Audience chosen story elements: A Knight, a mom with depression or psychosis, time travel/changes, and boarding school.
I knocked on the door to my mother's room before I entered. I don't know why, it wasn't like she wasn't expecting me. Everyone says she is crazy, and I suppose they should know, they are the Shrinks, but to me my mom is just that, Mom.
"Come in," she said in that soft musical voice of hers. I pushed on the handle and scanned the room to find her. She was standing by the window, the bars casting vertical stripes down her face, the wind blowing her long dark hair like the curtains she would never be allowed in this place.
She turned to look at me, and the joy was evident behind her eyes. "Guinivere," she said like my name was a song. "Come hither, my child," she said holding out a hand to me, "Behold the lark in yonder tree, and hearest thou his sweet song."
I crossed the room and took her hand, holding it tight as I looked out the window with her. It took a moment to locate the little bird, but that was my mother, finding joy in the smallest things. She had always been like that, as long as I could remember.
She had also insisted, as long as I could remember, that she had been born in the third century AD as Aranthe, the daughter of a lowly blacksmith, and that I am the daughter of the White Knight of Calamore.
My father, who is many things, but not a Knight, finally gave up trying to rid her of the notion and had my mother shipped off to this asylum when I was five. My father is good at shipping things, cargo containers, antiquities, cheaply made products from China, electronics from Japan, and people too, like Mom, and me. He shipped me off to boarding school when I was ten.
I don't mind though. I never much liked him. I like mom better with her soft ancient dialect and her flowing grace. So what if her world isn't real? Real life sucks gangrenous toes, and I hate it.
I was mentally cursing the world like that when my mother tugged on my hand, "I asked thee a question, my child. Art thou not present in this time?"
I smiled, she always asked me that when I was zoned out. I'd say it was ironic, but I think my English teacher would correct me. Maybe...I dunno. Still, it was funny.
"I was just thinking, Mom," I said with a smile as she lead me across the room. She sat with infinite grace on the bed and I sat next to her. She wrapped her willowy arms around me and I buried my head in her tresses.
"Do they not treat thee well at that fortress he has sent thee to? In truth thou lookest more despondent each time thou comst here."
"They treat me well, I just miss you. I hate being away from you, Mom," I mumbled into her hair.
"My child, thou art the light of my life, but surely there is something thou holdest dear in the wide world. Is there yet no young squire to delight thine eye and stir thine heart?"
"Boys suck," I sighed.
She chuckled and said, "I am sure they do, at times. How be thy friends, the beautiful Selma and the clever Elaine?"
"They're fine," I sighed. "Selma has another boyfriend, and Elaine's been helping me with my calculus. I hate math."
"I shall never fault thee for that, Guinevere," Mom said stroking my back. "Master Hill doth set great store by it though, so we must strive to please him."
She always called my father Master Hill, with that detached and grateful air as if he really were some mysterious benefactor who had locked her away for her own protection. She never called him my father, never called him her husband, no matter how many times he had angrily waved the marriage certificate before her face.
Sometimes I wanted her fantasy to be real, for us to have really time-traveled her just before I was born. It didn't make any sense, but it was certainly a happier thought than the pain of my birth having pushed her over the edge of reason.
When I was a kid I believed her, that someday the White Knight of Calamore would overcome the evil enchantress who had brought us here. That one day I would be ripped from my bland existence of math exams and itchy plaid skirts, and somehow find myself in my REAL home.
That's probably why my father sent her away, to save me from the fantasy.
I left her late that evening, soaking up every drop of her company I could before the orderlies started getting grumpy at the door. It was very late by the time I got back to school.
"How was your visit?" Selma asked me from her bed as she texted her latest boyfriend.
"Just fine," I said crossing to my dresser and pulling out my pajamas.
"Did she tell you any more stories?" Elaine asked. "I could use a good story tonight."
"Just the same old things, about Calamore and the day she met The White Knight," I said with a yawn.
