Sweat drops crept down the skin. The woman’s arm quickly brushed against her forehead to remove the stickiness from her blonde locks. She let out a heavy sigh as she looked at the large window, staring at the harsh sunlight to which she wasn’t accustomed. Her clear emerald eyes observed her environment, which was still foreign to her. Her robe or dress — whatever it was that she was given to wear — did not feel comfortable at all, but it did help bear the heat more easily than the clothes she was usually wearing.
Another sigh escaped her and her attention turned back to the stone slab she was observing. Its inscriptions were unknown to her and deeply confusing. How did the inhabitants of this place read this? Or even write on it? Wouldn’t a parchment be much more convenient?
Her ears caught the sound of the door behind her opening and for a moment she froze completely. Her body went rigid as she waited for the unknown visitor. The door closed and only after hearing silent footsteps was she finally able to relax.
“I brought you more water. I’m sorry about earlier. The servants are all very nervous, one misstep and their heads could go flying.”
The voice was gentle but androgynous, and the woman glanced to her side as a goblet was placed on the table where she sat. The person who had entered looked like a beautiful woman, however, the woman wasn’t sure if this person was female. Long flowing green hair, a perfectly childlike face, a long white tunic which covered the person’s form and rough hands. In her opinion, this being seemed too perfect in appearance to be called human. Then again, she wouldn’t have been surprised if that were the case. She had heard her fair share of stories about the fantastical and it wasn’t like her situation back home could be considered normal.
Glancing back at the figure, a small smile crept on the woman’s face. “Thank you...” —Now what was their name again?— her brows crooked as she tried to recall the person’s name. “Enkidu.”
“You finally got my name right.” A smile appeared on Enkidu’s face for a short second before they sat down next to the woman.
“Now, how is it going? Are you still struggling?” Enkidu asked.
A frown appeared on the woman’s face as she returned her attention to the stone tablet. “Everything looks the same. I don’t see how you can distinguish them. I also broke another tablet. My apologies.” She let out a sigh of defeat. By now she had lost count of how many times she had found herself sighing since she had come to these strange lands.
Enkidu let out a chuckle. “Don’t worry about it. It’s only expected that you would make a few mistakes. It hasn’t been that long since you came.”
A few mistakes? Aside from her sighing record, she had also lost count of all the stone tablets she had demolished during practice. She definitely craved a piece of parchment and a proper writing utensil.
“Let’s revise this together, alright? When you get the hang of it you can try to read on your own. But for now, I’ll be guiding you.”
The two continued reading the text without interruption. It was certainly easier with Enkidu helping her out. While what they were doing was tedious and frustrating, the woman knew that she hadn't many options and with the lack of knowledge about this place it would leave her even more vulnerable and more likely to get lost, just like what had happened during her past attempts to find a way out. But listening to Enkidu’s explanation of the writings, word classes, grammar and spelling were definitely hard for her to follow. She could understand the people when they spoke and she could answer them back, but she had no idea how. Was it the magic that had brought her to this place that gave her the knowledge?
“Do you find it hard to adapt to this place?”
Enkidu’s question pulled the woman out of her thoughts. “Excuse me?
“Is it hard to adapt to this place?” Enkidu repeated patiently.
The woman stayed quiet for a while, her emerald gaze aimed towards the darkening sky. Her answer was easy, but she had to find the right words to express herself without offending the person next to her.
“This place is very different from my home. It’s hot, bright, even the buildings and people are different. Our beds aren’t as lavished as the ones here.” Her eyes flickered to the large bed in the room, covered in silk and pillows, “We do not write on stone tablets, we use parchments or sheepskins and quills instead. Well, the people who are well off at least. The poor don’t have the luxury to learn how to read or write. But I assume it’s the same here. I’ve never eaten meals in the midst of such a large crowd.” Her eyes shifted again and they halted upon a beautiful sword that rested next to her bed. Its hilt and scabbard were coated in gold and dark blue. The sword looked more like it was meant as a decoration than for combat. It was the only object she had harshly refused to be parted with. Without her trusted sword, she would have lost the only little piece of comfort available to her -the sole reminder of her home and mission. “and we certainly do not dress this... uninhibited.” The woman gestured to the clothes she was wearing and frowned at them with distaste.
Enkidu hummed while taking in all the information they had received. “It does sound like the complete opposite of Uruk.”
That was one way to put it. “This place is far warmer than what I’m used to.” she continued, “We wear woollen clothes during the winter to protect ourselves against the cold. It gets worse when it’s snowing, but the scenery we receive in return is beautiful.”
“Winter? Snowing??” Enkidu repeated the words as if they had encountered a foreign entity.
“Winter is one of the four seasons in my home. It is also the coldest period of the year and snow is what falls when rain clouds are exposed to extremely low temperature. Instead of raining it’s snowing. It’s white and cold to the touch. When the temperature rises the snow will melt into water. Together with that, the lands become puddles and the ground turns muddy.”
“White and cold? I would like to see that. It does get colder in Uruk during a certain period and we do wear warmer clothes during that time, but I’ve never seen snow,” Enkidu commented as they tried to imagine the strange phenomenon that the woman described as snow. “Will everything turn white when it snows?”
The woman nodded. “Yes, snow in my home falls in large quantities during the winter. It makes it hard to travel because all the roads and fields are covered in the snow. The houses’ roofs, the trees, sheds, everything turns white in one night.”
The talk about snow clearly sounded appealing for Enkidu, it was something they would never be able to see with their own eyes. The person’s eyes showed a sparkle they would only show when something interested them.
A soft knock on the door interrupted their talk. Enkidu called for the person to enter.
“My apologies.” The servant bowed timidly. “But it’s almost time for dinner.”
“Thank you for the reminder,” Enkidu answered. “You may leave now.”
The moment the servant left Enkidu turned towards the woman. “Time really flies when you’re doing something interesting. I’ll be going for now. Someone will pick you up when it’s time.”
Enkidu got up. “Oh, and before I forget, is there anything you need? Aside from a new tablet?” They eyed her with expectations as if they were aware of what the woman’s answer would be.
“I would like to return to my home.” The woman answered directly.
A soft laugh left Enkidu’s lips. “I’ve said this before, but I don’t have that kind of power. Nor do I think Gil would allow it.”
“Could you try to change his mind? You’re the only one he listens to!”
“Whenever he has made up his mind, be it about something incredible or not, he won’t change it. Even if I’m the one asking him. That’s the kind of person he is.”
“But, I don’t belong here! I’m a knight! I have to finish my training! I have to go back to my family! They are probably looking for me! Merlin is looking for me!”
“I’m sorry, but I really can’t do anything. The most I can do is aid you in your education and in adapting to this environment.”
Enkidu gave her a look, which she couldn’t discern; she couldn’t tell whether it was full of pity or of lack of understanding.
“Anyway, I’ll see you at dinner, Arturia.”
The door closed, leaving the woman called Arturia alone again with her thoughts.
In case you haven't realised it, this Arturia isn't King Arthur YET and the prologue takes place after the first few chapters. The first chapter will clarify a lot of things... I hope.
The title isn’t definite, but I couldn’t come up with anything better. If anyone has a better suggestion feel free to share it. If you’re fine with the current title you can also let me know.
Thank you for reading my work.
Chapter 2: A Bad Dream or Reality
I'm back and with the long-awaited next chapter! It's hard to try to keep a regular update schedule since we suffer from the horror that is writer's block, wasting hours doing research and rewriting scenes over and over. I guess FGO sidetracked me a bit too. But it's worth it if I can get my hands on archer Gil in the near future!
I want to give many thanks again to my Beta MidoriKurenaiYume! I wouldn't have done it without her.
On a side note, if anyone is planning to buy Fate Extella Link on the Switch (Or if you own a Switch) feel free to add me:
She felt like she was drowning, or falling, or maybe both. How did this happen? She did not remember being near any body of water or somewhere high enough… or did she?
While she let her mind wander, an immense urge to breathe and to reach out to the surface gripped her body. She wanted to yell, to scream, to cry out for help, but her body did not obey. No matter how much she tried, her voice did not come out. How long had it been since she had felt this helpless? How long had she been drifting through this strange place? Was this a dream or reality? Was she even alive? Why could she not remember anything?
Her consciousness felt like water, slipping out of her hands while she tried to grasp for any memory that could tell her how she ended up in this predicament. But she felt as if she was not in control of her thoughts nor of her body.
Despite her clouded mind, she could not help shedding tears. Not knowing where this sudden feeling of sadness came from, she allowed them to run free. A once in a lifetime occasion where she did not need to lock herself up.
With nothing to look at, her body continued to be swallowed by the darkness, until a minor shift happened.
It started as a small ray of light, something incredibly small, but beautiful to gaze upon. However, she soon realised that the light kept expanding faster and faster.
With no idea on what to do, nor any means to take action, she closed her eyes and simply allowed the light to engulf her.
When her mind finally cleared, the brilliance that almost blinded her decreased significantly. She opened her eyes and found herself in a large, unknown room. Confusion coursed through her being and even some panic that she quickly suppressed. She tried to focus on the last thing she remembered, but she merely felt more puzzled when her mind searched for the missing memories.
She was with Merlin and her brother Kay, having pulled out the sword Caliburn from its pedestal, her days as a knight would soon come to an end with her upcoming coronation and then... then... what was it?
