The Curse of Love

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"She has a lovely face," Lancelot observed.

He studied that face for a second more and recognised the woman.

"God in his mercy lend her grace," he murmured, "The Lady of Shalott."

The sun continued to rise, but to his eyes the light dimmed, the noise of the crowd grew quieter and the world that now surrounded him began to fade into one of the past.

Now ten years younger, he was standing in a clearing, surrounded by a dark coppice. The woody moan of the forest echoed in the symphony of the night. The boyish squire shivered, tugging at the bridle of his Lord's steed. The animal snorted, and a silver mist rose eerily from its nostrils.

He waited.

Somewhere, out there, in the oppressive darkness that surrounded Lancelot, a choir of crickets was humming a pulsing, rhythmic composition. The accompaniment was a lone owl, with its mournful harmony.

"Who, who?"

It seemed to be posing a question.

"Who, who?"

'Who are you waiting for?' it was asking. Who is she?

The leaves billowed and crashed in the wind, sounding like waves against golden sands. The crack of a branch in the sinister gloom silenced the orchestra of macabre noises. Lancelot snapped his head around to face the direction of the sound.

And there she was, standing. no, not standing, floating, floating as though she was too heavenly to touch the ground. Seraph-like, awesome, breathtakingly beautiful, striking, and poised in front of him.

He smiled and bowed in greeting, "Good evening My Lady. It is kind of you to weather such storm to attend our meeting."

She curtsied in response, her hands drawing her flowing skirts away from her divine frame.

"It is terrible weather Sir," she replied, her voice like a song to his ears.

He wanted nothing more than to draw her presence closer to his. Her enchanting exquisiteness was so captivating, so alluring. (A/N: *gags*)

"Are you cold M'lady?" he inquired, almost hungry for her, wanting to breathe her into every fibre of his being.

"No Lancelot," she enunciated softly, stepping closer to him slowly.

But of course not. How could she be cold, she who radiated warmth and light?

The squire froze as she grew nearer, desire and fear paralysing his young body.

"Why are you afraid?" she whispered, her hand brushing against his lightly. "I'm not," he answered, willing himself to stop trembling.

"Good," she responded, her lips almost against his face.

"Lady."

"Shh," she interrupted, placing a finger to his lips, "Be silent. There is no need for words now. Did you not want me to come to you now? And here I am. I am here, with you now. Do not be afraid Lancelot, there is nothing to fear, but much to take pleasure in."

He nodded, her motherly words and assurances striking a chord of sense within him. She sang softly, her lyrics caressing the air gently, her melodies enchanting and harmonious.

Lancelot looked toward Camelot. The castle's four grey-stone towers loomed above the trees, sombre and silent witnesses to their rendezvous. The storm had died, and now the night was still.

Reaching for his hand, she led him through the forest, still singing softly. As they walked, the trees thinned and another voice joined her in a lively duet. Through the trees, the river snaked, silver in the moonlight and singing with Gwenevere of Camelot.

The song stopped and silence cloaked the pair who stood like statues in their pose. Overcome by the tranquillity of the dreamlike reality they had stumbled upon, Gwenevere leant toward him until their lips were touching.

The shrill wine of a horse pierced the stillness. Both turned to stare at the source of the noise.

Thud-thud-thud.

The animal grew closer, its hooves sounding dully as they struck the ground.

Thud-thud-thud.

The horse's nose appeared, a white stripe running from its nostrils to his forelock, framing his woody brown eyes. The animal tossed its head and snorted, its rider still immersed in the shadows.

"Show yourself," Lancelot called tensely.

"If you so wish, my young squire," Lord Èimhìn of Camelot answered, sliding from the beast and onto the ground, taking a step toward them, "And you My Lady," he continued, turning to Gwenevere, "My treacherous, bittersweet love and adversary, is there any more to say to you?"

Gwenevere stared at him in silence, wanting to speak but unable to describe in words the pain she felt inside, that knife that slashed, destroyed and cut her insides, causing a burning, searing pain that consumed her entirely.

"What words are there to describe the betrayal of the broken-hearted by the broken-hearted Sir?" she asphyxiated on the words.

"No words could describe your defection to the shadows Lady Gwenevere, no words could do your wickedness justice," he delivered his gift to her, dripping with bitterness.

"Then let me go, surrender me to the light, for it is you who drew me to this oppressive darkness. As a moth is drawn to a flame so, too was I drawn to the abyss, and the nothingness it promised. There is no pain when you cannot feel, Sir, no tears when you cannot suffer. Let me go and free me of this numbness."

"I would sooner fall on my sword than surrender you," he retorted, remounting his horse, "And if this what you wish My Lady, then so be it."

She watched him retreat, the sound of cantering hooves drumming incessantly in her mind, his hidden tears not lost on her.

