The sky has begun to darken outside the window by which I stand. Night is falling...in a few hours, the last light of my final day will be gone.
The light of my existence dims with that of the sun, as I had always thought it would. But I had always envisioned my final hours to be spent on a battlefield defending my King, fighting valiantly for my country. Not to be as they were, standing in a prison cell brooding over my past, as a common criminal would do. I had always pictured for myself a death by sword, or arrow, rather then by my own heart.
It is, I suppose, the most accursed blessing of all to think of them last. The most sour of boons, to have my final thoughts ruled by their faces. But then, I deserve nothing more. I deserve nothing else.
It is a fitting end indeed, for me.
I loved them. More deeply than anyone could fathom, especially after this...more totally than even I would have thought, I loved those two people. Even now, when they lay in their bed, together yet alone, with me the purpose of their separation, my devotion runs more freely then ever through my veins.
I had pledged, all those years ago, that I would live and die for them...little did I know how true my proclamation, declared in the heat of new duty and lifelong loyalty, would grow to be. It is ironic, to say the least...but then, it seems these past few years have been riddled with nothing else
I am suddenly chilled. A breeze from the nearby window slips through the bars and assaults me, breaking into my thoughts. I walk to my pallet, and remove the potato sack that serves as my blanket, placing it instead around my shoulders. A sad smile creeps upon my lips, as I realize how like her I must look; my sack serving the same purpose for me as her countless shawls had so often done for her.
Of course, it is only by sin that I call her my own, she having been married three years before our eyes even met. It is only by the gravest, most painful wrongdoing that I lay claim to her, even in my thoughts...betrayal to both of them, my Queen and her husband, my dearest friend.
Ah, such sweet treachery...
She is the most beautiful woman my eyes have ever beheld. Her hair set in waves that cascade down her back, dark and soft to touch...her eyes, the two most alluring things on this earth, blue as the sapphires that rested in her formal coronet. Many faceted, they were, and so warm...Her heart was just as desirable, open and kind as it was. She was forever giving to those in need, proposing ideas for fairs and parties to be held in the village square...
I burned for her for these reasons and more as the years passed, yet I knew that I could never quench my desire. It was Hell to want her so badly, knowing all the time that she could not be mine; faced with the cruel reality of never being able to hold the one I wanted most in my arms. It only worsened as Arthur and I got closer and closer, as he himself began to mean more and more to me. I loved them both, as I have said, in different ways but with the same fierce intensity. Every day was torment as she haunted me in dreams and thoughts alike; every moment torturous as her husband became my closest, dearest companion.
The sweetest Hell I have ever known.
I close my eyes against her face, against reminiscence of his friendship...anything to rid myself of this. But no, even that does not protect me; I hear in my memory the sound of a closing door, and know that she has left. It is now only the two of us, alone with our fractured bond. His features stand out sharply in my mind's eye, twisted with emotion and elongated with the loss of sleep.
His final words to me echoed in my ears as though shouted by a thousand men, though his own voice had been low with pain. I cannot escape the memory of his face, the eyes that searched me for an answer that they did not wish to find. I could have said a million things; I could have made up an excuse for this mistake of mine, but a man betrayed is a man oblivious to the veil of lies. It would have been useless to try...so I did the only thing I could think to do...the only thing that might make this just a little easier to take.
"Arthur, I am sorry. I didn't want t—"
Anger flashed through his shining eyes, attempting to shield the tears that rested there.
"Silence!" The word erupted from him, seizing me. The emotion in his eyes wrapped its arms about me, squeezing, and I could not breathe. I was a captive of his feelings, and it was all I could do not to throw myself upon the ground in tears as their full potency crashed into me. I felt on the verge of collapse under the pressures of Sorrow and Confusion, knew that Betrayal's hold on me would turn my world black if it did not lessen.
I looked up at him in that moment...and knew immediately that what I saw would never leave me. When our eyes connected, all barriers fell to the ground, and I saw a man broken, a face shrouded in nothing but raw, unadulterated anguish. In that moment, I saw everything; the suspicions implanted in his mind by the whispers of gossip, a mounting fear of the words' truth...the immeasurable mass of trust he had held in us, the two people dearest to him...and the bright light of hope; hope for the future, hope that all was and would always be well, nearly crushed under the ferocity of his grip. I saw the love he had for Guenivere, the closeness he felt with her in the early years of their marriage buried beneath the hurt and powerlessness he had felt as the distance between them increased. And last in this tortured display, I saw the brotherhood that had developed between us, the closest of friendships, lying shattered on his heart's floor.
