Gwyneth was standing in the middle of an open plain, and as she turned in a circle, she saw the land disappear into the sea in one direction, and rise up into a mountain in the other. Just one mountain. Wherever she was, it was only a small place, surrounded by the sea, and Gwyneth hiked up her skirts and started to run. It was cumbersome in the dress that she was wearing – old fashioned, with a tight bodice – yet her feet were bare, and soon she was standing amongst a collection of ruins. Crumbling stone walls of once-great buildings surrounded her, and yet still she wasn't satisfied. There was something here that she was missing; yet she had no idea what it was.
There was a beeping noise coming from somewhere within the ruins, and Gwyneth rushed around trying to find it. Turning every which way, her foot caught on a rock, and she fell …
… And woke up in her bed at the modest B&B. With a groan, she reached for her mobile phone that doubled as her alarm clock, and switched off the incessant beeping that had intruded upon her dream. It was seven in the morning, and Martian had finally convinced her to accompany him out to Bardsey Island that day.
The island was about three kilometres off of the tip of the Llyn Peninsular, and it would take them about an hour by car to reach the ferry port at Aberdaron that would take them across. Once on the island, they would be travelling completely by foot, yet with the size of the island – 2.5 kilometres long, and only 1 kilometre wide – it wouldn't take them long to cover the distance. The tiny island was filled with wildlife, namely birds and seals, as well as scattered ruins from its days as a home to the Celtic Christian Church. It was these ruins that Martian was interested in.
"People used to travel to Bardsey from all over the land," he said as the ferry carried them across the waves. "They say that it even became more popular to the devout than Rome was back in the Middle Ages," he added, and Gwen gave a half-hearted nod, not really that interested in religion.
When they finally landed on the island, Gwen seemed even less enthusiastic about the place, and followed after the ever-eager Martian with her hands shoved into her jeans pocket, kicking at tufts of grass along the way. Looking around, she felt a weird chill pass through her, reminiscent of when she had stood on the shores of Llyn Llydaw, and pausing for a moment, she lifted her head and actually took a look around.
"Crap," she breathed, recognising the rising mountain that was on her right, and the way the land sloped down towards the sea to her left. It was the same landscape from her dream. Once was enough, but twice? Gwen was starting to get freaked out by the eerie premonitions, and she started jogging to catch up to Martian, who was striding purposefully towards a few scattered buildings in the distance.
Seeing her slight unease, Martian started talking. "Did I mention earlier that Bardsey Island has ties to King Arthur?" he started. "Many believe that this is Avalon," he added, throwing his arms wide and gesturing to the island as a whole with a grin. "Pretty cool, huh?"
"I guess so," Gwen replied. "Beats the hell out of thinking that Glastonbury is Avalon," she added with a slight smile, silently agreeing that the tiny island made for a much better resting place than where Arthur's grave was supposedly found.
"Ah, but Glastonbury was the final resting place of King Arthur," Martian said with a wink. "I told you that the knights carried on the legend of Arthur after his death, and you remember Lady Elaine, right? She was made to appear as Guinevere by Morgana. Well, she eventually married Lancelot in the end, even after the magic wore off and he discovered who she really was, and the pair spent many long years pretending to be the great king and queen themselves. The grave that the monks found in Glastonbury back in 1190, with the inscription "Here lies buried the famous King Arthur in the isle of Avalon with his second wife Guinevere", was in fact the grave of Lancelot and Elaine. It was a bit tongue-in-cheek, seeing as how Elaine was a second Guinevere, and a lot of the deeds that made Arthur famous were done by Lancelot instead," Martian finished with a chuckle.
"Is there anything that you don't know about the Arthur legend? And for that matter, where do you get your information? I've never heard of half of the stuff that you've told me!" Gwen exclaimed, and Martian shrugged.
"Ah, my dear Guinevere, there are some secrets that I'm not ready to tell you just yet," he replied playfully, and Gwen glared at him. "What?"
Gwen shook her head. "Stop calling me that name," she bluntly said, before she pushed passed him and stormed on ahead.
"Gwen wait, I can explain!" Martian called after her, yet Gwen didn't stop. "Guinevere!" he yelled, and then swore as the girl picked up speed, sprinting along the island track. Martian took off after her until she finally stopped before the ruins of what had once been a church. There were a few old houses around it, and looming high was a giant standing cross. Gwen was looking at the ruins with her arms wrapped around her middle, hugging herself against the chill that had crept into her bones.
"Why do I keep dreaming of these places?" she asked, whirling around and glaring at Martian. "First it was Llyn Llydaw, and now here. And all you seem to want to talk about are legends of King Arthur; legends that I've never heard of before, about conspiracy theories and doppelgangers!"
"I can explain," Martian repeated, holding a hand out as if trying to calm a frightened animal. And he could tell that Gwen was frightened. "I told you all of those stories because you need to know what happened in the past. And the first thing that you need to understand is that my name isn't Martian Embry."
"Then what is it?" Gwen asked, taking a frightened step backwards.
"Martian Embry is similar to two of the names that I was once known by, with those names being Merlin and Emrys," he answered, feeling a great weight lift off of his chest as he finally told the young woman the truth. Yet instead of being relieved, Gwen only looked more terrified.
"Stay away from me," she said in a shaky voice, backing up even further.
"Gwen please, I'm not going to hurt you," the man who had once been known as Merlin said, and Gwen hoisted herself over the stone wall that surrounded the ruins. She had been backed up against the wall, and her palms stung as the rock scrapped against them.
"Look, whatever crazy-ass plan you've got, I want no part of it! My name is Gwyneth, not Guinevere!" she yelled, safely on the other side of the wall. "So stay away from me!" she added, before she ran away from Merlin.
