|Camelot: The Beginning
Author: Noelerin PM
Before there was Arthur, there was Aurelius and Uther Pendragon, Ygerna and Elaine. This is their story. If this is in the wrong area entirely, let me know.Rated: Fiction K - English - Fantasy - Words: 4,193 - Reviews: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 06-21-09 - id: 2687795
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
As this is a work of historical fiction, based on people who may have existed, I have posted it here. If this is incorrect, please let me know and I shall move it to . Thank you.
Notes: I accept constructive criticism happily – how else would I learn and improve? – but I do not tolerate flames against my intelligence or my personality.
This story started because I was tired of all the stories I've ever read having either the women being Arthur's enemies or weak willed saps that couldn't have existed in Britain, Scotland, and Ireland b/c this was the land that birthed Boadicea of the Iceni, Queen Madb of the Táin, and Cartimandua of the Brigantes – the Romans were horrified by the number of women who traditionally held power in these "barbarian" cultures – Queens and rulers in their own rights. Merlyn being his enemy or a man obsessed with spending his life trying to get rid of Gwen so as not to ruin the kingdom of Summer. Arthur being an incestuous lout. Mordred always being an evil git with no depth. Good stories without magic in them that made some of the things that happened make no sense – or not having a decent Gwen character or even decent female characters. They were all tarts.. The only time I've ever really liked Gwen – in a period appropriate piece – is in the Pendragon cycle – and that's only because the character of Lancelot isn't there.
Mordred couldn't have been an outright evil rotter because Arthur trusted him with his kingdom. Ane because he ruled well, Arthur couldn't have been a complete boob. As for Merlyn being betrayed, why would Arthur trust her to advise him if she betrayed Merlyn?
In the first introduction of Arthur, the women weren't even there. Arthur ruled as the dux Britanniarum and went to answer the call of the Roman Emperor, leaving Mordred in command. Upon returning, they fought, Arthur was grievously wounded – and went away to Avalon. No affair nor was it even mentioned that Mordred and Arthur fought each other, they could've fought on the same side.
Aurelius and Uther are not Constantine's sons. There is some mystery as to who their father is. This is needed for a facet of the tale to work. Traditionally speaking, Arthur had three wives named Guinevere, interesting but obsessive. To differentiate between them for he marries twice, the second wife has the older spelling of the name – Gwenhwyvar.
There are Moors in this story – and before any one cries that there wouldn't have been any in England at that time, I say there could've been. Moors: derives from the small Numidian Kingdom of Maure, present day Algeria and Morocco. They were the Roman province of Mauretania, circa 3rd century BCE, they were active in and around the Roman Empire, circa 117 to 398. They were known to the Greeks, traded with Carthage, and sided with Rome in the second Punic War. The Moors were a part of the Roman Empire. There were two prominent churchmen of Berber descent, Tertullian and St. Augustine. They served in the army. It is entirely possible that they settled in England at some point – but they would have been in small numbers. They settled in Visigothic Hispania.
Also, Merlyn's nature at birth is something I read about in Tolstoy's first Merlyn book – the others have either not been published or we don't have them at our library. The rest of it is my own interpretation of it based on some interesting things I read about him – I think it was in Mallory in fact. Merlyn is near Arthur's age because I like the idea – and because in the very beginning of the tales, Merlyn did not know Arthur.
In fact, the Merlyn we know of in the myths came from two men born a hundred years after the time of Arthur. Merlyn would never have known the Arthur of myths.
They come from a lot of places from Wikipedia to the books by Norma L. Goodrich, "King Arthur" and "Merlin", added in some references to Geoffrey Ashe's theory that Arthur is Riothamus – whose actions may have occurred before Arthur existed but correlates with many of Arthur's deeds, to Mary Stewart's fictional Merlyn series, from Jack Whyte's The Camulod Chronicles and Stephen Lawhead's The Pendragon Cycle, to Peter David's modern Arthurian series, to T.H. White's The Once and Future King, mainly his "The Sword and the Stone". There is also "The World of Arthur" which details what life, culture, and archeology says about that.
And finally, Geoffrey of Monmouth's "Historia Regum Britanniae", though, again, it is my own take on it.
Again, the strong women are inspired by the fact that there really were strong women in these so called barbaric cultures. So, I owe a debt of gratitude to Marion Zimmer Bradley for writing a lot of books from the female perspective that take place in Britain at this time – including her "The Mists of Avalon." She really brought them out as a real, flesh and blood humans. Whether one believes it or not, there is just too much written about women Queens and warriors for it to be a myth – especially since many of the great warriors in Arthurian Legends were trained and prepared by women.
I tried to make my research more varied and pulled from various sources in an attempt to make the story as broad in basis as possible. Yet, retain the magic and enchantment that has always been at the core of the Arthurian Legends.