"Well at least you got a good name out of it, Guin," Selma said distractedly. She had always coveted my name. I had always coveted her looks. Sure my hair was just as long and dark, but my eyes and skin were pasty-pale while her eyes were dark and lovely and her skin an olive gold. Her accent was lovely too, Castilian, straight from Spain.
Elaine rolled her eyes. "Did the Doctors have anything to say?"
I shook my head, "I didn't even bother talking to them this time. They'll just say the same old things. I'm just glad they finally took her off all the drugs, all they did was make her a vegetable."
Elaine nodded sympathetically, and I finished getting ready for bed. I pulled the covers up over my head to block the light out so Elaine could finish her homework and Selma could continue sending naughty messages to the guy she met at the embassy a month ago.
I wished I had her luck with guys. She was going to marry a prince someday, I could just tell. If I was lucky I'd end up in the nutt house with my mother and would never have to remember any of the tips on flirting Selma had given me over the years.
I drifted off into an uneasy sleepy, big toothed calculus dragons chased me until Elaine beat them off with a giant pencil. Selma paraded around in a crown, walking on the backs of her besotted boyfriends who all wore blue tunics and swords.
Light fell across my face and I opened them, only to decide I was still dreaming. I wasn't in my dorm room, but in a curtained bed beneath a canopy woven with a scene of unicorns and lions. I sat up and pulled back the curtains to find the room was even brighter than I had expected. I blinked at the light, and then managed to focus on the face of a servant girl who slept in a chair by the door.
I climbed carefully out of the bed, and crept to the window. I loosened the catch and swung it outward. Below me lay the most beautiful scene I could have imagined.
I was up high in a castle surrounded by a city of white plaster and wood. The guards wore helmets and mail shirts under their blue and white tunics; the people passing by wore rough linens and drove carts.
I hoped I never woke up from this dream, it was lovely. I stepped back in the room and twirled around, letting my nightgown float around me and my slippers whisper against the stone beneath them. I crossed to a large trunk in the corner and lifted the heavy lid.
The embroidery on the gowns before my eyes fairly took my breath away and I reached to stroke the fine linen with reverent hands.
"My Lady!" came a startled cry from behind me, and I nearly dropped the lid. The servant girl rushed to my side, worriedly placing her hands on the lid as if to prevent me from hurting myself by dropping it.
"Thou shouldst not be lifting so heavy a load so soon after a spell!" she said with some anxiety. She slowly lowered the lid, then hurried over to hover at my side, as if I would fall.
I stared at her in confusion. "A spell?" I stammered out.
"Yea, my Lady. Thou tookst ill almost as soon as thou rose this morning and hast been abed. Good Sir Lancelot has been inquiring after thee every hour. Too much longer and he would have sent for the King."
"No need to bother the King," I said as she shepherded me back towards the bed.
"Yea, my Lady, not now that thou art risen. We had feared Morgana had cast a spell across the miles to smite thee." She gasped, "Mayhaps she did, and now you are risen and it tides the fall of Morgana at last. Oh happiest of days!"
Just then a knock came at the door and another servant woman entered through it. "Sir Lancelot enquires after Queen Guinevere's health. Mayhaps we could dress her so his mind will be set at ease."
I looked down at the nightgown I was wearing, and found it to be more modest than even my school uniform. The maids were already selecting a gown from the trunk though so I didn't protest as they pulled it over my head.
They gently lead me to a chair and pulled the curtains on my bed, as if even seeing the place where I slept was some breach of decorum. I waited patiently in the chair, wondering if I my alarm would go off before they would let the legendary man through the door.
It seemed that time was on my side because they finally opened the door and ushered him through it.
I'm not sure what I expected, but he certainly exceeded any expectation I had ever had of any man. His honey blonde hair was long and wavy. His eyes were blue and sparkled with energy, but my favorite thing about him were his lips, full and berry toned, and stretched wide in a genuine smile.
