King Arthur doesn't dream. 'He' sees premonitions of inevitable destruction. 'He' sees a certain future that can only be delayed, never changed.
Artoria pendragon doesn't dream.
She only sees nightmares.
Tonight was no exception. She dreamt of death.
Her people's death.
Her own death.
Her kin's death. A young man who claimed to be her son.
No, he was her son.
She wanted to deny it. She told him she could not accept him as her heir, but one look at his face and she knew that everything she built would fall apart.
She had her suspicions a long time ago, when she consulted Merlin about the need for an heir.
Something has gone wrong, yet she had no memories of it.
"How does it feel, dear 'Arthur'?" A voice whispered, dripping venom. Everything was black. "To have something taken from you? Stolen. Torn apart as you could only watch helplessly. Just like you took everything from me."
A pair of eyes identical to hers stared back, burning with hatred, setting everything around into flames.
"One day, you will reap what you've sown."
Artoria woke up.
She sat up, gasping for air, and grasping at the sheets.
They were wet. She was sweating so much, and her body was freezing.
It was just a nightmare.
Everything was fine.
A sudden headache took over, and her vision blurred for a moment. She grasped her head in pain, and once it was gone, she felt something drip off her nose.
She touched her nose in confusion.
She did feel sick, but some fever couldn’t have caused her to bleed.
This could be troublesome, and it would be best to see Merlin about it.
She wiped off the blood, and forced herself out of bed.
She could not afford to rest.
The rebellion was stronger than ever, even her knights were losing faith in her. She could still remember the look on Tristan’s face as he walked away, saying that he could not understand the hearts of men.
Perhaps he was right.
Mordred’s piercing gaze flashed through her mind, and she forced her eyes shut.
She had to endure.
She needed to consult Merlin about everything. Perhaps he could offer some helpful insights. There had to be a way to save Britain. As long as she was alive, she would never stop trying to save it.
She briefly looked back at the bed, noticing the empty space beside hers. Once again, her queen was nowhere to be seen.
Artoria placed a hand on the empty space, and let it linger there.
She was part dragon, and so she could pick up people's scents from miles away. So of course she would pick up on the new scent mixed in with her wife's. She knew her wife was seeing her best friend, Lancelot.
And so she kept quiet and endured.
Guinevere kept all of her secrets, and gave up her happiness to keep up this facade together.
She deserved happiness and love, and Artoria would not take that away from her.
Pushing down her own heartache… or perhaps it was something else?
Artoria was no longer familiar with emotions, or how to describe them.
She finally left her chamber, pushing down whatever she was feeling, and sought Merlin.
However, because today she changed her usual route, she encountered a scene that only added to the weight on her shoulders.
There she was, her queen, standing in the garden with Lancelot, laughing, unaware of who might be passing by.
And Lancelot… he was smiling at her, and his gaze was sharp, locked on the queen as if she was his.
She was not. Guinevere was-
The sharp pain returned, and Artoria felt herself stumble. She blinked, and there was blood again.
Artoria ignored it, this could wait.
“Guinevere.” She walked towards them, knowing that someone might spot them. The two turned to her in surprise, and moved away from each other, as if caught doing something. She tried not to let that thought wander.
“Yes, my King?” Guinevere asked, her eyes glancing at Lancelot for a moment, before meeting hers again.
Of course, Lancelot was her priority.
That’s alright, she was not upset. She cared for them both, she would not take any happiness from them.
“May I speak to you in our chamber? Something important came up.” ‘Arthur’ asked, barely sparing her knight a glance.
“Ah, yes of course.”
The two walked quietly to their chamber, there were no questions asked, no small talk, only silence. Guinevere walked a few steps behind her king, her eyes staring at her back, with a somber expression.
Once they were behind closed doors, Artoria inhaled.
“Guinevere.” She addressed her queen, and turned to face her. “I know about Lancelot.”
Perhaps cutting to the chase was not her best idea, not when panic filled Guinevere’s blue eyes, now dull from years of crying and loneliness.
"How... do you know that?" Guinevere gulped, and hugged herself. Lying would not get her anywhere. She knew her actions would be considering an act of treason.
"You two have not been subtle. What if it was someone other than myself who found you?" Artoria scolded her, and she ignored the headache that was growing. "I cannot protect you if word comes out."
"If word came out, you would execute me." Guinevere did not ask. Why ask for something she knew to be a fact.
Hearing it hurt a lot more.
Artoria would choose Britain over everything including herself, so of course she would sacrifice anyone.
