Guinevere had many regrets. Anyone would after sealing away their happiness for the sake of others.
She was constantly plagued by thoughts of 'what if', or her constant helplessness towards her 'husband'.
Their relationship was fake from the start, not a marriage out of love, but out of ideals instead.
It was nothing but a lie.
That did not mean she did not care for Artoria.
However, it was hard, and before she knew it, those hurtful things left her mouth.
Artoria has not shown any sign of weakness or sickness, so it came as a shock to everyone, when a scared Mordred alerted them that the king fainted.
And then she did not wake up for days.
And once she did, she rushed into battle.
Guinevere stared out the balcony of her room, worried sick.
It was night. There was no sign of the knights returning.
There were no news about Artoria.
She continued to pace around the room, anxiously waiting for anything. Usually she would still be at ease, knowing that the King had Avalon with her, however… She lost it.
And she was not fighting at full strength.
No, surely she was fine.
She will come back alive, and well.
At least that’s what Guinevere thought, until the castle went into an uproar, and the knights returned in the middle of the knight.
Mordred was the first to rush in, carrying-to Guinevere’s horror- a bloodied Artoria, pale, and barely breathing, to the point she would have thought she was a corpse had she not approached her.
“Arthur!” She rushed to her side, then froze, knowing that there was nothing she could do.
She merely watched as Artoria was taken away to be treated, and once again she helplessly watched her suffer, while she could do nothing for her.
“My Queen.” Lancelot approached her, looking exhausted, and worried, but he was fortunately uninjured. “I am deeply sorry… The king rushed into battle, taking down enemies as if possessed by something. I have never seen him fight so recklessly… And then, he was out of our sight.”
“How… How bad are his injuries?”
“His wound is too deep, and he bled a lot. I think that if not for his dragon blood, he would have died hours ago.”
“He might not…”
“No.” Guinevere interrupted, shaking her head. “I don’t want to hear it, please.” She walked away, placing a hand on her chest, feeling as if her heart had been ripped apart.
The knights have come back safely, with a few injuries that were not life threatening. There were a few casualties, but nothing compared to the number of rebels they took down.
Artoria was the only one fatally injured.
This did not add up.
But Guinevere could not dwell on that, not when Artoria was being treated.
She pushed away those questions to the back of her mind, and waited.
The wait was too long, however.
She did not sleep at all, there was not a single thought that could ease her mind.
She did not love Artoria, no.
They were friends, sometimes even strangers.
But even strangers can mourn the loss of their company.
It was not until dawn that she received the news.
"I am afraid the king won't wake up for a while." Merlin came to get her. "Perhaps, never."
Artoria was brought back to her room. Her wounds have been treated, and she looked peaceful in her sleep.
"Merlin… if all of her wounds are taken care of, then why are you saying this?" Guinevere asked, feeling as if she was walking on thin ice, and the ice might break at any moment.
"There is great magic affecting her." Merlin paced around the room, and he stopped before Excalibur, resting against the wall. "From the day Caliburn was pulled, it was fated for King Arthur to die today."
One simple sentence was all it took to break that ice.
"King Arthur was fated to die today." Merlin repeated. "This battle was meant to end with Britain falling, most of the knights of the roundtable killed, and Artoria dead."
The Queen struggled to speak.
"I don't think I follow."
Merlin glanced at the unconscious king, fatally injured, and on the verge of death.
The king who was once a bright child he raised.
Merlin wouldn't pretend to understand human emotions, but even he could feel something eating at him from the sight.
"Artoria knew from the day she pulled the sword that her fate was sealed. She would suffer a lonely and cruel death, but when the time came, she could not accept it after seeing the remains of her kingdom. So she answered the holy grail's call, and fought in a different war." Merlin would have found the look of confusion he received amusing, if it were not for the circumstances. "The holy grail could grant any wish to whoever wins, and so, Artoria changed fate."
Guinevere's eyes lit up.
"Does that mean she will survive?"
"Unlikely." Merlin hated to be the bearer of bad news. "It is still possible, as so much has happened. Originally, your affair with Lancelot was exposed, leading Lancelot to kill in rage then flee the kingdom, and Mordred took the opportunity to lead the rebellion against Artoria, ending with them killing each other." Ignoring the look of shock and guilt on Guinevere's face, he continued. "However, the affair was never exposed this time, while Mordred never betrayed anyone, and everyone but Artoria came out intact."
"Then... why can't she survive?"
"The shackles of fate hold her back.
It was not uncommon for some people to be completely shackled by fate, not in just one life, but in many. Artoria was one of those people. Fate desires her dead, like it desires her ruling Britain."
Fate desired her dead?
After everything, she would not be granted even the slightest amount of happiness?
This holy grail war… what was it? Did she fight knowing it would not save her?
"You knew about everything." Guinevere turned to the mage, calm and collected, something unexpected from someone who just heard of everyone's demise. "You knew Artoria's battles were pointless, and you never tried to change it?"
"They were not pointless." He answered, but even Merlin felt guilt. He could not understand humans, but he cared for them. And Artoria's fate saddened him. "Everything she has done until now saved many lives. If not for her, the cost would have been higher.