He knelt before me and took my hand, he placed those delicious lips against it for the briefest moment, and an electric thrill ran up my arm and straight into my heart. That man could have powered a city with those lips. "My Lady, I am so relieved to find thee so recovered, and looking so much thyself."
Well that was a relief, I had half expected him to exclaim how bad I looked in comparison to the real Guinivere. He raised those joyful blue orbs to look at me and my heart just melted. Wow. No wonder the real Guinevere fell for the guy. He was simply edible in that blue and gold tunic with his mail shirt outlining the impressive muscles on his arms. The thought of those arms, and the chest they were attached to left me speechless, or I should say I kept my mouth shut so I didn't babble incoherently and drool all over myself.
Confusion crossed his lovely face, "but, My Lady, art thou yet not well?" he cast a censuring glance at the servants.
"Nay," I added in a hurry. "I am well, good Sir. I pray thee, be not concerned for my welfare."
"I have naught but thy welfare and the welfare of the kingdom to concern myself with while his Highness is away to battle the dread Morgana. Truth, I thought I had failed my task when thou didst take so suddenly ill," he said.
"Then take no more thought for my welfare, but tend to the kingdom," I told him.
When he released my hand I regretted comforting him. I should have kept him there, holding my hand in his until my alarm went off, just so I could enjoy the look and feel of him the rest of the night.
Instead I watched him walk out the door and resigned myself to looking out the window at the city below.
Some hours later the hovering servant girl asked if I wanted to eat in the hall or in my room. I was quite hungry, and though I wasn't sure how I should act while eating in a hall, I was eager to see what my dream came up with for me to eat, until I woke up. Surely my alarm would go off soon, or Elaine would wake me.
She opened the door for me and stepped aside and as I crossed the threshold I realized she intended to remain behind, and I had no idea how to navigate the castle. After a moment of thought I re-entered the room and my confused servant accompanied me.
"Thou art my true and faithful servant?" I asked "Canst I trust you to lend me aid without causing undo concern to he who has been entrusted with my safety?"
"Yea, my Lady," she said with a little dip and a concerned look.
"Good." I said, "Be not afraid that I shall feint, but while my body is whole my mind is still clouded... that which I dreamed while sleeping weighs heavily on me."
"It must have been a frightful thing thou dreamst, to haunt thee for so many hours," she said with pity in her face.
"It twas in truth, and I find myself lost in remembrance at times and not aware of where I am. I pray thee, walk with me this even, and mayhaps I become lost in the dream again, touch thou my elbow and direct me the way. Mayhaps if thou assist me in this way we can ease the mind of the good Knight that he may better care for the Kingdom, for that is what matters in truth."
My little speech brought a glimmer of tears to her eyes, and I thought she was repressing an urge to hug me soundly. Instead she beamed and dipped again before leading me out of my chambers.
We were near the end of a long corridor, so there was only one way to go at the moment. I walked slowly, enraptured with the textures around me and the sound of our feet on the broad boards. We were coming to a crossing though, and my servant walked three steps behind me, so I put on my best distracted look and gradually came to as stop a good five feet from the junction.
After a few moments she touched my elbow and slid off to the right into the hallway. I blinked rapidly and cast her a thankful smile as I again took the lead. This hallway was lined with those ancient tapestries, and I couldn't help but stop to look at them. This caused the poor girl some concern, and she bobbed back and forth, unsure of the nature of my distraction. I took to slowly walking by them and letting my pleasure at their beauty show on my face so she wouldn't be so concerned.
We eventually reached a set of doors so wide they could have accommodated a car. Two guards hastened to open them for me and I nodded to them, hoping I was being regal enough. By their looks of joy I guessed the real Guinivere didn't acknowledge them much.
I crossed the threshold and the hall fell into silence as I walked down the center of the room, my little servant girl shadowing me all the time. Lancelot was sitting at the table at the front of the room to the side of the King's chair, opposite the one obviously intended for me. As I reached the center of the floor Lancelot stood and raised his glass. He was quickly joined by the others assembled and they all toasted my quick return to health. I nodded my thanks and then allowed my servant girl to help me into my seat.