Was there a hole in her memory? She tried to react, to get a grip on her mind and body. But she was just too confused, too shocked, too speechless. She remembered her training, her journey with Kay and Merlin and soon her final moments as Arturia Pendragon would be a memory of the past— and now she was in a room she did not recognise, for the interior was nothing like the houses in Britain. This place looked too lavish, too luxurious, too bright.
Arturia did not know what to do.
A burst of loud laughter woke her from her frantic state. She had no time to inspect her surroundings carefully as the first thing she noticed was an intimidating man, standing not far away from her. Tall, proud and with his arms crossed as he locked eyes with her. His body was covered in golden necklaces, bracelets, earrings and garbed in unusual clothing. He was emanating an air of royalty with his mere presence. His short blonde hair appeared almost golden, it stood up like raging fire, and his eyes could be mistaken for rubies. They were intense, as if capable of piercing through her soul. Arturia had to suppress a shudder and immediately deduced that she had to be careful around this man, for he was definitely not human.
"Um, Gil? What did you do?"
The voice did not belong to the man. Arturia quickly turned around to stare at another surreal presence. A woman? No, a man? She wasn't sure, but unlike the golden man, this one seemed more approachable. They stared at their companion, but not in shock or horror, rather more in curiosity. It was an expression that made it look like there wasn't anything surreal about this situation.
Arturia did not recognise the language that was spoken, but to her amazement, she was able to understand every syllable. Was it the work of sorcery? More chaos invaded her mind as she tried to discern her current situation and hopefully find a way out.
A smile crept over the golden man's face. It was a strange smile, one that showed accomplishment, pride and something else that she could not put her finger on.
"That brilliant light. I was able to not just perceive it, but I managed to bring it here." His tone was firm but quiet.
He stepped closer to her while keeping his eyes on her form.
"While it seems that this light isn't as radiant as in my dreams, it is unmistakably the same one."
Light? Was he talking about her? What did that mean? What were his intentions? Was she here because of a dream? Perhaps an unknown prophecy about a realm in peril and she had to aid its people to salvation? Why did Merlin never tell her anything about this? No, why would it be her in the first place?
Arturia had no idea what the golden man was planning, but she did not trust it— nor him— one bit. She took a step back, but he continued his silent approach.
"Then, what are you going to do with this woman?"
The golden man halted right in front of her. His eyes narrowing as if he was memorising every inch of her body. "What else would I do with her? I'm going to make sure she is educated properly to become my queen," he finally exclaimed.
"What?! No, I refuse!" Arturia could not keep her thoughts hidden as she fiercely rebuked the man's statement. Horror coursed through her veins, along with astonishment and relief that she had been able to find her voice again.
Queen?! Her?! This man was delusional! This had to be a jest, right?! A horrible prank pulled by Merlin! It had to be, there was no other explanation! Why would this man, whom she did not even know, nor had ever met before, want to marry her?
Her reaction seemed to amuse the man, but his expression quickly turned stern. "I have not asked for your opinion, I am merely informing you of my decision. You should be honoured to have been given the privilege to be married to the great King Gilgamesh."
Gilgamesh? The name sounded foreign to her. Despite everything Merlin had taught her about Britain and the neighbouring countries, she had never heard of a King named Gilgamesh. Arturia frowned as she looked at the King.
"Honoured? Privilege? What nonsense are you spouting?! I have been whisked away from my home to some unknown lands without my knowledge or consent and you think I would agree to this depravity?!" Arturia noticed the volume in her voice rising and she hated the panic she could detect in it.
Gilgamesh did not care for her protests, but a small glint was present in his eyes while she was talking as if he had detected the panic she tried to suppress. She wasn't sure what it meant, but Arturia was certain that it was nothing good.
"You certainly have a lot of foolish bravery to talk to your king like that, but I shall forgive you."
"I don't serve any king! My duty is to serve my country!" Her horror was turning into anger as she denied the man with a glare.
Gilgamesh glared right back at her, but after a while, his glare became amused and was followed by a chuckle.
"In spite of that inexperienced face, I am rejoiced to see some fire in your eyes. Very well, try to struggle all you want. Entertain me with your fire, but my decision will not change. Enkidu!"
He turned to the beautiful person.
"Yes, what is it, Gil?"
"I want you to aid this woman in her education."
"Me?" Enkidu blinked in surprise. "Wouldn't it be better to get a private teacher? I don't know how to teach anyone."
"I do not want to leave my bride in the care of a mongrel! You are the only one worthy for this job!"
Enkidu looked at Arturia as if they were trying to discern something. "I guess, you'll be in my care then? It's nice to meet you, young lady. My name is Enkidu and my apologies for my friend's behaviour. He tends to do whatever he pleases. I doubt I can be of much help, but I'll do my best."
"Enkidu, I am not in the mood for jokes!" Gilgamesh yelled at his friend.
While the name was strange and foreign, Enkidu definitely seemed like a pleasant person to communicate with, unlike that arrogant king. Since she had no one to rely on at the moment, the young knight concluded that she should at least become acquainted with the person.
"You have nothing to apologise for, Sir Enkidu."
Enkidu gave Arturia a glance upon being addressed in an unfamiliar way. "Enkidu is just fine," He scrutinised her carefully before opening his mouth again. "And what is your name?"
A short moment of silence overcame her as the girl gathered her thoughts. Considering that this person was kind enough to introduce themselves, it would be an insult as a knight if she didn't do the same. "Arturia, my name is Arturia Pendragon. I am a knight in training for the kingdom of Britain."
There was no need to reveal anything else about herself.
"Arturia." The king repeated her name as if he was testing it, not saying much before locking eyes with her again. "I will give you the honour to be escorted by me to your temporary quarters. My subjects will make sure you're cleaned up and you will receive suitable clothes."
Unconsciously, Arturia glanced at her garments. She was wearing a white dress that just covered her knees, her armour to protect her upper body, her gauntlets and her boots. It was the knight garb she had reluctantly accepted from Merlin, woven by magic with the main function of preventing the citizens from recognising her. While not suitable for Britain's winters, there was no problem with wearing it during summer or spring.
Now that she thought about it, she was feeling quite warm. She had not noticed this before, due to the absurdity of the situation she had found herself in, but she became aware of how her clothes and bangs were beginning to stick to her body. Arturia quickly wiped her forehead. She knew it would not solve the problem and soon her clothes would be covered in sweat.
This place was definitely much warmer than in Britain. It was no surprise that the locals would also dress in such an immodest fashion, aside from it being part of their culture.
"Do not make me wait, Arturia."
The authority in Gilgamesh's tone snapped her immediately out of her reverie. He was still looking at her, his expression firm and demanding while standing next to a large door and Arturia could not help but frown at his arrogance. Was this how a king was supposed to act? This was the complete opposite of what she had learned from Merlin's lectures.
The girl wanted nothing more than flee from this place. To run, to hide, to be anywhere but near this distasteful man. But, if she did that, she would be a disgrace to her country, a disgrace to the people and a disgrace as a knight. A coward was not fit to rule a kingdom and so she swallowed her thoughts — and her pride — and reluctantly followed the golden man and his companion.
The corridors they walked through were incredible. They were large, decorated in fancy tapestries and golden objects. The walls did not seem to be made of the same elements as the houses back in Britain. Arturia could not help feeling amazed. This arrogant man clearly wanted to boast to the world about his wealth. It was one of the few things she could never understand about nobles: the undying need to surround themselves with luxury.
"I see that you're overwhelmed by the amount of wealth I possess. But this little isn't even enough to show you the vastness of my riches."
Arturia flinched, she had not expected her pace to slow down so much that she was lagging behind. The King stood in front of her, obviously amused by her reaction.
"I was just surprised to see how different this place is from my home. I have never travelled to other countries. The grounds of my homeland are the only thing I know and even back in Britain there is a lot I have not seen yet." It was slightly embarrassing to admit how much knowledge she lacked, but that was the reason why Merlin was guiding her and why she had been travelling with him and Kay: to get to know the people that would soon be under her rule, to make the best decisions to lead and protect them. That was the plan, at least, as long as she found a way to return there.
"There is enough time for you to familiarise yourself with Uruk," Gilgamesh answered.
"I would prefer to return to my home." Arturia looked at the king, her eyes locking with his, challenging him to change his mind.
"That will not happen. This is your new home," he answered with the same decisiveness.
"My home is Britain, where there are people counting on me! I cannot let them down!"
"The state of your homeland is no concern of mine. You will stay here and become my wife."
This king was definitely delusional, it was impossible to reason with him. Why was he so fixated on her? Because of that strange dream he mentioned? How did that make any sense?
While still lost in her thoughts, Arturia was led to a large door. Two guards stood there silently. Upon noticing their king they opened the door and beckoned her to enter. "These will be your temporary quarters, I will have the servants prepare a bath for you, so you can wash away the filth from your body. I will allow you to use this day to rest, but tomorrow I expect you to start your studies with Enkidu."
The bedroom was open and spacious. The first thing she noticed was the large bed, overlaid in gold and covered with linen sheets and pillows. Even Britain's nobility wouldn't have had the opportunity to enjoy such a luxury. It was big enough for at least five people to sleep in. On the other side of the room, there was a fancy desk and a set of two chairs and a brazier. On the far right there was a dresser, which she suspected didn't have anything in it... yet. The windows were small and there was an opening that led to the balcony. In the centre of the room lay a beautiful rug. This was definitely in stark contrast to her own sleeping chambers back home.