Fiery breath burned his neck. The smoke wreathed about him, coiling him in its tail. Stung, his eyes stung as sparks blew up into his face, blinding him. Screams of agony branded his mind. A mighty crash resounded, the ground shook, as the building fell, silencing the inhabitant forever.
Above, a white dragon floated among the smoke wreaths, breathing of power. Breathing of change. Breathing of restoration. Breathing of could it be? Could it possibly be?
The figure on the bed shot up, images from the dream clung to him. The sound of the cockerel crowing, echoing its father, pierced the early dawn. Beneath him, he could hear the sounds of the household going about their day, preparing things for the visit from the dux Britanniarum. The smell of eggs cooking wafted up to him and his stomach roiled about, the images haunting his mind.
He never liked what his dreams presaged.
Aurelius and his younger brother Uther sat along the walled garden, playing. Listening to their mother, the Lady Brigitte, talk earnestly to their neighbor about the influx of more foederati than they could afford to pay or keep fed. They were already straining their economic funds to their very limits. Since much of the trade routes had to be subverted around their normal routes, they weren't getting as much income as they used to.
"I don't have much of a choice, Lot. Vortigernus demands a hostage to ensure my good behavior. As he was rightfully elected as dux Britanniarum, I have no choice if I wish to retain control over my lands. My people have suffered too much in the last plague that came to successfully fight him off."
Gorlois shook his head, "I'm not saying that you shouldn't do it. But it isn't right to send Emrys to him. He's your eldest – and the one who is prone to seeing things."
Brigitte looked out over the walls, down upon the farmland of her people. "That is why he insisted upon him. What am I to do? Send another in his place? If the deception was found out – and it would be in time – there would be nothing stopping him from coming down upon me for breaking faith with him. While that is something he is capable of, I want my children to know that I lived honorably even if I despised the leader I must follow."
"I would support you, Brigitte," he said.
Dark eyes so like her sons looked at him. The reflection of her light red hair, coiled at the base of her neck, gave the impression of vulnerability. The reality was far from it as Gorlois knew from personal experience. There was strength and power in her hand. Even crippled with the loss of her left arm as she had been in the last raid, Brigitte had ability that most warriors envied. It was strength regained at the cost of her slender build.
Still, she was a fine looking woman, worthy of the tribal name Ambrosias. "You would – but even you, with all of Cornwall's resources, cannot fight the entirety of Vortigernus, the Chiefs who support him, and the foederati he calls allies."
Lot sighed in defeat, "But still, to send Emrys to him as hostage? It is not in the best interest of our people."
"Nothing is in our best interest. It is all Vortigernus'," she sounded as resigned to this distasteful task as she could.
Aurelius Ambrosias stood pensively, watching as his war chief, Vortigernus, approached the Saecen leader, Horsa. Every fiber in him shuddered at the wrongness of this new alliance. While he sympathized with the displaced Saecens, they had no right to invite more of their people to cross the great waters and push the native Britons off of their own lands.
While years of living under Roman rule had lulled the natives into a sense of complacency, it was well known that the Romans had relieved far too heavily upon foederati than upon their own soldiers and citizens. The Western Empire had fallen and was shortening their reach, leaving those on the edges to fend for themselves as best as they could. And the Eastern Emperor had no use for them.
If help was to come, it should be from within their own land. Those to the North and to the West had never really bowed to Roman rule and had quickly regained their sense of self. To the very end, they had fought the Roman influence – but Vortigernus would seek no alliance with them. He considered them more barbarous than the Saecens.
Nervously, he fingered the dragon pin that resided on his cloak, one of two. The twin of which was in his brother's possession. Or so he hoped for he had not heard from Uther since their last letter was exchanged several seasons ago. As ever, the talisman pulsed with heat as he thought of his home and family, reassuring him that they were still alive.
Maesen looked at him, his grey eyes shrewd and piercing. For all of his friendly, open countenance, there was also a cunning look to his broad face. His dark hair was cut brutally short, "You don't like this, do you?"
Aurelius shrugged, "It is not up to me to question the dux Britanniarum's actions." There was no love lost between the two for they had equal skills on the battlefield, though Aurelius was far more successful than Maesen. There was also the fact that Maesen came from a full blood Roman family while he was the product of a union between a Briton and a Roman senator. Or so he'd been told, he'd only ever asked after his father once.
Brigitte's sadness had silenced any further questions he may have had.
His eyes narrowed, sharp pinpoints of light in an olive complexion. "True but I swear that there is something going on behind those eyes of yours, something we cannot see." While he did not particularly cared for the dark eyed, younger man – he acknowledged that the man had an unnatural sixth sense for things.
If it wasn't blasphemy, he would swear that the boy had magic.