The breath he took in was deep and labored, taken to calm a tumultuous inner storm that held little hope for peace. His powerful voice faltered, cracking as he spoke again, the words a shield guarding his hurt.
"Your apology serves no purpose, Lancelot. What has happened is done now, and no amount of remorse will erase it from the memory of the Past. I know that, it is something I learned long ago among the Priestesses of the Holy Isle...I only need some semblance of an explanation. I just need to know why. Once you have told me that, there is nothing more you can say."
I was silent, knowing that my words needed to be chosen well, or all would be lost. If I spoke wrongly, our lives would be taken, and all involvedwould be pained. But if I lied, he would know. He always knew.
"Tell me!" His voice rose, and I saw desperation in his movements as he stood to face me. "I command you, as you overlord and King, to tell me why you have done this."
He had never asked anything of me as my King, except my oath of loyalty to him and Camelot. My stomach churned at the memory as I realized again just how unfaithful I had been. There was nothing for it now but to speak the truth.
"I love her, Arthur."
"Your Majesty" he corrected me softly, as I saw a fresh wave of pure sorrow wash over his gaze. "I am your King, and you are bound to address me as such."
He stopped before asking. "And what of her? Does your lover share this sentiment?"
He turned away, immersing himself in papers, protecting his heart with sheaves of parchment. "You may go."
I knew that I had to try at least once more before all hope was lost. "Arth--Your Majesty...."
"Yes?" He looked up from his papers, eyes still holding onto a small flicker of that hope...I hated to break his heart all over again, but I had to ask.
"Do what you will with me, only I beg of you, do not hurt her."
He was so sad...I could hardly bear to see his face as he answered my last request, the last bit of faith chased from his eyes. "That is the one thing we still have in common, Sir Lancelot. There is nothing we would want less than to harm the woman that rules our hearts." He looked at me again, showing once more the friendship we once had. And then, in an instant, it was gone. "She will be sent to a convent. Goodbye, sir knight."
Tears slip through my lashes, down my cheeks, landing salty upon my lips. I open my eyes and the picture fades; they are gone from me, and I am alone again.
Alone, caught up in the web of solitude woven by my own actions.
If he had not seen...if I had only kept myself away ...his face dissipates, and instead I am faced with them. All friends, comrades, brothers...their voices rise around me, crying out their final pledges to a King beloved...if he had not seen us together, if I had not given into my desire, they could have all been saved.
I return to my pallet and sit, kneeling at the mercy of this whirlwind in my head. I see their faces, marred with bravery's wounds, distorted by the loyalty they held within themselves for their monarchs and this beautiful, tragic kingdom. I feel each cut, each break of bone, each injury as if it were I being murdered; I sit and suffer hundreds of deaths, remembering each face as I die.
Gawain, Gavin, Percival...Galahad...all of you gone...I am sorry, my friends. My brothers, I beg you, forgive me...
And so I go. Each face greets me as I walk to the window again, each pair of doomed eyes looks upon me with trust one final time, shimmering before my memory as though ethereal. Each voice repeats its final words--they reverberate through me as though proclaimed by ten thousand heralds. I here the dying cry of each man, so amplified that I am deafened to all else.
Goodbye, my poor, doomed companions.
A knock is at my door, I make no move towards it. Two words and all will end.
I open my mouth, take a final breath, and look one more time upon the once-beautiful countryside of my home, now littered with charred stone and red...
I feel the weight in my heart as I take it in completely; the tormented backdrop of blood and wreckage that is the end of the Pendragon, and the end of Camelot...the end of me. The doorknob turns just as scarlet and gold light flood the last scene I will ever behold, pouring into the small stone room where I have lived my final days. The guard walks towards me outlined by the dawn, holding out the rope for my wrists, and I can think only one thing.
Author's Note: Please leave a review and let me know what you think. Thank you for reading, and may you all go in peace.