Gilgamesh called a passing servant, who nervously hurried to the room to prepare the bath. His eyes met Arturia's. "I expect this to be to your liking. If there is anything you require, my servants will tend to your every need."
The woman did not know how to answer and instead turned her attention back to the room. To be honest, she had no need for any of those luxuries. As long as she had a comfortable bed and a roof she was happy. Arturia approached the curtains, which seemed to be meant more for decoration than anything else, inspecting them carefully as her hand barely touched the fabric. She wasn't aware of what material it was made of, but she could guess it was expensive. Her gaze unconsciously shifted to the balcony.
Curiosity overtook her and Arturia shyly poked her head out, hoping to get a glimpse of the environment she found herself in. The view almost made her gasp in amazement.
Not a balcony, but a garden would have been a better definition. There were trees of unknown origin, various types of exotic flora and hidden behind all that was the amazing view of Uruk.
Its size was obviously bigger than Camelot. Instead of the pointy roofs, she knew from back home, all the roofs in Uruk were flat and neatly constructed around the palace. She could see glimpses of the market that seemed to be bustling with life. There was greenery she had never seen before, more exotic trees with large leaves poking out like hair, bushes adorning the streets, a large river separated the palace and the city and on the far end of the city she spotted... walls?!
Her eyes widened as she stared at the tall walls that surrounded the entire city. It was expected, walls were a perfect way to protect large cities. but for her, it meant that escaping and finding a way home would be even more difficult.
Arturia heard the golden man chuckle from behind her. There was no need to wonder about the reason for his behaviour. She could guess it easily.
"As you can see, trying to escape would be futile and trying to defy the King means punishment. So get the thought of escaping out of your head."
Punishment or not, she was not going to give up the hope to return to her homeland.
The servant's call caught their attention. The King guided Arturia back into the room, towards the bathing quarters. The young knight noticed that Enkidu had left to whatever duties they had to attend, but her attention was soon again taken by the new room she found herself in.
This room was used for bathing? Instead of a bathing tub that was common in Britain, the 'bath' that she was looking at was practically built into the floor, which occupied most of the room's space. Was it common here for the upper classes to have everything in abundance? Or was it just this king?
Arturia leaned over the edge, staring at the water and her reflection, it made her realise that she was indeed in need of a bath. Her hair— despite being tied in a low ponytail— was dishevelled, her bangs stuck to her forehead, and she felt her sweat slowly falling down her neck.
"My lady?" The servant nervously called out to Arturia.
The knight snapped out of her trance and looked at the woman. She was dressed in a light green robe, with a veil covering her mouth. Her skin was of a much darker tone than hers and her hair was a mix of brown and black. "Your—" she eyed Arturia's dress and armour carefully before continuing, "garments look very uncomfortable to wear. Please let me take care of them, I will bring you something more suitable."
The knight nodded and was about to reach for the straps that held her armour in place when she realised that Gilgamesh was still in the room. She halted in her ministrations and gave him an odd look, hoping he would get the message and take his leave.
However, he did not seem to understand her action. No, he simply did not care. Gilgamesh met her gaze and waited for Arturia to speak up.
"... your majesty, may I have some space?"
A smirk adjourned his features. "I believe this room is big enough for at least twenty mongrels."
He was obviously doing this on purpose.
"I mean, I would like to have some privacy while I bathe," Arturia rephrased.
The king gave the servant a look and she hastily left the room. "As you can see there is no one else in the room now."
"You are still here," she pointed out flatly.
"This is my palace and I can go wherever I decide to be," Gilgamesh rebuked her.
"I am not going to undress in front of a stranger and most definitely not in front of a man!"
"You are going to be my wife, leaving that aside I am certain your body has nothing that I have not seen before." His eyes narrowed lustfully as he looked over her body again and his smirk widened.
Her eyes narrowed as a wave of embarrassment and anger overtook her. She did not like what this man was implying. "Please leave the room, or I will not move from this spot." Arturia responded, her tone slightly louder and firmer. She knew that she would need more than just her determination and conviction to get this King to cooperate, but for now, she had no other ideas.
"Such a stubborn woman." His tone betrayed a lack of patience.
Gilgamesh walked steadily towards Arturia, giving her no opportunity to react as he lifted her over his shoulders. He held her petite body in place with one muscular arm, while taking off her boots with the other.
"Unhand me!" she yelled loudly as she tried to struggle free from his grasp. Sadly for the young knight, Gilgamesh's grip was too strong.
"If the presence of the king awes you that much to the point that you have forgotten how to undress, then I will give you the honour of doing it for you."
"Do not touch me!" Arturia protested while she was still struggling to keep the skirt of her dress in place.
The king ignored her and continued to take off her armour, the heavy metal fell to the ground with a loud 'clunk'. However, the King's movements halted when he caught sight of her scabbard and sword. "Oh, it seems like you have something interesting with you."
Panic surged through Arturia's veins, yet she quickly suppressed the emotion. "Return me my blade this instant!"
Ignoring the knight's demands, he undid the straps that held her weapon on her. Arturia couldn't help but let out a gasp. The King carefully inspected the weapon from the fancy decorated hilt to the gold on the scabbard. While still keeping a tight grip on her, he unsheathed the blade.
"I am surprised that the people from your homeland allow a little girl like you to run around with a weapon. Especially one that is not suited for combat." His hands grazed over the engravings on the blade, looking carefully over the words, despite knowing that he could not read them. "I see, so this is one of the swords of selection."
Arturia froze as she heard the man's words. Did he know about Caliburn? No, he called it one of the swords of selection. But where did he hear that from?
"How do you know about that?" she asked carefully.
"I have perceived it in a dream of mine. While it is inferior to the original which I possess, I do have to admit that it holds a certain amount of beauty. But how long will it last if it is used carelessly in combat?"
"This sword is important to me. I do not care if you take away my armour, but I refuse to be parted with my blade!"
"Does this mean you're prepared to be obedient if I allow you to keep your blade?"
From her position, she looked over her shoulder, eyeing the king who was obviously giving her a proud smirk.
"I will never relinquish my blade nor will I ever undress in front of anyone!"
Arturia expected Gilgamesh to become enraged by her defiance, but to her surprise, he was smiling. She felt his shoulders shake and was almost taken aback by the laughing sound coming from his mouth.
"Hahahahaha! Very well then, let's see how far that fierceness of yours can take you." He returned the sword but did not relinquish his hold on her. "You may keep that sword of yours as I have no desire to have it, however, you will be obedient and bathe."
Her expression froze as he resumed to undo the remaining straps of her armour. "I said, unhand me, you depraved fiend!"
Arturia felt physically and mentally exhausted, perhaps mostly mentally. While her constant struggling did save her from getting stripped naked by King Gilgamesh and getting possibly — no, certainly — ravaged by him, they did end up tripping and falling into the bath. Luckily, no one got hurt and she took that opportunity to quickly get out of the bath and out of the room as well. After a while, Gilgamesh had finally left and allowed her to bathe in peace, yet not before giving her the most amused expression she had ever seen on a person. That man was like a big child playing with a new toy.
Still, she could not help the feeling of humiliation wash through her being as she recalled the incident. Her behaviour was an insult to her pride as a knight, but she was at a loss.
Arturia wanted to go home, and fast, but there was no one to reach out to, nor did she have any clues on how to return to her homeland. She did not know where exactly Uruk was located, but from the hot temperature and the unknown culture, she concluded that she was miles away from Britain.
Arturia let out a heavy sigh and a shiver ran down her spine. After she had gotten dressed, she laid down on the bed and had fallen asleep. The stress and anguish that build up inside of her had finally caught up with her when she was alone, furthermore, she was unaccustomed to this kind of heat. As a result, she felt listless and in no mood to familiarise herself with the environment.
A soft breeze had woken her from her slumber. The girl did not know how much time had passed, but judging from the darkening sky outside, she was sure it had been a few hours.
Arturia turned around, staring blankly at the other half of the room that led to the garden. She really hoped that this was just a bad dream and that Kay or Merlin would wake her up soon.
Her gaze hovered on her hand and slowly crept down towards the gown she was given to wear. It was a light blue tunic which reached her ankles, and a cloth with various patterns was tied around the middle. Arturia had tied her hair again to prevent it from sticking to the back of her neck. She had also been given jewellery to wear, but the woman had refused. Decorating oneself in jewellery was pointless. The strange shoes, which the servant called sandals, were resting next to the bed. It felt too unfamiliar to walk in such open shoes that protected her feet only from the floor.
Arturia closed her eyes again. She did not feel like she could sleep anytime soon, but sleep was the only haven left to protect her from the madness she found herself in.
"My lady, you're being summoned for dinner."
She slightly opened her eyes when she heard the servant call for her. After a few seconds passed, she sat up; "I am not hungry."
The servant observed Arturia's appearance, from her dishevelled hair to her dress. "Forgive me my lady, but the King will not tolerate it if you don't show up for the evening feast. Let's prepare you quickly before the King becomes impatient."
Prepare? While the servant's words confused her, Arturia did not protest when the servant led her back to the bath. She knew that, if she refused, the poor servant would surely be punished. From what she had been able to observe Gilgamesh was definitely not a merciful person.