She had already sacrificed villages and raided them, one worthless wife is barely a price to pay.
“Why did you not speak sooner about this?” Guinevere’s voice was low, upset, but she was used to such cold words.
“I do not wish to ruin your happiness, if Lancelot can give you that, then all I ask is for you to be careful.” Artoria answered. It was subtle, but the queen noticed her face muscles tightening. “I owe you too much to try and take that from you.”
Guinevere’s expression softened.
“But you’re upset.”
“What?” The king’s eyebrows furrowed. “This matter does not concern me-”
“I know when something is bothering you.” The queen tilted her head, trying to get an answer. "Artoria... could it be that you have fallen for sir Lancelot?" She asked, and silence filled the room. Artoria did not know whether to laugh or cry. The king blinked, and rubbed her temple, sighing. She would laugh if she could. "Guinevere what led you to such a ridiculous conclusion?" She felt her headache coming back.
“Like I said, I can tell when you’re upset.”
“That does not mean I have feelings for Lancelot. I do not feel anything more than friendship towards him.”
Guinevere looked at her as if she did not believe a word.
How does one admit that they are upset that their most ‘loyal’ knight was bedding their wife?
“Guinevere, I have a son.” Artoria blurted out, and the room fell silent for a moment. So they went from arguing about Lancelot to such a confession… good job king Arthur.
“You’re… just accepting it like that?”
Guinevere stared at her dead in the eyes.
“I need to sit down.” Guinevere sat on the bed, and took a deep breath, processing what she just heard. “Explain.”
Oh she was upset.
She can endure Guinevere’s wrath, but explaining it was another story…
“Do you recall… the day we were supposed to make an heir?"
"I recall planning, but I…" Guinevere frowned. "I don't recall anything after, at least not what happened that day…"
"As I suspected… She enchanted you as well. Morgan messed with our memories." Guinevere's was now alarmed. "Sir mordred approached me, saying he is my son and Morgan's. There is no denying it."
"You mean…" Guinevere was horrified by the implications. She could see how paler Artoria looked, explaining it. "But that was eight years ago! How could he grow so fast?"
"...Who knows what that witch did to him." Artoria pressed her lips. Her memories of that night were too blurry, she could not recall anything.
She was helpless, she let Morgan take what she wanted.
If only she had been more careful...
She did not realize she was shaking until she felt Guinevere's hands cupping her own, grounding her.
"What will you do?" She asked, softly.
"I have to deal with him. I was going to consult Merlin, but I'm sure he would come to the same conclusion." Her expression hardened, and so did the grip on hand.
"You're… planning to kill him?" The queen's voice shook. "What happened was not his fault… nor was it yours, it was Morgan's."
"I know. But if she is using him as a weapon against me, then I must kill him."
"No one would follow a king who kills his own child." Guinevere glared. "And you are not the kind of person to kill someone without a good reason."
"I burned and raided my own villages. You seem to forget how much blood is on my hands."
"I did not forget. But I know that if there was an alternative, you would have taken it. I know you hate hurting others." Guinevere argued. "If Morgan is using him to get to you, then do not reject him, pull him to your side. Be honest with him and do not turn him down for something that he was not responsible for."
"He demanded I make him my heir. He does not know the first thing about being a king."
“Then teach him. Try to understand him, and then make your judgment.” The queen insisted, and the king stared at her for a moment, then sighed, pulled her hand away.
“Very well…” Artoria tried not to read too much into the bright smile Guinevere gave her. “I will hear his reasons first, and then I will see what to do.” She walked away, feeling a fire in her gut, she was not sure what to make of it, but she was anxious.
Everything was too much, and she was tired, burnt out.
Tristan’s departure, Guinevere’s affair, and now her sister’s betrayal.
Artoria stood at the top of the castle, watching over her kingdom, wondering what more secrets were hidden from here, how many more betrayals she would have to endure.
It was quiet, peaceful to many, but not to her.
She could never know the peace.
There was once a little girl, who believed in this world.
Artoria killed that girl. She killed the child who pulled a sword just to make people happy, just to see them smile, yet everything she touched would turn to dust.
Her eyes darkened, and she shook the thought upon hearing a visitor approaching.
“Did you call for me, my king?” Mordred’s voice was calm, but Artoria could hear a hint of something, hatred perhaps, or may be anger.
“Yes. I would like to continue our conversation from that day.” She turned to him, and for a moment she had to stop herself from avoiding his gaze. He had his helmet on, so that no one would see his face, but Artoria could remember his eyes full of hope, and all she could think of was Morgan. “I would like to ask you, why do you wish to be my heir? Is it because you are my son, or is there another reason?”