As the conversation returned to its former pitch and food was placed before me I noticed several curious looks being cast at me by Lancelot. I tried to act as normal and still as regal as possible while I ate, but he seemed to be catching a thousand mistakes I didn't know I was making. After several minutes of this torture, in which I failed to enjoy the roast a single bit, a jester was ushered into the room. I prayed he would capture the attention of the watchful Knight as well as he captured the rest of the room, but my hopes were in vain.
"Thou seemest less thyself than thou appearedest before," Lancelot said to me as the crowd roared with laughter. "I have been neglecting thy care, I fear."
"In truth, kind Sir, there is naught you can do. What ails me is but the shadows of a dream, and of no great concern to one entrusted with the King's kingdom."
"He will be most concerned to learn of your spell, and I'm afraid I will be unable to satisfy his inquiries," Lancelot said.
"I wouldst not have his displeasure frown upon thee, I shall tell him all, ere he returns," I told him. "Spare not another moment of concern for my behalf, it is the Kingdom that needst thy attention."
He seemed surprised, and it was only then I realized my error. The real Guinivere would not have spoken so. Apparently she was some kind of drama Queen.
I was saved in the next moment by the opening of the great doors to admit a couple. The evening light was such that I could not make out their faces until they had crossed half of the floor and approached my table.
Then two things happened at once, I recognized her face, and I accidentally chewed on my tongue.
The pain that accompanied this second thing, instead of detracting from the recognition, instead served to sharpen my realization. "This is not a dream," I said in a voice so low only those nearest me heard it.
My mother was one of those, and a gentle smile creased her lips and she shook her head just before she and her companion bowed to me.
"The Knight and Lady of Calamore are most welcome," Lancelot said rising, and I followed him to my feet. "I trust thou receivest both of my messages this day?" he asked them.
"Indeed we have, Sir Lancelot," the White Knight of Calamore replied to the other Knight, though his eyes were constant upon me. "We have been most anxious about the welfare of our daughter, and our only solace was that she was under your care in the absence of the King.
"If the court would be so kind, pray, allow us to commune with the Queen in privally that we may gain full confidence in her return to health," Mom said.
Sir Lancelot was only to happy to allow us to return to my chambers, but I felt I could not get there fast enough and the questions might explode out of me before the door was closed.
My mind was asking them though my mouth was not, and as my thoughts churned a fear rose inside me. What if this woman was not my real mother? I looked like the real Guinivere, but what if my mother also looked like her mother, but it was not my mother inside but hers? How was I going to figure it out? How was I going to keep it hidden? Surely they would know I was not their daughter in a moment if Lancelot was already suspecting. I was very much regretting being alone with them by the time The White Knight of Calamore closed my chamber door.
He looked at his wife with wariness and said, "Ask her."
My mother, or not mother, I knew not which, but she who looked like my mother turned to look at me with some trepidation in her eyes.
"Guinivere, can you tell me, have I ever spoken to you of the day I met your father, the White Knight of Calamore?"
"There is no story I know better," I replied, relieved I knew the answer. "Thou drawst him water from thy father's well as thy father repaired The White Knight's mail. He spoke of his love ere the rim touched his lips."
My mother's face lit like the sun had come out from behind a cloud, and I ached to run to her and burry myself in her arms, but fear held me back. Was it truly her?
"Now you must ask me a question my child," she encouraged me. "Something only the mother who gave you suck would know, and no other."
I thought for a moment before asking "What spied thee out the window yesterday whenst I came to thy door?"
"A lark in a tree, spied I through the bars, but his song was never as sweet as thy hand within mine," she replied, holding her hand out to me.
I rushed straight past her hand and into her arms. Then larger arms encompassed us both and I could just feel that they belonged to my true father, for their warmth was as a summer's day.