Arturia was unfamiliar with letting anyone so close to her, but she knew the consequences for the servant would be dire if the King lost his patience, so she reluctantly let the woman help her with the new bath. Afterwards, she was quickly dried, dressed and, to her chagrin, she even had to accept to wear makeup and perfume.
"Is it really necessary to change my attire?" Arturia asked as she inspected her dress. It was a deep red one this time. Hadn't she changed her clothes already a few hours before?
The servant was carefully picking out a necklace for Arturia to wear when she looked at her. "Yes, it's customary here to bathe and dress before the evening meal."
While Arturia had wanted to protest against the jewellery, in the end, she had to compromise with the more simple designs, a golden necklace with a red stone and a few bracelets.
When she was properly dressed, the servant led her towards the dining hall. Just like when Gilgamesh had led her towards her quarters, Arturia was again impressed by the layout of the corridors. She had already deduced that this was very different from the noble houses and castles back in Britain, how different was a question that would be answered in due time. After what felt like another of the many turns they had taken, they finally arrived at their destination.
The large doors opened and Arturia felt like her whole body froze on the spot as she took in the new sight.
A crowd of people sat together, various plates and bowls filled with meat, vegetables and fruits were presented in front of them. There were also musicians playing foreign songs. While the faces were unknown to Arturia, it was obvious that they were important people. At the head she spotted Gilgamesh, he was looking at her, having noticed her presence the moment she entered the room. Enkidu was sitting next to him.
A shiver of discomfort ran through her, while she had told this herself various times, she could still not believe that she was on foreign grounds. Merlin's words resurfaced as she observed her surroundings. "A king bears a heavy responsibility, you need to learn how to behave in front of the court, in front of the nobles and the citizen."
Mentally, she cursed her current prediction. Merlin wasn't there to guide her, Kay wasn't there to support her, she had to do this all by herself. Even if she was in lands unknown to her and the civilisation was foreign, she had her pride as a knight and she would rather be dead than tarnish it.
She bit her lower lip and forced the turmoil that had grown inside of her stomach to settle down. Her expression was stoic and composed as she allowed the servant to escort her towards Gilgamesh.
The man observed her, from her clothes to her slender figure, her posture, her face, everything. Arturia held her ground and eyed him back, her thoughts unreadable. A smile crept on his face. "You look lovely in red. Now come."
He gestured for her to come closer. And even though Arturia hesitated for a few seconds, in the end, she carefully took a seat next to the King while keeping some distance.
"I see that you are still acting stubborn," he sighed.
Without any warning, he grabbed her by her waist. The woman could not suppress a yelp before she was forced closer to him. His muscular arm held her possessively against him.
Unconsciously Arturia pushed against the King. Her anger flared up as she glared at him.
Gilgamesh ignored her protest and turned his attention to the crowd. He raised his goblet, the performance of the musicians interrupted as everyone's attention was on the King. "Tonight is a celebration! Your king has finally found someone worthy to be his queen!"
Arturia did not bother to pay attention, her gaze shifted everywhere around the room except the feast in front of her. She was trying to tell herself that this was just a horrible nightmare, that she would wake up in Britannia, greeted by Merlin and Kay. However, the knight knew all too well that she was just trying to deceive herself away from the truth. She caught Enkidu's stare. He was smiling, probably a gesture to make her more comfortable. Not that it helped her much, she still felt trapped in a cage.
The cheer of the crowd forced Arturia to look in front of her. The music resumed where it had left off and the people began to eat.
"You may take whatever you want."
Arturia eyed Gilgamesh from the corner of her eye. He grabbed a piece of meat and took his time to savour the taste. His gaze was not on her, but on the crowd. His other arm was still resting on her waist.
Slowly her attention went to the large feast. There were all kinds of strange substances. She identified the meat and some vegetables. As for the fruits, apples and figs were some of the few she could recognise.
While Arturia was by no means a picky eater and quite gluttonous, looking at the feast in front of her did not awaken her appetite. She kept looking at the food until she decided to at least take one bite so she would not call any more unnecessary attention to herself and grabbed an apple. A soft sweet taste filled her mouth. Yes, she definitely remembered the taste of apples, but this one seemed to have more flavour than the ones she was used to.
Despite the richness in flavour, Arturia did not feel like she could stomach much.
She continued to chew slowly, trying to discern if her stomach was playing tricks on her and with great difficulty gulped it down. Her next bite was much smaller, but again there was no difference and she had to force it down her throat with the same effort.
Her behaviour did not escape Gilgamesh. "Is the food not to your liking?" he inquired.
Arturia focused on the apple and after another long pause, she swallowed. She chose her words carefully. "I do not feel like eating at the moment."
"Really? But the food is really good! You should try some akaru, or are you not feeling well?" It was Enkidu who asked while he inspected the woman carefully.
"I am perfectly fine," Arturia reassured. She was not in the mood to explain anything, but she presumed Enkidu would just ask her again if she didn't answer. Why couldn't she go back to the room that was provided to her? "I am just not accustomed to this place."
It didn't help that being practically forced to sit so close to Gilgamesh made her feel as if the sun was burning on her skin. Arturia was sure that by the time she was able to experience Britain's summer again she would be more than thankful.
The girl shifted her attention to Enkidu. He was still looking at her, or maybe observing her? With a defeated sigh, Arturia forced herself to finish the apple. Enkidu offered her some strange round bread which she accepted.
One thing she had noticed was that her appearance wasn't common here. All the people she had seen, aside from Enkidu and Gilgamesh, had similar characteristics in their appearance: dark hair, dark eyes and tanned skin. It was no surprise that Arturia's exotic looks would attract some kind of curiosity.
Not that she liked the attention; it made her feel like an object put on display.
Unconsciously she took a bite from the weird bread and her mind froze for a second when she faintly registered the flavour. She gulped it down and took another bite, this time she was carefully paying attention to her food. It had a surprisingly sweet taste to it aside from the many different substances that she could detect. She had no idea bread could taste sweet.
"It's delicious isn't it?" Enkidu smiled as he noticed the shift in her expression. "Honey is one of its ingredients, that's where the sweetness comes from. I devoured quite a lot of those when I tried them for the first time." They grabbed a piece themselves and contently consumed it. "'Tis great!" Enkidu exclaimed with his mouth full. They were in pure bliss.
"If you keep ingesting that at such a speed, you will end up repeating the previous incident," Gilgamesh commented, his tone was clear but lax and his attention was on his drink.
"But, it's so good Gil," Enkidu responded. "And it goes so well with beer." He gulped down his bread and grabbed another one.
"Do not speak with your mouth full, it is disgusting."
Enkidu did not respond and chewed feverishly, clearly trying to savour the taste before he swallowed it with beer. "It's not like you have to watch me eat."
"Even for a feast like this, it is my duty to observe everything around me."
Gilgamesh stole a glance at Arturia. The woman had not bothered to listen to their talk, her attention was on the food presented in front of them. While she had stated not to have an appetite, her eyes clearly said something else.
The king did not comment on his observation, instead, he continued to eat and converse with Enkidu while not letting the woman out of his sight.
By the time Arturia returned to her room she felt as if an eternity had gone by. She was finally alone with no eyes piercing her, but she could not erase the tension that surged through her body.
While she did appreciate Enkidu's attempts to make her feel more at ease, they had not helped her at all. Her stomach felt like it was tied in a knot, despite how good the food was she couldn't bring herself to eat but the bare minimum and, worst of all, she had definitely felt the king's eyes on her.
Arturia did not want to think about this horrible day at all, instead, she unceremoniously dropped herself on the bed, pride, dignity or anything else be damned. She was tired, she was upset, angry, confused and for the biggest part still in denial. Too many emotions were going through her body and she didn't know how to handle them, they almost made her want to cry.
But she did not, she refused to. Crying would mean that she acknowledged today's events, that she had accepted her situation, that she lost.
Besides, Arturia did not cry. She couldn't even remember what the last time was when she had shed tears. If she showed her emotions, she would be an open book for her enemies, easy to read and to manipulate.
The woman let out a groan. After sunset, the temperature had definitely dropped, but she could still feel the sweat sticking to her body. Thus, she lay completely still in her bed, not bothering to cover herself with the blankets and simply waited for sleep to finally take over.
Chapter 3: Her Determination
Thank you very much for your patience. It took a while to get this chapter out since there were many parts I wasn't satisfied with and Google wasn't always cooperative. I had my doubts about the ending of this chapter, but I'm still quite satisfied with it. I always try to give it my best so updates will continue to be slow and I also have health problems. But the updates will come.
Special thanks to my Beta MidoriKurenaiYume.
Arturia woke up feeling restless, with her mind seeming to be both clear and foggy. A groan escaped her mouth as she turned around, and she was ready to tell Merlin to stop with whatever strange idea he had come up with that disturbed her sleep.
Her thoughts, however, froze immediately when she noticed how odd her cot felt. No, it wasn't a cot she was sleeping in, this was definitely a bed, and the familiar scent of wet grass and spring air she was accustomed to had morphed into something dry and floral. It was completely unfamiliar to her.
The woman sat up and discerned the small holes in the wall on the other side of the room. She blinked a few times, trying to recall how she ended up in this place.
Memories of the previous day quickly flooded her mind. The strange room she found herself in, the intolerable king and his friend, the incident in the bathing room, the feast...