He knew from the moment she pulled the sword that he made a grave mistake.
The child smiled brightly, despite hearing about her possible doom.
"People were smiling." He remembered her words, words that shook him to his core. "This path cannot be wrong."
Did that hopeful and optimistic child disappear forever?
Did he kill her?
"But the result is the same." Guinevere bit her lip, cursing this reality. King Arthur would die remembered as a hero and a legend, but Artoria would die alone and scared, isolated from the people she loved.
What a sick joke.
Guinevere, for the first time in her life, cursed Britain.
Merlin, closed his eyes, cursing himself.
-Back to Zero-
A week has passed with no signs of Artoria waking up.
Guinevere has taken it upon herself to take care of her and change her bandages.
She did not want anyone approaching her while she was vulnerable.
Merlin used a spell to keep her body in a frozen state while giving space for her wounds to heal.
She could not sleep or drink, so this was the best alternative until she would wake up.
Guinvere had no words to say, and no tears to shed.
She simply did her duty as a Queen, nursing her husband back to health.
She spent her days taking care of Artoria and thinking about Merlin's words.
She avoided Lancelot at all cost, feeling anxious whenever she saw him.
It was not his fault, but… Merlin told her in detail what should have happened.
Her affair was exposed, and as a result, Lancelot murdered Agravain.
Artoria forgave them, but had to execute Guinevere.
Gareth and Gaheris were killed by Lancelot in his attempt to rescue her.
Camelot fell, missing most of its knights, the others rebelling alongside Mordred, and in the end, the father and child killed each other.
It was all her fault.
She started a series of events that led to everyone's deaths.
She stared at the sleeping Artoria, and she was holding her hand -it was cold-, checking her pulse every now and then.
Artoria was never bad towards her. In fact she was caring.
When they first married, Artoria constantly checked on her and helped her adapt to her new home and duties.
She always made sure to include her.
There was a time where they talked like friends.
And then one day, Artoria came back from a battle, tired and bloodied. It was not her blood, Artoria said she wished it was hers.
"Hey, Guinevere." Artoria started, sitting at the edge of their bed, unable to sleep. "Do you think this bloodshed will ever end? How many more lives do I have to take for it to be over?"
Guinevere could not understand her struggles, because she has never taken a life. She did not understand the weight of her words.
"It will be over. You will protect everyone."
"No. I am more of a sword, cutting through everything. A sword cannot protect." Artoria sighed. She was not facing her, but instead staring forward, eyes duller than ever. "Our enemies, they are not bad people. They are trying to survive like us."
Guinevere stood up, and walked to Artoria's side.
"They have families too, people to protect. Who knows how many kids I have orphaned." Artoria's voice cracked, if even for just a second. Her wife took her hand, but she couldn't bring herself to reciprocate. "I am a monster."
Guinevere now held her hand, and as she watched her in her comatose state, she continued to wonder.
If she said something, if she had done anything but listen to her burdens, would she have been happier? Awake?
If Guinevere took her hand, instead of supporting from the shadows, would things have been different?
In the end, all she has ever done was fail her.
She let go of her hand -like she always did- and spared one last glance at her, before leaving.
The people have been in a state of anxiety, not knowing what would happen to their king, not knowing who would lead them next.
The fact they were talking about who to replace Artoria, made Guinevere sick.
She suffered so much, endured so much hate and and carried so many sins for them, only for them to throw her away.
The sickening feeling did not leave during the meeting at the roundtable, if anything, it only grew stronger.
"We have to decide on a successor." Agravain spoke up, and then tension in the room grew heavier.
It was something they all refused to speak of ever since Merlin gave them the news. Unlike her, they only know that Artoria is in a state of deep sleep that she may never wake up from.
Aside from Merlin, she was the only one who knew the full truth.
Perhaps as a little guilt trip for being the indirect cause of Artoria’s ‘death’.
"What are you saying?!" Gawain was so enraged that when he stood up, he knocked his chair down from the impact. "To speak of replacing the king, how dare you?"
"His majesty is still alive!" Bedivere sided with him.
"We don't know for how long." Kay intervened. Everyone stopped, the reality hitting harder when Kay of all people muttered such words. "Britain needs a king. We need to reassure the people. As long as they have no guide, there will be chaos." His tone was far too calm, far too unnerving.
Of course, Artoria was his sister, blood or not.
"Let's wait it out!" Gareth raised her hand to intervene. "I am sure we won't need a replacement!"
"I agree." Lancelot added.
"Someone must take on his duties for the moment." Merlin eyed the knights.
"The people are already wondering who will rule next. It is pointless to continue walking in circles." Agravain argued. "Even Merlin's magic could not wake the king!"
"It has only been a week!"
"A week is enough time for a kingdom to fall apart!"
"It won't! That is why we are here!"
"In that case let's put it to a vote."
"I refuse! King Arthur is not dead!"
"Gawain! How childish can you be?"
"THAT IS ENOUGH!"
Everyone at the roundtable stopped, shaken by the rare anger from their Queen.