Tears of joy stained all of our cheeks before we thought to let go and I used the inside of my sleeve to dry them from those beloved faces. I didn't know how I hadn't known my father on sight, for as I dried his eyes it was like looking into my own eyes.
"But how? How did this happen?" I asked my mom, dropping all pretense of ancient speech. "I was asleep in my dorm, and you were locked away in the asylum."
My accent seemed to bother my father, and my mother placed a quieting hand on his arm, "Remember, she was raised among them whilst I was away from thee. The speech that was natural to the other Aranthe who was really Rachel, is the speech OUR Guinivere was raised with."
He nodded and then looked to me in apology, "You must see what it has been like for me, husband whilst not husband to the woman that emerged in my wife's body after she gave birth. Her strange speech was foreign to me, but her lack of memory of our courtship confirmed to me that some magic had come betwixt myself and my love." He turned hungry eyes on my mother, and she placed her hand on his cheek, as tenderly as a feather lights upon the grass.
"Then this is magic?" I asked though as the words left my mouth I realized how stupid they were. Of course it was magic, what else could it be?
"King Aurthur didst attack the mountain fortress of the dread Morgana last even. The battle lasted the length of the night," my father told me. "His goal was to destroy her and her implements of magic in order to free thy mother for me."
"Whatever magic Morgana used to curse me and thee out of our time has been broken!" my mother rejoiced.
"But did he expect to be changing me too?" I asked.
The glance they exchanged told me the King did not.
"It's not that I'm not happy to be out of that life Mom, I hated it. Besides, I would do anything to have you free of your prison, but do you know what you have done? Did you ever read the tales of Camelot in that other life?"
"In truth I have read them, and it grieves me that such things would be written about my land and people. So much was wrong in those tales; you need not take them as a sign of the true path of your life. The bards who bore the tales did not so much as agree with one another, much less rightly portray those I know. Fear not my child," she said comfortingly.
"Of what speakest thou?" my father asked. "What legends vilify our people to cause unrest in my daughter's soul?"
"They are but rumors that capture the fancy of poets yet unborn," she assured him. "Our Guinivere is noble in heart, for she is of thy blood. We have no need to fear."
My father's heart may have rested with those words, but mine did not. I prayed that when Aurthur showed up all thought of Lancelot would fly from my mind and history could be changed, but I had little faith in my prayers.
Lancelot was only too happy to put my parents up in quarters in the castle, I suspected he was happy to have the back-up in case I had another spell. My maid brought me a tray of food, and I nibbled on it as I sat beside the fire and thought, late into the night. I wondered about the other Guinivere, what she was doing in the other body, if they had already carted her off to an asylum, or if she was wiley enough to have found a way to adapt.
I felt bad for her, in spite of all the little hints I had gotten that she hadn't been the nicest person. She had gone from being the seventeen year old Queen of Camelot to being a boarding school student in a day.
Some might not see the difference, but I did. I wasn't allowed to do anything for myself here, but I suspected there were no friends to help me through the adjustment.
I wondered what Selma and Elaine had done when they woke up to Queen Guinivere instead of me. Elaine would try to help, I was sure of it, but Selma... Selma might have been threatened by the presence of another drama Queen.
Well, it wasn't like I could do anything about it, even if I wanted to. Morgana was likely dead. I was here, the other Guinivere was there, and from what my parents told me this is where we all belonged.
I just hoped her mother had prepared her, like mine had prepared me, then maybe there was hope for her.
There was a rattle as my door opened and I pulled my robe around me protectively as I stood to face it. The firelight danced off the crown on his head before it lit his face, so I knew what name to put to the man I was now seeing.
The Legendary King Aurthur.
He was old. Not feeble old, but probably twice my age, and tired. He was bone weary.
I flew to his side in concern, "Thou are weary, my Lord, come sit, by the fire." I lead him to a fur lined chair and he sank into it gratefully. I hovered over him, not knowing what to do really. There was a basin of water and a cloth, so I went and dipped it and then began to wash the road off his hands. He took the cloth and pressed it to his face. I wondered if he was trying to wipe away the dust on his face or the stain of the battle on his soul.