Arturia gritted her teeth, a burst of frustration flared through her being. It was not a horrible nightmare after all. No joke, no illusion and she was certain that Merlin had nothing to do with this. But if that was the case, how did she end up here? What strange magic had been used to summon her here?
And what had happened to Merlin and Kay? Were they alright? Were they still in Britain? Were they looking for her? How were they going to find her? What consequences would this have for Britain's future? If they had to postpone — or worse — cancel the coronation, it meant that Britain would still be without a king and vulnerable to invasions. The country was already in chaos, and with her absence, the situation would only worsen.
Her hands gripped the sheets of her bed tightly as her mind continued to wander.
"I need to find a way to return, and quickly," she spoke out loud.
Arturia got out of bed. She froze for a moment when she realised that the blanket had fallen on the ground.
Strange, she did not remember covering herself with it. Even though she had a small moment of bewilderment, the knight decided not to ponder too much over it and looked for her sword.
Caliburn lay exactly where she had left it, next to the bed where she could easily reach it if an emergency were to occur. While it was still dark and difficult to navigate, Arturia moved across the room carefully until she reached the garden, where there were ample open spaces. It was surprisingly chilly outside. The sounds of her footsteps rang loud and clear in her ears.
She did not know what time it was, but she knew that she would not be able to fall asleep anymore. Her mind would not allow her even if she hadn't rested enough.
Between the gaps of the plants and trees, Arturia detected faint signs of the emerging sun. It would not take long before the city stirred and the inhabitants resumed their lives.
That thought was quickly thrown away as Arturia tied the skirt of her sleeping gown so it would fall just slightly over her knees and readied her sword.
She took a deep breath and began to swing it.
Her swings were smooth and fluid while she repeated the motions. Her mind was completely blank, solely focused on her blade and body. After a while, she positioned her sword again and swung her sword in various motions, as if she was fighting an invisible enemy.
Left, right, left again, parry, sidestep, thrust forward. Her body moved as she ordered and while she would have preferred to have someone like Kay or Merlin to spar with her, for now, she will continue her training on her own like she always did when she woke up before her companions.
Arturia was so engrossed with her training that she did not notice her surrounding nor the time. The instant she felt something touching her shoulder, she instinctively dodged and held her blade against the neck of the newcomer.
A loud shriek awoke Arturia from her trance, the knight froze and stared at the green-haired individual. It was that beautiful person from the previous day. What was their name again?
"It really is a pleasant surprise to see you up and ready first thing in the morning, but you should be careful. You gave that poor servant a pretty incredible scare."
Despite having a blade against their throat, they did not seem intimidated at all. The servant woman behind the beautiful person, on the other hand, was quite frightened. The basket with objects she had been carrying had fallen on the ground.
Arturia quickly lowered her blade. Her brain finally registered the growing heat and sunlight on her skin. How long had she been practising?
"My apologies, I had not noticed your presence..."
"It's just Enkidu and don't worry about it." Enkidu glanced over their shoulder at the servant. "That poor woman has been trying to get your attention for a while, but you were so busy that you didn't notice. She didn't dare to approach you and well— luckily I decided to check on you early. Go wash yourself and let's have our morning meal together!"
Enkidu seemed very eager when they proposed to have breakfast with her. Arturia could not help but stare at them blankly before she collected herself. "My apologies for asking. But do I need to prepare myself?"
The knight received an odd stare from Enkidu before they collected themselves and released a chuckle. "No, that's only for the evening and yesterday was quite exceptional."
Well, that was a huge relief for Arturia. She still did not like the idea of eating with strangers. But as long as she wasn't put on the spotlight like before, she would try to endure it.
Arturia obediently followed the servant to the bathing room. This time, the servant was willing to leave her alone in the room and the knight used this moment to collect herself.
Now that she was certain that she was trapped here, she had to find a way back to Britain. But she could not act rashly. She was in unknown lands with no knowledge to what lay beyond the city walls. Even if she somehow managed to escape, she would certainly become lost and run into some kind of trouble, in the worst case scenario, she could be captured and sold. While it wouldn't be that different from her current situation, at least now she was given proper living arrangements and care.
A huge sigh escaped her lips after she splashed her face with water.
"I should concentrate on gaining knowledge and try to familiarise myself with this place," she mumbled to herself.
One step at a time, that was one of Merlin's lessons. If she tried to rush her escape plans, the chance of failure would be higher. But she also felt that it would be dangerous if she stayed quiet for too long.
The king, while arrogant and prideful, was definitely not a fool. He would not make it easy for her to escape. She had to plan carefully and wait for the right moment to take action. For now, she would follow Enkidu's lectures and learn as much as she could until she learned how to survive on her own in these lands.
With a new goal set, Arturia finished washing and got dressed. When she returned to her room, she noticed Enkidu sitting at the table with their breakfast.
"I guessed that after yesterday's meal and your sword practice you must be famished. So, I made sure there's enough food to last you the whole day."
Arturia did not answer, her eyes wandered between the strange person and the food. "Is this customary?"
"What is?" Enkidu asked.
"Do you eat breakfast in your chambers?" Arturia rephrased her question.
Enkidu glanced over the food. "Oh, not necessarily. I just thought it would be more convenient to start your lessons after breakfast. Besides, Gil is busy and I don't like eating alone."
Every person has their preferences. Arturia had to admit she preferred this arrangement than to have to deal with that intolerable king again.
"Then, I would gladly eat with you," the woman commented politely as she sat down next to Enkidu.
Arturia wondered what had been wrong with her body last night. She must have been insane to not appreciate the food, it was delicious! All these unknown spices: the flavours, the texture, everything was exploding in her mouth.
While she did appreciate the food back in Britain, she did not know whether the food served for the nobles was as exquisite.
While Arturia continued to wolf down her breakfast, she felt Enkidu's eyes on her. The woman froze in her actions and gave them an awkward look. She had completely forgotten that she was not alone.
"Is there something amiss?" Despite the slight embarrassment that washed over her, Arturia kept her tone smooth.
"Ah- no, I was just surprised. For someone of your stature, you eat so much. How long have you been training with your sword?"
"I am not sure," the woman replied after a short silence. "I had trouble sleeping, so I decided to continue my training."
"Is there something wrong with the bed?" Enkidu was munching on a few dates when they gave Arturia a questioning look.
"Not at all!"
Or maybe there was? By no means did she feel completely rested. She was sure that, as the day passed and the heat turned unbearable again, she would end up in a worse state than she had found herself in the previous day.
No, it was probably just the drastic change in climate to which she was not accustomed. It made her feel stifled and tired.
"If there is anything you need, feel free to come to me. I'll be happy to help you with anything."
Enkidu's comment made Arturia look back at them. "Can you send me back to my homeland then?" She could not help sounding hopeful.
"Except with that." Their answer was quick and blunt.
"Or could you tell me how to return to my home, please?!" Enkidu's remark made her feel unsettled, but she did not want to give up.
"I can't do that either." Enkidu frowned as they gulped down their food with milk. "It's not like I know how to do it in the first place. The one who brought you here was Gil, not me."
Her chances to return seemed slim from the beginning, but she didn't realise how slim they actually were. If the King was her only option to go home, she would need a miracle to have him change his mind.
"I do not belong here." Arturia stared Enkidu straight in their eyes, determination burning in her emerald orbs. "I have no interest in your king's plans with me, I abhor them. I refuse to be obedient and marry such an intolerable tyrant like him." There was no trace of emotion in Arturia's voice and she did not falter in her pose.
The knight waited for Enkidu to understand what she was conveying. She would resist as much as she could.
"Yes, I expected you would say such a thing," Enkidu answered after a short silence. "but for now, you should try to get used to Uruk."
They quickly finished their meal and Arturia could not help but watch them in silence. Enkidu took a few gulps from their drink before turning their attention back to Arturia.
"Let's start with your lessons. Today I will teach you how to read Sumerian and how to write." Enkidu announced as they grabbed what appeared to be several tablets and placed them on the table.
Arturia looked at the tablets and blinked. She tried to comprehend the usefulness of the tablets before turning her attention back to Enkidu.
"You brought along carved rocks?"
Enkidu crooked their eyebrows upon hearing those words. "Carved rocks?" they repeated while gazing at Arturia for a short moment and turned their attention back to the 'carved rocks'. A snicker escaped them before they composed themselves, "You mean the tablets? They're made of clay, actually."
The woman looked closely at the tablets. "What are those symbols?"
"That's the writing system the humans use," Enkidu answered.
Arturia did not react. Her focus was completely on the tablet and her mind went blank as she looked at the inscription. She was supposed to learn how to read that? Where were the letters? Where were the words and how did the civilians write on those tablets?
Enkidu did not pay attention to Arturia's behaviour and placed the first clay tablet in front of her. "Let's start with something simple, alright? Later I will show you how to use the stylus for writing."
This looked harder than she had expected.
A couple of hours had passed and the young knight was still struggling with identifying each symbol. Most of them looked exactly the same, or were they just similar? She did not know what to think about them as pondering over them would only increase her frustration.
Next to the tablet, which she was trying to study, was a soft piece of clay. Enkidu had taught her the most basic of Sumerian writings and Arturia decided to write them down together with the alphabet that was taught to her in Britain as a reference. It did make things a little easier.