The ancient warlock sighed, and then watched as Gwen ran ever closer to the ruins. With a flick of his wrist the ground suddenly gave way, and with a scream the girl fell down into the ground. Merlin hopped over the wall and ran over to the hole, peering down as dust and dirt filled the air.
"Are you okay?" he called down, and was relieved to hear the sound of coughing from below.
"I'm fine," Gwen called back, sitting amongst the dirt. Looking up, the old churchyard wasn't that far above her, and yet it was too far for her to reach. The sides of the hole were sheer, with no way for her to climb out. All in all, she was stuck.
"Good, I'm coming down," Merlin called, and Gwen whipped her head up with a gasp.
"No! If you come down, who's going to get me out?" But it was too late; Merlin had already jumped down, and now stood beside her with a cheeky grin.
"Well, that was an adventure," he said as if nothing out of the ordinary had even happened. "Shall we see what we can find down here then?" he asked, moving further into the hole, and reaching for something that was stuck to the wall. A moment later, a torch burned into life, and Gwen realised that they were in what could only be a subterranean vault. The floor was paved stone, and the roof curved up into a load-supporting arch that had cobwebs hanging down in cotton-like strands. It was clear that no one had been down here in centuries.
"What exactly do you want from me?" Gwen asked, dusting herself off as she rose to follow after Merlin. She may have very recently tried to run away from him, but he had the only light source in the whole place, and if the tunnel led out somewhere further down, she didn't want to be stumbling around, alone, and in the dark.
"I want to tell you the rest of the story, and then its up to you to decide what you want to do."
"Story? What story?" Gwen asked, and Merlin turned to regard her, his face silhouetted by the flaming torch.
"The story of King Arthur and Guinevere. Your story," he said, and then held up a hand to stop Gwen's protest. "Please, just hear me out," he pleaded, and Gwen closed her mouth with a humph of annoyance. "Arthur and Guinevere died quite young. Arthur was barely twenty-seven, and Guinevere twenty-five when Morgana instigated their demise. I did what I could, and whilst I managed to save Arthur, Guinevere was already lost. But I promised Arthur, that if he went to Avalon and waited, I would find his love and bring her back to him. Only Morgana found out, and thwarted my plans. Right when I'd found her in the spirit world, Morgana used her magic to send Guinevere as far away from me as possible. I thought that she had only thrown the soul of Guinevere through time, but as I now know, she threw her through space as well. You ended up in Australia, which is probably as far away from Wales as you can get," Merlin finished, and Gwen folded her arms, keeping a safe distance from him.
"You can't honestly expect me to believe this, can you?" she asked, and Merlin chuckled.
"Whether you believe it or not doesn't matter, as the truth has a funny way of making itself known. You dreamed about the lake where Excalibur still rests, didn't you?" he asked, already knowing the answer. "What else have you dreamed of lately?"
"This island, and the ruins above us," Gwen sullenly admitted, and Merlin nodded.
"The places that contain the last traces of Arthur before he left this world. Bedivere hurled the sword into the lake, and then helped me to move the wounded Arthur here, where he was taken to Avalon," he explained as they came upon the end of the tunnel. It opened up into a circular room, and at its centre was a stone sarcophagus with a carved relief of the great king himself lying on top of it, eyes closed, as if he were sleeping.
Gwen froze, her breath catching as she took in the visage of the young king, frozen forever in stone. Without conscious thought, she slowly walked towards the sarcophagus, swallowing hard as tremors ran through her. She wasn't scared anymore, but rather nervous and excited all at once.
"This place is a portal to the Otherworld," Merlin said as Gwen continued to move forward. "Arthur's been waiting for a long time; waiting for the one person who could call him back here," he added, and yet Gwen was hardly listening anymore. She was standing right next to the sarcophagus now, looking down at the proud, strong face of King Arthur, and a sense of quiet calm seemed to fill her. One hand rose up to trace the contours of his face, brushing away centuries of dust, and then ever so slowly she lowered her face and touched her lips to the cold stone mouth.
A static shock made her jump backwards, and as Gwen watched on with wide green eyes, the stone relief cracked and fell away, revealing soft human flesh underneath. For one long moment, no one moved, and then ever so slowly Arthur's eyes opened, revealing orbs of the deepest blue. His hair was a sandy blonde, his skin lightly tanned, and when he turned his head to look at her, Gwen felt herself melting into his gaze.
Memories of a forgotten life came rushing back to her as she remembered the day that Arthur had told her that he loved her, and would stay with her forever. He had been much younger than he looked now, yet his words had been said with absolute certainty. Gwen remembered the proud adoration that had been in his eyes on the day that he had married her, as well as the complete and utter anguish that had torn through him on the day that she had died. She remembered all of this, and so many things more; all within the time it took Arthur to sit up. By the time he was on his feet, Gwen was in tears as she gazed upon her soul mate, standing alive and whole before her.
"Guinevere," Arthur breathed with such affection, and coming from his lips, the name didn't sound wrong at all. It sounded more perfect than anything else in the world. Rushing forward, she wrapped her arms around him, and when he kissed her, she melted into his embrace.
Right there, standing within a subterranean vault, on a tiny island off of the Welsh coast, within the arms of a legendary king of Wales, Guinevere was finally home.
Author's Note – So it turns out that it's rather easy to manipulate the various tales of King Arthur to suit my own needs. Yay. I had planned to extend this story a little bit further, and have Arthur and Gwen return to Llyn Llydaw to retrieve Excalibur, but the ending I have here just seemed too perfect to ruin. I hope you all enjoyed this litter story, and I'll leave it up to your imaginations to work out what happens next!