Finally he removed it and I hurried to soak it again, but he caught my hand, "I am told thy parents have come to our roof. I pray thee, how fares thy Mother?"
I knelt before him, unable to meet his eyes, afraid of his reaction to what he might see in them.
"In truth, my Mother is not the woman she was ere you last met her. I can never thank you enough for restoring her," I said.
He sighed, as if he had carried great fears his efforts had been in vain.
"Didst thou doubt the task thou so bravely undertook to perform?" I asked him softly.
"I had not but the word of a beaten servant and the beliefs of thy father to support it, but it needed to be done. More lives than hers have been torn by Morgana's Un-Godly powers," he said.
"I am comforted that much good will come of it then," I said. "Did we lose many men in the battle?"
"Some," he said and his hand tightened on the arm of the chair.
Tears pricked at my eyes, what had been the cost of our return?
I tried to hold the tears back but they came anyway and I raised my sleeve to wipe one away from my eye.
Then his hand was at my chin and he forced me to look in his eyes. He fixed me with such a gaze that I knew he was seeing right through me.
"Who art thou?" he asked, his lips tightening.
"Please, my Lord, I have no desire to deceive you. I do not know what understanding you have of the curse placed upon my mother, but please allow me to explain," I plead.
He stood and crossed to the fire, placing his elbow on the mantle and staring into the flames, "Thou mayest speak," he said.
It took a deep breath and began the tale, my use of the ancient tongue slipping more and more until it was just me explaining things to a man I couldn't help but want to trust.
I told him about my earliest memories, of the stories my mother would tell, of the way she resisted all attempts to persuade her otherwise. I told him of the fights I witnessed, and of the sad day when he sent her away. I told him of how I would search my other father's family pictures, never finding my features in any of them. I told him of my efforts to fit in, fit into a world that I didn't understand, of the way my mother's stories always stayed with me.
Then I told him of how I woke here, of how I thought it a dream, and how confused I was. "Part of me wishes I could take it back, for I ache to think of the lives that may have been harmed. Yet part of me will never regret meeting my true father and seeing the joy in my mother's face."
I sighed deeply and fell quiet.
He stared in the flames a while longer before he spoke. "Thou are so unlike her, I shouldst have known at the first touch."
"I'm so sorry. You must be so upset to have lost her."
He sighed and looked up at the ceiling, "In truth... it wouldst be a lie to say that I was."
I tilted my head in confusion, but kept my tongue still. It wasn't really my marriage after all, was it?
He turned and saw that I was still seated on the floor. With a shake of his head he reached to take my hands and place me in a chair. Then he studied me.
"So thou art the Guinivere that Morgana sought to take from me. Gentle, thoughtful, honest, and humble," he chuckle, "I don't know if I deserve such a wife."
The term wife, as applied to me, made me uncomfortable, and I looked down. It was one thing to admire the man before me, and another to desire him in that way, the way I had desired Lancelot in a moment. I had thought I had known the difference between love and lust, but now I was not so sure.
"I take it thou art a maid then?" he asked gently.
I nodded my head, still not meeting his eyes.
"Then a maid thou shalt remain, until thou decidest otherwise," he said putting a hand on my head.
"That is very kind of you, Sir," I said.
"If your father could do it for seventeen years, I think I can survive until you learn to love me," he said with a chuckle.
"He told you that?" I asked in surprise.
"I used my very best wine upon him," the King admitted. "I needed to know the truth before I acted, and such secrets are not easily obtained from noble men such as your father."
I smiled softly, thinking of each of them saving themselves until they saw the one the loved return. I wondered if the other... Rachel had made it hard for my father, or if she had avoided him like Aranthe had avoided Master Hill. I supposed I would never know.