Arturia huffed in frustration. It felt like hours had passed. Over the last few minutes, she had found herself staring at the same lines over and over again without registering anything while her conscious slipped away due to the lack of sleep. But even if she had somewhat dozed off, Uruk's warm climate would wake her up in seconds.
"This cannot continue," she said as she finally decided to take a small break. Arturia could not take it anymore. Just trying to stay focused was already draining her out, her clothes were uncomfortable, her body felt itchy, she was covered in sweat and her neck had become stiff from sitting still for such a long time.
The knight rubbed her eyes fiercely, in a weak attempt to rid her body from exhaustion.
Yes, this frustrated her to no end. She was restless, tired, her limbs were even protesting and she felt completely trapped in the room. While it was not locked and no one had told her that she was not allowed to wander around, Arturia saw no point in getting lost.
She was well aware that she should get familiar with the place so she could try to secure an escape route in the near future, but for now, she would focus on gaining knowledge. Within the next few days, she could try to find out how much freedom she had.
While her mind explored possible actions that she could undertake, her eyelids grew heavy and before she knew it she felt a soft tap on her shoulder.
Arturia immediately shot up, completely startled when she looked at Enkidu's face.
"Are you tired?" They stared carefully at Arturia's form.
Despite the sudden wake-up call, Arturia's mind needed a few seconds before she realised what Enkidu was asking her. So she had fallen asleep after all. "I had difficulty with falling asleep last night, but it is nothing of concern."
"Would you like a change of space?"
The woman blinked upon hearing Enkidu's suggestion. She gave them an expectant look while waiting for them to continue.
"Staying in this room the whole day can feel quite suffocating. Even I am not completely used to living here. How about I show you around for a bit?"
Enkidu's words made Arturia realise that her body was starting to become stiff. She could definitely use a little break from her studies and especially from the room. Walking would hopefully relieve her from the fatigue that had overtaken her. But more importantly, she could try to find an escape route.
With that in mind, she replied without a second thought, "I would gladly take you up on that offer."
Contrary to Arturia's previous belief, the palace turned out to have a rather simple layout. Similar to the houses she observed from afar, it was a tall quadrilateral structure with many layers. She could definitely not compare it with the castles in Britain, except for maybe the number of rooms that they passed.
"And this is the main courtyard! The inner court is on your right and if we go ahead we will reach the storage rooms. The servant quarters are around there too and the path on your left goes to—."
... forget her previous statement, the palace could probably rival Britain's castles in terms of complication. A few days wouldn't be enough for her to memorize anything and she was sure that if she ever decided to roam around without Enkidu it would take days before she found her way back to her room.
Arturia let out a sigh and decided to put those discouraging thoughts aside. Her attention shifted to the courtyard and she couldn't help being mesmerized. It was even more beautiful than the garden outside her room.
The sun shone brightly, giving all the greenery a strong but calm feeling. Flowers, differentiating from deep red to flashy pink, from dark blue to bright yellow, gave life to the otherwise monotonous green of the plants.
While the lack of shade was disappointing, the woman had no qualms about taking a nap in the bushes. It was an activity she did from time to time back in Britain after her sword training. Not that she would try it anytime soon.
Arturia was almost startled when she heard Enkidu call her. "My apologies, I was lost in my thoughts."
"I'll show you the storage room next," Enkidu exclaimed as they exited the main courtyard. "It will take a while before we've covered the whole palace. I don't think I can show you everything in one day, but let's cover as much as we can. Oh, here we have the eastern courtyard." Enkidu pointed out.
Arturia unconsciously wiped the sweat from her forehead while she looked in the direction Enkidu was pointing. "How many courtyards are there in total?" she asked.
"I'm not sure. I never bothered with counting. You can ask Gil, though. I'm sure he knows."
The woman was not planning to start any conversation willingly with the king and decided to ignore Enkidu's comment. "Have you ever gotten lost?"
"Sometimes, some corridors do look alike. In the beginning, I ended up walking in circles when I was looking for the audience room. All the courtyards looked exactly alike so I hadn't realised it until Gil came to look for me." Enkidu smiled warmly while remembering the event.
Arturia did not comment and silently allowed Enkidu to guide her through the palace. It was definitely a maze, the many corridors and rooms she was shown gave a huge dent to her confidence. How was she going to secure an escape route if she couldn't even find her own room without a guide?
She felt the eyes of the servants on them while walking. This was something she would have to get used to. No matter how much time passed, her looks would always stick out like a sore thumb.
"This is the storage room!" Enkidu finally exclaimed as they entered a large room. "This room is used to collect the tax and payments of the people as well for goods that will be used for trade."
Enkidu guided Arturia further into the place used for storage. The room was divided into several sections where all kinds of goods were stored. There was wheat, barley, cloths and many more items that were neatly sorted and stockpiled. The knight watched in silence as she saw the slaves work; some men were carrying the heavy loads to their perspective places and another one seemed to be checking the inventory.
While her and Enkidu's presence was certainly noticed, the slaves still continued with their work, albeit more carefully.
Arturia did not know what to say, a lot of thoughts and comments were passing through her mind but she could not find it in her to articulate them. She was completely mesmerised by the environment.
"You said you store wares for trade here?"
"Among the other things, yes. There are factory products stored, there is beer —Uruk is well known for its beer, you should try it. Most of the wool and linen is used for personal use, but these are also stored for trading purposes," Enkidu explained carefully while they allowed Arturia to take a closer look at the contents.
"I have to admit, this is impressive. But how well secured is it? Isn't there a risk of robbery?"
"Well, aside from the guards keeping an eye out, anyone who dares to steal from Gil would have to face death by execution. I haven't seen anyone who is foolish enough to try and steal something from the palace while being fully aware of the consequences."
Enkidu's gaze shifted to the exit where two guards were stationed. They were two well-built men, obviously not easy opponents for lowly thieves and with a tyrant as a king, fear would have been an obvious reason as to why no one would dare to attempt a robbery in the palace. Arturia watched the guards carefully before she returned her attention back to Enkidu, who continued with their explanation.
By the time they exited the storage room, the sky was softly glowing from the approaching twilight.
"I guess it's almost time for dinner." Enkidu pondered as they looked at the sky from the courtyard they were at. "Hmmm, how about I show you one more thing. I'm sure you're going to like it."
"What do you have in mind?" Arturia asked. Her gaze shifted from the direction of Enkidu's gaze to Enkidu themselves.
Enkidu did not respond, instead, their attention appeared to have shifted towards something else, or rather, someone else. "Oh, I didn't expect you to be here at this time. Did you get bored and scared everyone away?"
Gilgamesh huffed at his friend's remark. The king stood leisurely a few steps away from Enkidu and Arturia.
"Those mongrels don't know when to shut up. The last audiences were all of minor importance, but they kept insisting," the king answered with a bored tone. "I decided to send them all away unless they were inclined to lose their heads. At least you seem to be enjoying yourself, Enkidu."
Gilgamesh's gaze switched from Enkidu to Arturia. The woman did not pay attention to the two. Her tense body and stare was vigilant on the large feline creature that was approaching her.
She had never seen anything like it. The beast reminded her of a cat, but much bigger, more dangerous and more majestic. Arturia took a few steps back and unconsciously reached for her sword, only to realise that it was back in her chambers. She gritted her teeth in frustration for making such a careless mistake.
"There is no need for such hostility. Marduk won't hurt you unless you challenge him to," Gilgamesh commented. A hint of amusement was present in his tone.
"Is it yours?" Arturia asked with caution.
"Of course he is. Why would I allow a wild beast in my palace?"
The knight eyed the beast again. Soft groans vibrated from its mouth. It was observing her, coming closer to sniff her legs and bump its head against her. Arturia had to use all her might to not fall on the ground.
"It seems like Marduk is interested in you," Enkidu told her. "Be nice to Arturia, she's going to stay here for a while." Their hand brushed against the beast's fur.
She wasn't sure if Enkidu was just trying to reassure her or if they were just good with handling animals. "Is this... some kind of cat?"
A hearty laugh erupted from Gilgamesh as he heard Arturia utter that sentence.
The king's reaction annoyed her and made her feel slightly embarrassed despite knowing that it was completely reasonable for her to ask such a question.
"It is a lion," he finally answered. Despite his behaviour a few moments before, Gilgamesh sounded completely serious. "They are quite similar to cats, but contrary to them, they are definitely not harmless."
Arturia looked back at the lion. "A lion..." she repeated carefully as if to try out the foreign word.
"While they are predators by nature, they are also lazy. He also knows full well that he should not challenge my authority."
That did not make Arturia feel reassured at all.
The lion let out a large yawn, its teeth flashing and giving the woman a very good idea of how sharp those fangs were. It reminded her of the bears or wolves back in Britain. Dangerous, wild and fierce, but there were still people who were insane enough to try and keep them as pets.
"Is this your first time seeing a lion?" Enkidu enquired.
"Yes, we don't have these animals back in Britain. I have seen cats or dogs and even wild animals like bears, deers or wolves. But I have never seen an animal like this one." Arturia's gaze was fixated on the animal as she explained.
The round ears, the fluffy-looking paws, the tail which was wagging from side to side, the head and neck which were all covered in fur. She was scrutinising every part of the unfamiliar animal. It looked very soft, but that was the same case with bears and she had already experienced a few encounters with those large animals. Domesticated or not, her subconscious kept telling her that it was a predator.
