youthful beauty, princess raven-haired. A personality more mighty than the Usurper himself in all his black misery. An intelligent radiance, queen unmatched, harboring stubbornness seeded deep within her bones. Her accompanying temper, white-hot. Like a winged terror—lovely Medusa, monster reborn—hovering above court and country all, taking no captives, only blood for blood, blow for blow, and just punishment or fair compromise. The girl everyone desired. The woman none deserved, and deserved no one. The elder who loved everyone and nobody just the same, bearing the blame.

    … Camelot’s fall. It hadn’t been her fault. It hadn’t been Lancelot’s fault either. Or Mordred’s. Nor Morgana’s. Uther’s. Merlin’s. No, it’d been hers alone. She was responsible, the cause and effect. She knew that better than anyone, and arms hanging over the battlements, Britain stretched out before her in the dark, swirling mists and fogs and approaching rains foreshadowing the beginning of the beginning. The only battle before that fateful day upon that hill where defeat was high. The rousing of the Serpent King, White Dragon, void manifested mortality, and the decimation of many famous knights of old and birth of legends anew. Vortigern. Slayer, deceiver, black tyranny incarnate.

    If there were any capable of helping her decipher this World she’d created, of the British Isles that was unlike the one she’d known, it would be he. Merlin was of no help, Morgana too young. Only, he was Vortigern and waking him from his slumber would certainly be the death of her. Consumed by fire, or vaporized by lightning. Ripped in half, eaten alive. A number of ways to die, but, she had to risk it. Hope he would recognize her though not golden-haired. She had to try…



    Seated in the main hall with the rest of the ladies and lords of the court on one side, knights and retainers and other lesser comers and goers on the other, she wouldn’t make the journey alone as she was—it was too perilous. Rot and disease and rogues and waylayers were rampant still. There was yet no Knights of the Round Table to see her safely away, no Robinhood to watch her passage, no holy sword and sheath to keep the darkness at bay. Monsters and beasts, child-eaters and man-flayers, roamed the countryside and deep forests right beside the road. No, not a girl of her delicate delicacy. Not this girl who’d never swung a sword in her life, this soft body raised with love and care though required to help when and where appropriate. She would need a protector, a knight to guide her way.

    She would’ve felt insulted, but, now wasn’t the time, and her time was short. After this feast, her other self would ride out and clean up the last of the invaders, then have to deal with her first war. The kings in attendance here; many didn’t agree with the idea that their king was hardly older than a child. Only months since pulling Caliburn, it’d taken her several years to earn their respect—and that was only after beating the eleven most outspoken ones into submission, chief among them being Lot her uncle-in-law. In that war old legends would die and new ones rise, she would lose Caliburn and be granted Excalibur in its place, then unveil her holy sword’s golden blade, its blinding light roaring across the battlefield for the first time. That war would be soon. She had to reach Vortigern before it started. Before those dark waves crashed upon her beloved Britain’s shores.

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