I wondered then if my marriage to Aurthur was intact, since I had not entered into it, but the body I was in apparently had. It seemed unfair in a way, to force us two strangers together, but the way he talked about the other Guinivere... perhaps they have lived as strangers all along anyway.
"Thou must be weary, I shall retire to my chambers," Aurthur said, patting my shoulder before he walked away.
"My Lord," I called as he reached the door. He turned to look at me, his face so vulnerable it nearly broke my heart. "I don't feel I will ever be able to express my gratitude for what you have done for my mother."
"My Queen," he said softly, "thou hast spoken the words, and they have reached my heart. Goodnight."
I woke the next morning to the incredible aroma of freshly baked bread. I pulled back the curtains to discover my servant quietly setting my breakfast tray on the table. She bowed her way out of the room, and I was happy to be left alone to devour the food as uncouthly as I wished.
I was licking the butter off my fingers when a whisper of paper drew my attention to the door.
I crossed the room and picked up the tightly rolled note that had one letter scrawled on it's exterior, G. I broke the wax seal with my thumb nail and crossed the room to my bed as I unrolled it.
What I read made my insides writhe in the most unsettling way.
I longed for thee all even. Pray come tonight, lest my longing for thy touch drive me to madness.
I did my best to hold down my breakfast. There was no doubt from whom Queen Guinivere would receive such a note, Lancelot. So the affair had already started. The other me had already betrayed the most noble man in history.
My first instinct was to burn the note, and with it all evidence against the skin I wore. Aurthur may have accepted my tale in the dead of the night, but if he found out, would he still believe me another soul in this body? Would I be able to escape his wrath? Would my secret eventually be told and would I face the hangman's noose as the bards in the time in between my lives had depicted me facing?
As I crossed to the fire my eyes fell on a smudge on the white marble mantle, where Aurthur had rested his battle weary hand. I saw in my mind the image of him there, and knew on some level that to hide the actions of the other Guinivere was to betray him anew.
I couldn't do that. Aurthur had been my hero since I was a child, I had cursed Lancelot and Guinivere for destroying him and all he had hoped to build in his Kingdom. I wanted to be part of the good in this Kingdom, and no good could start with a lie.
I heard a step at my door and quickly tucked the note into my bodice. My servant entered at my bidding and informed me that my parents wished to visit me.
We managed to get me dressed fairly quickly, and I told her my mother could help me with my hair. She let them in and bowed her way out, closing the door on us.
I was once again pulled into the warm embrace of both of my parents, and was sad when they released me. I had said so many goodbyes in my life, I hated to think that eventually they would return to Calamore without me. I would have to enjoy every moment I had them.
My moments were numbered though, because the first thing they did was explain that they had to return today. Apparently Knights did not get much time off for family emergencies.
I had hoped to privately consult with my mother about the letter, and how best to tell Aurthur, but now I knew I could not burden her with it. She deserved every instant of happiness she could fit in, she had lost so many years already.
So I spent our little time together clinging to my father's hands as Mom brushed and braided my hair, and promising them that I would be fine, "Aurthur knows all now, and... well he really is the most noble and fine man in the world."
It was that nobility I was counting on as I went to find him in his library later that day.
He was staring out the window when I entered the room. As I walked softly towards him I scanned the room, in awe of the carefully wrapped scrolls and the unfamiliar scent of ancient texts. We were alone in the room, which was a relief. I didn't want to cause a stir among the servants by having too many closed door conversations. I also figured a servant ejected from a room was more likely to listen at the door.
"My Lord," I said softly dipping into a courtesy I was sure he found inferior to the others he received all day.
He didn't look disapproving though, he looked hopeful, and the spark of joy in his eyes stirred my heart. Such a good man deserved to be happy.
I wished very much I didn't need to make him unhappy, but my mother had always taught me that the truth was the paramount concern. She should know. I needed to be brave like her now.
I returned his smile, though my nerves were showing.