Aurelius stiffened slightly, leaning forward so that his dark hair obscured his face. Maesen's words struck closer than he wanted to admit. At least, not out loud and certainly not to this man. "I'm merely observant to the moods of the people and what I've studied over the years."
"Then what is it that you see?" Maesen pressed.
With a sigh, he said, "I see this ending in flames. Flames set by the dragon of the Island."
There was such grim certainty in his voice that Maesen made the sign against strong evil. Aurelius turned a blind eye to the action, knowing his own natural assurance had been the reason for it. He couldn't help being what he was. "We had been move forward. Lord Vortigernus is signaling us."
"I don't see Lot of Cornwall among those gathered," Maesen observed as they walked along. He recognized many of the others, Lot of Lothian and Cador from one of the smaller communes. There were a few that he really hoped would not be there. "Do you suppose he is late?"
Aurelius snorted, "I heard that he's called an opposing Council of War Chiefs to meet at Tintagel to discuss the foederati problem. When I mentioned it to Lord Vortigernus, he said that nothing would come of it because peasants always talk about rumors but nothing ever comes of it."
"You don't feel that way though, do you?"
The hailing cry of Lord Vortigernus prevented him from answering, much to his relief. The truth was, he felt he'd said too much already. Maesen was no ally of his – none at all. The fight between them always ended in a draw, with Maesen always scoffing him.
Yet, this line of inquiry spoke of something akin to the search for an ally of like mind. The two rarely agreed on anything. But it seemed that he wasn't the only one uncomfortable with the situation before them. They had been betrayed before. Aurelius shuddered as he recalled the slaughter that had taken place between Horsa and his men against the Chiefs of Britain who'd stood against him.
Maesen was no friend. But he'd had stranger bedfellows in his career. The truth was, the man would be a valuable ally if he ever tried to run away. And he knew, as he saw the image of a smoke dragon rise in the fire behind the Saecens he was greeting, it wouldn't be too long before he did just that.
As a hostage, he enjoyed more status than a slave. But if he ran, he'd be treated like a slave on the run. It wouldn't matter to him if he could get to Tintagel. Romanized Briton though he was, his family had always sided with the Britons because his mother had run her own people. As his family had deeper roots in Briton, he knew that he'd be helped along his way.
He just needed the chance.
Maesen hated sentry duty. He especially hated it when there were traitors in their midst. After two days of talking and negotiating, the Saecens and Vortigernus had come to an agreement of sorts but he had an uneasy feeling about it.
The Saecens were not to be trusted. They had put their faith in them before and look at what happened?
Instead of fulfilling their part of the treaty, they had looted and pillaged the very villages they were being hired to protect. It would have been one thing had Vortigernus and the Chiefs failed to come through on their side of the bargain. But that had not been the case at all. Not only had they paid their wages, they had given them choice, virginal farmland to call their own.
It stung to be in agreement with Aurelius on anything but Maesen saw what the young man did – they were headed for a destructive fall.
If it had been up to him, he would have sought aid on Britain's own soil. Seeking aid across the wild sea where the turmoil actually lay was only inviting trouble to come to them. They may have learned their lesson from what happened in the Empire about how to treat the foederati, but they had not learned the other lesson in regards to them.
They should know better than to trust them.
Though he was a full born Roman citizen, he'd been stationed in Briton long enough to identify with them and to realize what was wrong with them. His heart may have been in Rome but his soul was entirely British. Nearly four hundred years of occupation, of the blending of southeastern British culture with Roman society, had made them lose a sense of who they really were.
Whereas the North, West, and Southwest – were Cornwall lay – the Britons there remained strong in their own warrior culture and way, they had lost themselves. Hadrian's Wall – Trajan's Wall – had been built to shut them out, to protect those in the Westernmost half of the Empire from them. How tragic was it that the mighty Roman Empire had fallen to such hands as the barbarians and these, the unwashed and the uncultured, should survive.
When his relief came, he gave him a sharp salute and report before doing the same to the Commander in Charge. Walking into the barracks, he felt ready to drop. Sitting on his bed, he sharpened his sword and polished his armor, making sure to note the repairs he couldn't fix himself.
Stripping down to his tunic, he blew out the candle and lay back. His eyes closed and he drifted off only to awaken from an unexpected noise near dawn. Against his will, he remained still as his eyes opened and he looked about, knowing that it could be a servant cleaning outside.
Seeing Aurelius go by, dressed in a travelling cloak, his suspicions were aroused.
As quietly as possible, he rose and put his sandals back on. Making sure that his cloak was in hand, he silently followed him. For all he knew, the man could be going to the latrine and needed to heavier cloak to ward off the morning's chill.
He doubted it as he watched the boy make his way around the perimeter of the camp. Whey they started up the hill, Maesen debated his options. He could sound the alarm, see the boy captured and flogged. Or he could allow his to leave and face punishment for dereliction of duty.