“Arthur… Do you think that I’m after the throne for power?” Mordred almost growled.
“I do not.” She answered, and her eyes wandered back to the kingdom. “Do you know why I pulled the sword?”
“Because you’re the rightful heir to the throne.”
“No. I never wished to be a king.” She closed her eyes, trying to find the memories of her childhood. “I was happy living a normal life. I believe I had everything I wanted. But I remember the day of the selection, and the disappointment on everyone’s faces when the sword chose no one. I remember finding out the truth, and I thought… if people could smile, then pulling the sword can never set me on the wrong path.”
The boy remained silent.
“I think that you are a strong knight, with so much potential to grow. I am proud of all the things that you have achieved, however… I cannot make you my heir, not yet.”
“I cannot call you my son right now, I was never aware of your existence, and my sister...used me. I recently found out from you, and I am still processing everything. Not to mention that I do not know you that well, and neither do most of the knights. You keep to yourself, and so we only know about your strength.” The king explained, carefully studying the knight’s eyes. “I wish to understand you and to know you, and that will take time, but perhaps someday I can know you well enough to call you family.”
The knight slowly took off his helmet, revealing that innocent looking face, full of wonder and confusion.
He was just a child… And Artoria… ordered him so many times to dirty his hands for her… She destroyed this child’s innocence, without even knowing.
“You… don’t hate me?”
“I have no reason to hate you. I simply rejected you because a king’s role is full of burdens, and it is not something I would throw anyone into. You are not fit to rule right now.” She sighed. “However, I can teach you.”
“I… I cursed you, and I yelled at you. You’re not mad?”
“Not at all.”
“So you don’t think I’m weak either? You don’t hate me for being Morgan’s child?”
“Why would I? Most of my trusted knights are her children as well. I would never judge a child by their parent’s misdeeds.”
Mordred remained quiet for a moment, contemplating everything.
“Do you think that is acceptable, sir Mordred?” Artoria asked, and when she noticed the slightest hint of rejection in his eyes, she cleared her throat. “I mean… Mordred.” His eyes brightened immediately.
“Yes! Yes I can work with that Father!” The boy was so excited, that he basically tackled her, and it was extremely awkward with his armor, but she figured she would let it slide. He noticed his mistake, and pulled away quickly. “Sorry, I uh… I didn’t mean to, I mean I meant to but I…”
In an awkward attempt to console him, she patted his head, something Kay used to do for her when they were kids.
The boy flushed, unable to repress his smile.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”
Unfortunately, right as she said that, a sharp pain took over.
Artoria’s vision blurred, and she could no longer hear Mordred’s voice. Blood… The blood was running down her nose, she was about to fall, but the knight’s arm supported her.
All of her senses, especially the dragon traits, were amplifying, everything was echoing in her ears, and her heartbeat was running faster than it ever has.
And then she lost consciousness.
And she dreamt of a hill.
She was surrounded by corpses, alone, and injured, and there was no one to find her.
Everything she has built has turned to ashes.
Then there were faces she could not recognize, a place and an era she has never been to, seals setting fires to her veins, and then…
She woke up confused, and she was met by the sight of the ceiling of her bedroom.
She tried to push herself up, but failed.
“Easy now, you’re in no condition to move.” The mage gently pushed her down, and sat on a nearby chair. “You’ve been out of it for a few days.”
“What…?” She grasped her head, trying to make sense of everything that has been happening. “What happened?”
“Mordred brought you to me, said you fainted and your nose was bleeding. You had a high fever and you still pushed yourself to move. How reckless could you be?” He chuckled, and she failed to see the humor in this. “You made your wife worry, you know.”
“What happened while I was asleep?”
“A battle broke out.”
“What?!” She sat up this time, and the simple action made all of her muscles scream in pain, but she ignored it. “What do you mean?!”
“MERLIN!” Guinevere walked in, furious. “She just woke up, and that’s the first thing you tell her?”
Guinevere glared at him, and then rushed to Artoria’s side, taking her hand.
“Everything is under control, it is not something that requires your attention, that’ s why you should rest.” Her tone changed from anger to worry, and Artoria subconsciously locked their hands.
“Guinevere, tell me what happened.”
“The rebels took advantage of your absence and launched an attack.” Merlin answered, earning another look from the queen.
“What are the odds...?”
