Prologue

"No... please do not leave me, Elaine," I plead softly as I cradle her close. "The Healer can fix this...scratch and you will be good as new; running off and protecting the kingdom, like always." I manage to will a reassuring smile, even though, deep in my heart, I know that not even Nimue could heal such a grievous wound. And... Elaine knows it as well. It is as clear as the lake she is known for.

She raises her blood-stained hand and caresses my cheek. "Let us not fret our minds on this." A smile graces her lips as she pulls me closer. "Besides, I rather my last sight be of you and not of that old hag, lecturing me on getting injured...again." A light laugh escapes from her lips, but instead of offering me joy, I can feel the stringing of tears.

"Why did you protect me!? Why did you move in front of that blade!? It should have been me!"

"Because I am your knight. It is my duty to protect you and that includes laying my life down for you, but more importantly..." She forces me to look at her. "...I love you. Do you really think I could just stand and watch that sword run through you; watch the life leave your eyes? Could you stand by if our places were reverse?" I do not speak because it is the truth. There would be no force that would or could stop me from saving her.

...Which is why this makes it a thousand times more painful.

The grip on my cheek tightens, bring me back. "Listen to me, Arthur. You are not meant to die here. This is not the place for a king to die. Besides-" A cough fit seizes her, causing blood to run down her lips but that does not weaken her focus. "...You have to...stay strong. The king...dom needs you...now more than...ever."

"But I cannot. I cannot help them without you by my side..."

Her smile grows soft as she uses the last of her strength to pull herself closer until we are a whisper away. "Yes...yes, you can. You are so much stronger...than you realize... You have sur... survived without me...before and you will b...be able to survive...after I am...gone..." Tears freely fall as we move as close as we can. "I believe in you...Arthur," She whispers softly as I feel her heartbeat slowing. "I... love...you...remember...that..."

The last of her life leaves her as she falls limp in my arms. "No...NO!" I cry out as I cradle her in my arms.

"You brought this upon yourself," An evil but strangely, sweet voice softly states from the shadows. Through teary eyes, I can make out a woman in a flowing, blood-stained dress. The shadows obscure her face but somehow, I know who it is and I can feel the rage for this woman, turning my vision into a haze.

Light shines in from the window, illuminating her face enough where I can see the smirk gracing her lips, taking pleasure from my lost. Red fills my sight as I reach blindly for something, anything that could be used to end that look.

"It is hopeless, you cannot stop me. This kingdom and your reign as king will be just like your precious knight, over." Each word she speaks, become more and more menacing, as a shadow rises from her. "You cannot stop me...you will never be able to stop me Arthur...Arstun...Austin...