While she was observing, the lion turned around and left. It was so unexpected that Arturia could not help but watch the figure of the animal disappear.
"That's strange," Enkidu murmured.
"Is there something amiss?" Arturia finally tore her eyes from the direction Marduk had disappeared to.
"Usually, he doesn't behave like that. Maybe he picked something up, he seemed very interested in your scent."
Her scent? Why? Did she have a strange smell? She had washed herself properly in the morning. Was it because she was from Britain? Wait, how did Enkidu know that it was her scent? Arturia had a strong urge to verify but she decided against it... for now.
Despite the lion's odd behaviour, Gilgamesh did not pay it any heed. "Enkidu, were you heading somewhere?"
"I wanted to show Arturia the armoury." Enkidu glanced at the woman before returning their attention back to their friend. "I'm pretty sure she would be interested."
"Ooh, is that so?" Gilgamesh's gaze met Arturia's. She did not react to the way he was looking at her. She did not show any reaction at all, her face was completely composed and stoic. "The armoury is nothing to be impressed with, it can't be compared to the number of treasures I have stored."
"That is true," Enkidu agreed. "But, you're not planning to show her anytime soon."
"Of course I won't. Only someone I deem worthy will be given that honour."
It was not like Arturia was interested in whatever gold or luxuries Gilgamesh had amassed, especially since he was probably exaggerating and boasting. She only wanted to find a safe escape route.
"However, I do feel generous enough to grace you with my presence during your tour." His expression was somewhat mischievous as he passed Enkidu and Arturia and headed towards the weapon storage. "Now, do not make me wait!" He called after them.
Arturia could not register Gilgamesh' final words. Her mind had become completely blank when the King suddenly decided to tag along. The woman couldn't help but blink once, and then another time. She looked back at the direction they had come from and then at the sky. Despite everything that was going through her mind, she could not help being fixated on one single thought.
What about the evening meal?
Chapter 4: Solitude
It's been a while I know. I've been very busy lately. I've been occupied with moving my stuff to my new place. I was hoping to get everything done by this week, but I sprained my ankle so I'm focusing on recovering for now. Anyway because of all the things I have to take care of this chapter is a bit shorter than normal. I also feel like it lacks something, but while rereading the chapter over and over again I decided that it doesn't feel like there's anything to add. Well, whatever can't be covered now will be covered later.
Anyway, enjoy. My thanks again to Midori for Beta reading.
A heavy sigh escaped Arturia’s lips. It has been a little more than a week since she had found herself in Uruk and there was still so much she did not understand. Too much. And no matter how much she tried, thinking about it resulted in a heavy headache. And to worsen her frustration, she still hadn’t found an escape route. In her current condition, it seems that that wish was impossible.
Even if she were to miraculously find an escape route, she knew she would not last long outside the city.
She was still not used to the heat, and her sleeping schedule had become completely uneven. She hadn’t even been able to memorise the layout of the Palace, nor had she ever visited the city. She couldn’t even imagine how the landscape outside of the city looked like and by the end of the day her appetite would disappear completely, her energy hit rock bottom and she had already started to lose count of times she had requested to be sent back to her home.
Those thoughts alone were a deep insult to her pride. If Merlin and Kay were to see her in this state, Merlin would tease her while Kay— No she didn’t want to think about it. She was still angry at him for the stunt he had pulled during their last sparring session. She believed he would be disappointed in her. But the disappointment would probably be directed at her current situation and that thought would infuriate her even more.
Arturia glanced awkwardly at the tablet in front of her. She swallowed the saliva that was slowly piling up in her mouth and she turned her head to swiftly glance at Enkidu.
Enkidu stood behind her, their arms crossed and they were eying her expectantly. Despite their gentle expression, the woman could detect strictness from them.
“I cannot read these full sentences out loud. It’s too hard for me.” Arturia finally decided to break the silence between them.
“You won’t know unless you try. Besides, this is your punishment. You’re lucky I’m being lenient with you. Or should we do this in front of Gil?”
“That is not necessary. I already apologized for my actions.”
“An apology is not enough. Human society would not survive if everyone could get away with just an apology. Besides, apologies have no value if you don’t mean it.”
Silence lingered in the room. Arturia and Enkidu continued to hold each other's gazes with firm determination and a bit of stubbornness on Arturia’s part.
“Well, it’s not like I could call that little incident from today an escape attempt.”
Despite the calmness in Enkidu’s tone, Arturia could swear that they were enjoying themselves. “You got stuck in a tree.” This time they were unable to hide their amusement and almost let out a chuckle. “I wish I could tell this to Gil.”
Arturia’s face quickly turned into a deep crimson that she could not suppress. “You promised to keep it a secret!”
“Yes, but you do have to accept this punishment. If you don’t comply I don’t see why I should keep a broken promise. I’ve given you the whole day to study them.“
“These are tongue-twisters!” Arturia held the tablet in front of Enkidu. “I spent the first half of the day trying to figure this out! I still cannot understand half of what’s written on this tablet! How do you expect me to read this out loud?!”
She could not help but curse in her mind. This was the most embarrassing moment of her life... no, that had been a few hours before when she attempted to search for an escape route from a higher place.
How she had ended up in that tree, even Arturia couldn’t figure it out. The heat must have been driving her crazy and she hadn’t even made any noise. She had not asked for help, she had been silently contemplating her next course of action when Enkidu had found her. How he had found her was also beyond her understanding.
They had ended up in a staring contest before Enkidu— to Arturia’s amazement— jumped to the top of the three and carried her down. She had been too stunned to realise how Enkidu easily dragged her back to her chambers where she was forced to learn how to read tongue-twisters and was supposed to read them out loud in front of her tutor.
“Oh, and Gil will send a priestess to take a look at you. To make sure you’re not starting to become malnourished,” Enkidu informed Arturia.
“Priestess?” Arturia’s brow furrowed. This was the first time she heard that word. “What is that?”
“A priestess is a woman who devotes herself to the gods,” Enkidu explained. “They work at the temples; they pray, heal the sick and wounded and they tend to the gods.”
That sounded familiar. “Like clergies?”
“Is that how your people call priests and priestesses?” Enkidu asked.
“I think they are,” Arturia confirmed. “They have similar, if not the same roles. But what did you mean with ‘they tend to the gods’ or goddesses’ needs’?”
“Hm?” Enkidu gave Arturia a questioning look. “It’s like I said. They serve the gods or goddesses of the temple they work at.”
Arturia stayed silent. She contemplated Enkidu’s words. Did they mean that they worshipped various gods? Like the Romans in the past? It was not like she judged people on their beliefs, everyone was free to have their own opinions.
“So, you worship multiple gods?”
“It’s not uncommon, since they still have a lot of influence in this world, although their influence is waning.” They eyed Arturia with a strange look. It almost seemed like there was something they knew that the woman was not aware of.
Those words mystified her and something in her mind started to turn. For the first time did she feel like there was something amiss. “You— what are you—“
“Ah! I’ll have to leave you on your own for a short while. Keep practising, because you’re not off the hook and I expect you to read those tongue-twisters perfectly out loud.”
Enkidu got up and left Arturia in a completely perplexed state as they exited the room. The woman could not hide her astonishment as she watched her tutor’s figure disappear. The room stayed silent for a while as Arturia tried to gather her thoughts and make sense of what had just happened.
“What... was that?”
A pleasing silence hung over the throne room. The King looked from his position over the city, a lot of things occupied his mind. His lion, Marduk, lay comfortably next to him, his tail wagging from side to side and his chin on the ground. The animal had no plans to move at all.
“You finished surprisingly early today,” Gilgamesh commented. He let out a sigh but did not turn to look at the new presence in the room.
“Not really, I’m just giving Arturia some self-study time,” Enkidu answered. They leaned against the throne and gave a swift glance at the lion before eyeing their friend.
“Then is there something you wish to share with me?” Gilgamesh finally met Enkidu’s stare.
“Nothing that you’re not aware of,” Enkidu answered.
Their attention shifted towards the city and the two friends stayed quiet in comfortable silence.
“You know, I think her eating and sleeping habits will improve over time. She told me that her home is very cold compared to Uruk. We should give her some time to adapt to the changes.” Enkidu stated. “She has no problems with learning. Of course, she will probably use any knowledge she gains to look for a way to escape.“
“A futile thought, it’s nothing to be concerned about.” Gilgamesh let out a huff. “Those pathetic attempts of hers are quite entertaining to watch. Let’s see how long it will take before her determination falters.”
“You shouldn’t bully her too much. She already has a negative opinion of you,” Enkidu chastised. They knelt and began to caress Marduk. “No, that’s just an understatement, she doesn’t even want to be near you.”
“If she was as obedient as all those women, I would not have paid her any mind at all.” A smirk graced Gilgamesh’ features when a certain thought entered his mind. “Besides, no matter how much she struggles, everything in this world is my possession. That woman can defy me all she wants, but it won’t change the fact that she will fall into my arms.”
Enkidu halted their actions and pondered their friend’s words. “You mentioned before that she wasn’t as radiant as in your dream, didn’t you?”
They turned to look at their friend in his eyes and none of them exchanged any words at that moment. They had said more than enough.
“She might not turn out to be like what you saw in your dream. She could become someone completely different.” Enkidu began to slowly tousle the lion’s mane.