"Aurelius Ambrosias, where are you off to in such a manner?" his voice was sharp, piercing the calm of the morning as a clarion call to battle.
The man didn't even flinch as he turned to face him. With a calm manner, he answered, "I can no longer abide by the unwise decision and choices that Lord Vortigernus is making. To continue to do so is to dishonor the noble blood of my fathers. It would be to deny all that I know is right. You believe that I have a sixth sense and I tell you truthfully that it is so.
"As I stand here I speak the future. Those who remain here will perish in the flames of Vortigernus' stubborn pride. None shall walk away from the blaze that will surround him. I will not die for a cause that I do not believe in. If you must, sound the alarm but I will not go back without resisting even to the point of death."
Maesen trembled under the dread certainty in his voice, though he could honestly say it was not out of fear. There was a nobility about Aurelius that he wanted to follow for there was no other leader he'd ever followed who had such conviction and promise in them. "Do you even know where to go?" he asked.
"I am sure that I will find my way," he said, adding sharply, "If I am allowed to go on my way."
There were few moments in Maesen's life when he could honestly say he'd been given the chance to follow a visionary. To his mind, dreams were the provinces of the weak, the feeble minded, and those lacking in the conviction to live. Yet, Aurelius was none of these things.
"You have not brought much with you," he observed.
"God will provide," the answer was serene.
"Of that I have no doubt. But God more often helps those that help themselves," Maesen retorted, mind coming to a conclusion. Had he been another man, he would have doubted himself and what he was thinking. But he was a practical man and knew that the boy was right, To serve as he had been would be the wrong thing and he'd not been raised a fool. "Wait for me in Londinium. I will get what we need to survive."
Aurelius was silent even as he stepped back slowly, realizing that his time was quickly escaping. "You are risking your career for one who will be called a slave. One you have no care for at all," he said.
"Of all the things you truly are, a slave is not one of them. You were made a hostage to ensure your mother's good behavior. A sacrifice on her part that will be for naught if you do not leave now," he warned.
They parted ways, Aurelius with a quiet thank you. Maesen wondered, once that powerful presence was gone, what he was doing. He knew nothing of this man and his world of dreams. Would the man prove as steady and true as the look in his eyes promised?
As he passed Vortigernus's tent, the man emerged and he automatically stopped. As he stood there, he was struck by how pale, how very mortal the man seemed after the vibrancy of Aurelius. For all his height, and he was an unusually tall man, there was something lacking in his brown eyes. It only confirmed his belief. If he was to be able to live and look himself in the eye, it was by the young man he must stand.
"Lord Vortigernus," he saluted sharply.
The man blinked his reddened eyes, still filled with the haze of the mead he'd consumed the night previous. "Maesen," he greeted him, waving him on. "Have you seen Aurelius? He has not been in to attend me yet," he suddenly asked, shaking his head slightly to make his fair hair fly out of his face.
"I haven't recently," he said, his face blank. "Perhaps I could help you?"
"No, I just need to turn him over to Horsa," he said, noting the way Maesen stiffened.
"Has he offended the Chief in some manner?" his question was spoken neutrally.
Vortigernus scoffed. "That boy? Don't be stupid. He knows his place. Horsa is going to give me his daughter and I will give him my seer to seal our bargain. I wish the boy to look presentable, not wild as he has been lately."
"If I see him, I shall send him to you with a warning that faltering in one's duty is unacceptable, sir," he said. Privately, he thought that wild was not a word one could use to describe Aurelius.
"I would expect nothing less of you," Vortigernus said as he stumbled away from him.
Maesen cursed softly but with heartfelt emotion. How could the boy have failed to mention that he was a seer? To have a sixth sense was one thing, to be a seer was something else entirely. More to the point, though, how could he have ignored the fact that this presence was vital to seal the deal between Vortigernus and the Saecens?
Or did he mean that the Saecens would turn on them for this slight and kill them all?
There really was no time to waste. If he was to join him, to help him, he must betray him.
"We're under attack!" The cry of alarm sounded wonderful to him for he didn't really want to betray the boy. He didn't know what happened when one betrayed a seer but he was sure that it wouldn't be pleasant.
Maesen felt the familiar prickly of awareness, the thrumming in his veins, as he heard the sound of an approaching force. It came from the North and he suspected the Picti, though he was fully aware that it could be either the Irish or the Aviolli.
Either way, it was precisely the kind of distraction he needed to cover Aurelius' escape. At least, he hoped it would be. While the man was a powerful fighter, none paid him much attention on the field, though he knew the man thought otherwise.
Sword in hand, he went to mount his horse – and turn Aurelius' loose. If anything, he hoped that the general belief would be that he was captured.
Hours later, he left the camp, under the guise of searching for Aurelius.
He never returned.
dux Britanniarum - Duke of Britain.
foederati - hired soldiers.