"But that is not what I wish My Lord," she cried as he disappeared, "That is not what I want, I never wanted this."

She screamed, clenching her fists and allowing her knees to collapse under the weight of her body, tears of frustration sliding down her face and into the sodden river bank.

Lancelot approached her apprehensively and placed a tentative hand on her shoulder. She brushed it off heatedly, ignoring his outstretched hand and pulling herself to her feet, drawing her muddy skirts into both hands and running after Lord Èimhìn.

"Please Lord, if you would, forgive me for this sin," she prayed, "And even if you would not forgive me, for I do not deserve to be forgiven, please grant me this one thing, please let me reach him, let me get to him before he goes to You."

Tears almost blinding her, she was lost in a blur of forest, greens and browns merging in the shadowy light. The trees were working against her, their branches holding her back, their roots tripping her. The woodland taunted and mocked her, condemning her and tormenting her. Escaping its malicious grasp, she broke through the edge of the forest, running into the pastures. The crickets sang to her as she ran, growing tired and weak, but continuing despite the fire in her lungs.

"Let me make it to him, oh please God, let me make it," she whispered, looking to the top of the hill ahead, seeing his horse. Breathing heavily, she continued her pursuit, running, running, running, on and on, ahead, ahead and up. As she reached the crest, she stopped. Mesmerised she watched as Lord Èimhìn collapsed onto his blade, the blade of a knight. Silhouetted in the moonlight, he fell to a bed of dewy meadow grasses.

Awakened from her trance, her temporary paralysis overcome by something tearing inside her, she walked toward him, with each step closing the physical distance between them, but never narrowing the emotional expanse that could never be bridged.

Kneeling beside him resignedly, she cried silently. Unable to speak, the boundaries of language muting her, she pulled him closer to her as scarlet life and crimson regret staining the green grasses.

"Hold the knife you gave me, my beautiful one, hold the blade with which you murdered me," he commanded, thrusting the bloody sword into her hands, smearing his blood over her pale fingers, "From the day I met you I was damned, from the day I loved you I was cursed. I saw the world through the mirror of your beauty; I was enchanted by your cacophonous song, able to little else but exist in the dream of you. Now may you be cursed in the same way, may you see not the world, but a mere reflection of what is real, may you be condemned to live in the same metaphor you embowered me within. And if you endeavour to make that metaphor any more than but a symbolism, may you suffer death as I have. You."' he faltered as he grew weaker, blood coursing from his wounds and seeping into her skirts, "You are what. what taught me that. that the healing.healing hands of love that build.. build up can also.bring down. It was you my love, my intoxication, who was the death of me. May you remember . remember the blood on your hands for. eternity."

She looked to the heavens in his silence, everything inside shattering, breaking and the pieces wedging into her, pulling her apart, killing her internally.

"Why?" Gwenevere cried, begging the stars for an answer, "Why?"

Staring into his vacant eyes, she shivered with cold, his blood drying on her hands in the cool night breeze. She focused all her energies into the seemingly simple movement that would bring his hand to hers. The movement seemed to take a lot more effort than normal, as if gravity had somehow increased its plaguing grasp on everything in the world now he was gone.

She smiled bitterly.

Gone. He was gone.

She closed her eyes, willing the numbness to be replaced by anything, grief or hurt, for the empty pain she felt to lessen to blind, torturous pain. Gwenevere felt as though she was being eaten from the inside out, as though there were some emotional acid corroding her heart, scarring her soul and coming closer as each minute passed to an intimate suicide.

She grasped his dead hand desperately, "I know I killed you, my love. I know I was the death of you," she whispered, "I handed you the blade, and you followed the conclusion through. But I promise I will never kill again, never again will I be the death of a man," she paused, "I am the victim of your curse, but also the victim of my own black magic, the Witch doctor who treated herself to her medicine. So you condemned and damned me to solitude, and to solitude I will lend myself willingly, this blood on my hands forever my insanity."

So on the hill like a new Calvary, the blood of the crucified stained the dress of the damned. Love is from the Lord, and hate from Hades, and the victims of a land dispute between heaven and hell both lay still. The casualties of a bitter war were poised, both dead in their own way, and in the valley, a young Lancelot watched a broken woman mourning her love.

The past faded into the present, the sunlight rising behind the frozen Lady of Shalott, Gwenevere of Camelot, bathing her in golden light and making her appear more angelic than Lancelot remembered. The knight stared in wonder. He had heard rumours of a mysterious lady locked in the tower of Shalott, but never had he known she had kept her promise to Lord Èimhìn, locking herself away from the world to endure his dying curse alone. Watching the serene smile on Lady Gwenevere's face, Lancelot knew. She had died that night long ago, and now she was able to rest as the sun continued to rise, signalling the beginning of a new day.

* * * * * * A/N: Liked his monologue. other than that, another boring romance post. Just for fun as they say.