“I would say it’s an easy battle to win, but it will cost many victims this time. They have gathered in more numbers than usual, but with all the knights of the roundtable, it will be under control soon.”
Guinvere stopped her. “You can’t fight in this state.”
“With me there, there will be less casualties.”
“You don’t even have Avalon with you!”
“Merlin, leave us alone for a moment.” Artoria ordered, and the mage shrugged, disappearing from the room.
"You haven't recovered, yet you're pushing yourself again." Guinevere was fuming. “You can afford to miss one battle!"
Artoria sighed and pushed her away. She left the bed, almost falling in the process, but she kept herself steady. "The kingdom needs me. I cannot afford to rest."
"You will die!"
"I knew how I would die before I even pulled Caliburn." Artoria tried to keep an even tone, but her exhaustion still slipped through. "I don't see how it matters now." She proceeded to change into her armor, and the queen clenched her fists.
“Do you have any idea how worried we all were? If you die because you went to battle in such a state, then who would protect Britain?!”
Guinevere's patience was running thin.
“Gawain should be my heir. I promised to train Mordred, however, if I do die, make sure Gawain succeeds me. If you try to stop me, I’ll have to ask Merlin to restrain you.” Artoria replied coldly. She did not have time for such a pointless conversation. "My life has no value. You should not concern yourself with such-"
Artoria felt a sharp pain, and blinked. It took her a moment to register that she has been slapped.
She stared at Guinevere in shock.
Her queen, who never complained, never raised her voice, just slapped her.
And now, she was glaring at her, eyes full of rage.
"Go ahead and die then, if that's what you want." The queen's voice was colder than a winter night. "You can never change... and I hate you for it."
With that, she walked away, and Artoria was alone.
That was fine.
Artoria was used to people blaming her for everything. She was used for people cursing her, and so... She proceeded with her goal.
She mounted her horse, sparing one last glance at Guinevere, who watched her from the gate, crying, and staring at her silently with something she could not place.
That didn’t matter.
If she were to die, Guinevere can finally have a life with Lancelot.
It was fine.
Artoria reached the hill where the battle was happening, and her thoughts were racing.
She knew this hill, she knew what that meant.
Still she kept on fighting.
She pushed her body to the limits, killing every rebel that came towards her, if something had to bloody their hands, it was her.
She would trade her life for everyone’s.
If she could make sure less people fell in this battle, then she would die happily.
If she could make even the slightest of difference, then that little girl’s dream... perhaps it could come true.
However, Artoria could not change fate, and so, she could not block this last attack in time.
Everything went dark for a moment... everything was quiet.
Artoria felt peaceful, at ease even.
Her enemies were defeated, she made sure she protected each and every knight.
However she may have strayed too far, because when she woke up again, she was alone.
She was lying in her own blood.
Artoria was cold... so cold, that it felt like any step she took would break her.
Her limbs were frozen, ready to be shattered like ice.
She stumbled, and was brought to her knees.
She could see her own blood, pouring down the hill, despite her best attempt to conceal the wound with her hands.
But what good would a shaking hand do?
"It's okay..." she breathed out, or maybe she was not talking at all. She could not hear anything but the sound of her faint beating heart. "You're... going to be..."
She vomited blood, and her vision blurred.
If someone could just find her...
How strange... Artoria knew she would die, but now that her time has come, desperation started to kick in.
She was scared.
She was terrified.
She was alone.
No one could hear her cries, and if they did, would they come?
Of course not.
She came to the cruel realization.
Artoria loved everyone, but no one loved her.
From day one, she was just a tool. She was not born out of love. She was not raised out of love.
She was not admired, but feared.
Everyone kept secrets. Everyone lied. Everyone tried to take something.
Morgan deceived her. Tristan walked away from her. Lancelot betrayed her. Guinevere lied to her.
Artoria's eyes were welling up with tears.
"Ah..." no one.
No one will find her.
No one will care.
"I hate you." Guinevere's words came back to haunt her.
"You cannot understand the hearts of men." Tristan's accusation plagued her mind.
"Ha... see... i see..." she was crying. She was weak. She was nothing. "You all just... used me... lied... none of you..."
"None of you saw me."
She lied on the ground, no longer having the desire to be saved.
She raised her hand to the sky.
Her breaths were violent, trying to suck in air and failing.
Her hand fell to her side, and she tried to breath.
She couldn't... she...
The violent breaths wouldn't stop.
And her mind was going blank.
Her body was shutting down, slowly, painfully, and her last thought was...
"I wish I was never born."
She sucked in one last breath, and she was no more.