“That is for me to decide, Enkidu. I will judge her worth and I expect that you will guide her properly.”
“What if you decide that she is not what you expected her to be?”
It was a rhetoric question. Both knew the answer, but Enkidu still asked.
“Are you getting attached to her?” Gilgamesh could not help but raise his eyebrows in amusement.
“She is the most interesting human I’ve ever met. While she seems distant and cold at first glance, there is still a juvenile curiosity in her,” Enkidu explained, their gaze wandering towards the city. “She is loyal in regards to her beliefs and is a hard worker. There’s also something that piqued my curiosity.”
“Oh, and what may that be?”
Gilgamesh eyed his friend, his curiosity stirred and Enkidu answered with a smile.
“This is the first time I’ve seen a woman handle a sword. I do have to admit that she is very talented from what I was able to witness. Maybe many things have changed in her time.”
The king’s laugh echoed throughout the room. It was a hearty one and Enkidu waited for him to calm down. “You know how to humour me, friend.” The king breathed, he was not finished laughing. “As if those mongrels are smart enough to develop themselves at such a fast pace!” Another laugher escaped him before he continued. “No, she possesses a sword of selection. Whichever fool convinced her that she has the qualifications of a king must be enjoying themselves quite a lot. Hahaha!”
“So, that blade is derived from Merodach?” Enkidu enquired.
“Indeed, it is just a model, far inferior in power and worth, but still valuable. To possess a sword like that is a heavy burden for an inferior being. Whether they succumb to it or not decides the worth of the wielder.”
Gilgamesh stood up from his throne, he walked a few steps before he halted and looked outside, his eyes were on a few servants and guards.
“But you won’t be able to determine anything if she is isolated in her room.” Enkidu’s voice chimed throughout the room.
A smile graced the king’s face, his red eyes shifted back to Enkidu who was still petting the lion. “Yes, that is true. If one’s world is small their accomplishments cannot reach far. However, if they have a goal they will have to broaden their world and their accomplishments could grow according to that goal. Her stubbornness and determination will allow her to blossom.”
Enkidu’s patting slowed and Marduk did not miss the change in their movements. He looked up and eyed the green-haired beauty with expectant eyes.
“Sometimes, you’re surprisingly more demanding than your master,” Enkidu commented.
Gilgamesh scoffed at his friend’s remark, contrary to the lion, who dropped his head as if he had not heard anything.
“Oh, now that I think about it! Are you sure it’s fine to call for a healer to check up on Arturia’s condition? I’m not sure if there is much they can do and then there’s also that issue.”
“I do not care about their opinions. If they dare to question me, those mongrels should face the consequences of their actions.”
It was a blunt answer, but it was exactly what Gilgamesh was thinking.
“Is that what you’ve been telling your advisors too?”
Gilgamesh did not answer. Instead, he let out a sigh, he was sure Enkidu was looking at him right now. It was something they wanted to ask about for a while but never had the opportunity to.
“They have not mentioned anything to me, but they have always kept most of their opinions to themselves,” the king finally stated.
“Well, the last time someone questioned you, it did not end pretty. It’s not like you listen to anyone you don’t agree with, except for me.”
“Why should I bother with those who are inferior to me? Unless they come up with a proposal that is worthy for my ears, I will not waste my time with the ideas of a mongrel. You are the only one who, as my friend, has the right to share your thoughts and opinions.”
“I’m just curious about how this will play out. What will become of her? Or how long will it take until she realises the truth?”
Enkidu got up after patting Marduk one more time. “I guess I’ll head back,” they stated. “I’ll stop by again when I have nothing to do. Until then, please don’t bully anyone too much.”
The King huffed. “What I do is for me to decide.”
The two exchanged one more glance before Enkidu left the room. The moment the figure of Enkidu disappeared, Gilgamesh’s gaze shifted back to the city.
This time he wasn’t exactly paying attention to what was happening. His mind was focused on Enkidu’s words and the events of the past few days. During the few exchanges he had had with his bride, he noticed, that despite her immaturity, she was a proud and strong woman.
Her expression was most of the time hidden behind a stoic mask, but she had no qualms about showing her distaste with her piercing glares.
Gilgamesh found it extremely fascinating whenever she glared. The way her green orbs burned, like a lion waiting to attack its prey; it was her way of showing her defiance. The woman was well aware that she had to be careful with her words and actions. Nevertheless, that did not stop her from outing her thoughts.
And despite that pride, she also seemed fully aware of how much she lacked in experience or knowledge. Her expression had been far more youthful when she had laid her eyes on Marduk. It had been just a split second, but Gilgamesh had noticed.
It was very amusing for the king, that his bride thought she could hide all her thoughts and feelings. She wasn’t even aware of how much her face gave away. It almost made him laugh.
Yes, she was far from boring him and he looked forward to what other qualities Arturia would show.
After one more glance outside, Gilgamesh called his lion and strode towards the door. There were still a lot of things that he had to take care of and he wanted to make sure he finished everything quickly.
Arturia felt trapped. It had been a while since Enkidu left the room and despite her efforts, she could not focus on her studies anymore. She had been cooped up in the room for several days already and it was driving her to the point of madness. She wanted to take a short nap to clear her mind, but she had to give up on that plan. The heat made it impossible to do so despite her sleep-deprived mind begging her to close her eyes.
She could not deny it, her rationality had started to slip away from her being. By now she was pacing back and forth in her room, looking for the umpteenth time at its layout. A few changes had been added since she had come here. Aside from the closet now being filled with the native wardrobe, the jewellery that she always ignored —although she did notice a necklace and bracelets that hadn’t been there before— a few more decorations added and her desk was covered in clay tablets.
The woman halted in front of her bed, after staring at it for a few seconds she sat down on her knees and looked at the linen sheets. They felt so different from the sheets in Britain, the colour and texture were not the same, and yet they felt similar. It was after all a sheet, used in the same way as the sheets in Britain. Just like the rest in the room, everything was different yet the same.
Arturia let out an exhausted sigh and closed her eyes. Something, anything, if only she could make sense of what was happening. But she still had not, she had accepted that she was not in Britain anymore, yet at the same time, she did not want to accept it.
She felt like she was trapped in complete madness. A hot scorching madness, where she had to drink a lot, where she hardly had any appetite, where her body felt sticky, where she found herself waking up in the middle of the night and could not fall back asleep. Which resulted in her feeling extremely tired and daydreaming of immersing herself in cold water and stay there until the bloody sun disappeared.
She heard a gentle knock. “My lady, I’ve brought you something to drink.”
Arturia lifted her head when the door opened. Her tired eyes watched the servant as she entered the room. “Ah, thank you, Iltani.”
Iltani was the same servant who had started serving her from the day she arrived and one of the few people, aside from Enkidu, with whom she could talk, even though their conversations were quite brief and did not occur often. The woman still kept a professional distance between them and Arturia understood this.
Iltani stared at Arturia’s form, the young knight was still sitting on the floor, her upper body was leaning against the bed and her shoulders hung low. The bags underneath her eyes could be easily detected.
“Are you feeling alright, my lady?” She inquired. “Should I call a healer?”
“No, thank you. I was just taking a break. There’s no need for concern.”
The servant looked worried, but she did not pressure Arturia and accepted the woman’s explanation with a nod. “Alright then, I will leave you on your own.”
Arturia’s eyes followed the servant as she left the room quietly. When she heard the door close, the knight finally let out an exhausted sigh. She was not used to this. Being served, needing to dress for evening meals, cooped up in a room. It felt strange, she preferred her independence and her freedom. But here she felt like that was slowly taken away from her and she hated it.
“I miss Merlin and Kay...“ she muttered softly.
After continuing to brood on the floor for a while longer the woman finally got up and headed towards the garden. The sun was still shining brightly, but she endured the scorching sun rays and decided to sit in the shadow.
It lasted only a few seconds until she felt the heat of the floor. “Ouch! Hot!” She mumbled in frustration. While glaring at the ground, Arturia decided to return to her room and look for an alternative.
She regretted sending Iltani away, she could have used a cold bath. Again she looked around and her gaze fell on the goblet the servant had brought. It was filled with milk and next to it was a bowl with fruit. A small smile crept over her, the next time she found the servant she was going to express to her, her gratitude.
Without waiting any longer, Arturia sat at the table and grabbed the round orange fruit. She examined it carefully first. “If I remember correctly, this fruit is an orange,” she mused, the name sounding funny to her.
Carefully she peeled the skin of the orange, she recalled Enkidu doing the same during the evening meals and mimicked the action. The inside of the fruit was the same colour as the skin, and Arturia blinked at the fruit curiously. She studied it carefully, wondering if it had the same texture of an apple or not. It didn't feel like it at least.
The woman continued to inspect the fruit for a short while before she finally decided to take a bite. To her surprise the fruit burst open, spilling droplets of juice on her face and clothes.
Despite the sudden development, Arturia did not move. She chewed carefully and swallowed. “It’s surprisingly sweet.”
Arturia took another bite and then another. She appreciated the freshness and cool feeling in her mouth. “... Delicious...”
Her voice was quite soft, but in her large room, it was easily audible. Arturia continued to eat in silence. The only sounds resonating inside the room were those of chewing and then of drinking.
It was then that Arturia felt, for maybe the first time, how truly trapped and alone she was.