If anything, their Queen's glare could turn anyone into stone.
"Britain will not fall. I am still the Queen, and I will do my duties and more to assure Arthur wakes up to find everything at peace." Guinevere stood with confidence, her hand still slammed on the table, and her eyes piercing Agravain. "Understood? Do not bury my husband alive."
"Your duties? Forgive me my Queen, but I recall his majesty taking all of your duties upon himself." Agravain almost scoffed, and Guinevere clenched her fists. "Why is that?"
"Sir Agravain, are you trying to imply something?"
"I would like to know if we can trust you to take matters in your hands when you haven't been doing anything as of late."
"Agravain! How dare you disrespect the Queen?" Lancelot growled. And for a moment, Guinevere panicked. "His majesty loves and trusts the Queen more than anyone." Guinevere's eyes widened. "He would never take away her duties unless it is something important."
"And that important thing is the fact that she is incompetent."
"Sir Agravain." Guinevere kept her calm. She would not let him get the best of her. "My husband took them because I was not well for a while. There is no deeper reason than him looking out for me until I recover."
"You do not look sick."
"I got better with Merlin's help." A liar needed an expert liar after all.
"That is true. Our queen has been under the weather for a while." Merlin shrugged.
"Hey." Mordred finally spoke since the start of their meeting. He exchanged a look with a worried Guinevere, before speaking again. "I think she is right. Camelot still has a ruler, and if we put it to votes, most of us will agree on not replacing the king."
"You..." Agravain stared at Mordred for a long time, before sighing. "Very well."
Guinevere was relieved.
Originally, she was also scared of Mordred’s reaction. Artoria told her he demanded to be her heir, so she was grateful that he did not say a thing so far.
That was why she needed to speak to him.
She needed to keep everything at peace.
She had to try her best for Artoria.
She waited until everyone left.
“Sir Mordred, may I speak with you?”
-Back to Zero-
"Why did you ask to meet me here?" Mordred followed her request, meeting her in the garden.
It was rather secretive, and she often met Lancelot there.
"My husband told me about you. You do not need to keep the helmet on." She said, running her hand through the flowers, busying herself with anything.
Anything that would keep her thoughts away from Artoria's sad fate.
"Thank you, for supporting me back there."
"Did you think I would reveal myself?" There was a certain bitterness to his voice, as if he was walking on eggshells.
"The truth is, I was worried, but now I know I can trust you." She turned him, and while she could not see his face, she noticed the way his shoulders relaxed.
"Aren't you mad at me? I am your husband's bastard."
"No." Her relationship with Artoria was fake. And it was not as if Artoria had a say in the matter.
And she would not blame this child for his mother's sins.
Mordred reculatently took off his helmet, looking down and avoiding her gaze.
His face was identical to Artoria's... a perfect copy of her.
The same eyes... she missed her eyes-
No, she had to focus.
"Does my face bother you?" There was a hint of snark.
"No you just..." she inhaled. "Look so much like your father."
Mordred grinned, his eyes full of joy at the simple statement.
This poor child...
"What did he say about me?"
Guinevere's heart sank at the innocent question. She was not sure what happened between Artoria and Mordred that day.
She could not tell him the full truth.
"When you first arrived, he spoke fondly of your skills." She sat at a nearby bench, folding her hands on her lap. "He said that in a few years, your strength would rival even sir Lancelot's."
"Really." She affirmed with a smile, patting the empty space beside her. "When you two met last time, what did Arthur talk to you about?"
"He said that he would teach me. He wanted to know me better." Mordred accepted her invitation. He was silent for a moment. He did not want to think of the possible future that could rob them of the opportunity. "I wanted to be recognized as king Arhtur's heir. The throne means nothing to me if he isn't here."
The child's desire was never the throne, but the love of a parent.
"What kind of person is my Father?" Mordred asked.
He never uses 'was', unlike the others.
Guinevere looked down, dwelling on how to answer.
They have been married for 10 years, yet she could not answer.
They may have been friends at some point, perhaps at the start. She had memories of a more open Artoria, who loved horses, and village festivals, and would talk to her about her fears and worries.
Now, she wondered if those were just memories she made up, because over the years, Artoria only became colder and more distant.
She became the perfect king, yet the most imperfect human she has ever seen.
"He is strong willed and kind. He hates killing people, but he does it to protect us. He gets really happy when there are opportunities to celebrate anything." She chuckled. "He loves festive times, and he smiles at people's happiness." She chuckled, now that she recalled more happier memories. "He is a sore loser, and he hates feeling weak." Her smile soon changed into a frown. "He was also a fool." She finally answered. "A fool who sacrifices everything and receives nothing."
"... Are you crying?"
"..." Guinevere cursed herself, and attempted to wipe away her tears.
Tears of frustration over a complete stranger.
Guinevere held no feelings for her 'husband', neither did she think of them as friends.
Truth be told, she wished they had never met.
Yet she could not hold back the tears, because it was so upsetting to watch someone break so much for others, and be discarded so quickly.
Artoria pendragon was the fool she hated more than anything.
She was also the fool whom she prayed for every day to wake up.