Concern filled his eyes and he reached a hand out and rested on my shoulder. "The uncertainty in thy eyes pains me. Knowest thou not that I am a man of my word and sworn to love and cherish thee?"
"The legend of thy noble character has been more a part of my life than you... thou...couldst know, my Lord," I said softly, looking him earnestly in the eyes. "In that time all children are taught of the principles of equity and nobility that graced thy courts. However, I feared since my coming, and have had confirmed this day, that that which is long spoken of as your undoing I am too late to prevent."
"Of what speakest thou?" Aurthur asked his eyes now mingling confusion with his concern.
"I... I thought to burn the proof, to protect thee from the pain it must surely cause thee, but I have decided it wouldst be wrong to hide this from thee."
I pulled the now flattened scroll from my bodice and passed it to him, the letter G plainly showing on the outside. "This was slipped under my door this morning, after my servant had left for the kitchens."
He unrolled it, his brow furrowed, and he read the damning evidence several times before closing his eyes and bowing his head in grief.
I ached to reach out, comfort him with my touch, but I greatly feared that if he saw my face, her face, he might lash out in a way he would regret. So I stood there, hands clasped tight, and barely breathing while Aurthur, the Great Aurthur suffered in silence before me.
He opened his mouth, and I held my breath, trying to be ready for any of the myriad of responses he might have to this revelation.
When he finally spoke I found myself speechless.
"Thou must think very little of me indeed, with such evidence of my inadequacy presented to thee within a day of thy miraculous return," he said. Unable to look at me he crossed the room and sank into a chair, his fingers shoved into his long but thinning hair. I wondered how often he sat like that, the worries in his head so great that he must crush them in with his hands.
We remained that way for some time, my knees creaking beneath me, and his knuckles white amidst his hair, until I found my tongue and quietly asked, "Art thou angry with me?"
"Angry?" he asked in surprise turning to look at me with red rimmed eyes. "Why wouldst I be angry with thou? It is no sin of thine."
I sighed with relief and then he nodded, "Thou fearedst I would hold her body responsible for her error." He shook his head no, and held out a hand to me.
I found myself rushing to take it, but though we were practically strangers offering that comfort was not enough for me. I placed my hand upon his face, running my thumb over the well smeared tears that dampened his cheek.
He half laughed and ducked his head again, though he still clung to my hand. "Thou must think me the greatest of fools," he shook his head. "All of future history must think of me as such."
"No!" I said firmly, then corrected myself, "Nay, they do not!" His head was still facing the floor so to the floor I sank and forced him to look in my eyes. "I do not now, nor have I ever thought thee a fool."
He blinked at my sincerity.
"My Lord," I said, trying to frame in a moment why millions upon millions call him a hero. "Thou are legendary for... for seeing the greatness in others, when they sometimes did not see it themselves. That is not a weakness, that is a gift. Thy pain, thy loss is not a blemish in the story of thy life, nay, the world grieves with you that those you trusted were not strong enough to help thee achieve thy vision. Thou art FOREVER the greatest King and the most noble of mortal men."
He searched my eyes, and I clung to his hand, willing him to feel my belief in him, willing him to see in my eyes what he truly was.
"Thou believest in me more than any hast before," he said in wonder. "Nay, not even Merlin held such hope for me ere he died." His eyes glazed over with thought, "It was he who bade me marry Guinivere, with his last breath. I can only but hope thou are the Guinivere he spiedest through the mists of time. I believe he wouldst have loved thee dearly."
His eyes fell on the note, laying mangled on the rug beside me. "Me thinks thou knowest from thy youth the man in whom I didst falsely trust."
I sighed, "Indeed the stories of my time suppliedest a name, but ere I speak it, I beg thee consider: In all else save the love of thy wife this man hast been thy faithful servant. His choice was wrong, her choice was wrong, and justice demands that they pay for their wrongs, but justice has placed her out of his reach. Thy heart may safely confide that he shall never come to me. If thou hast any fear of this I will sleep at thy feet every night of my life, I will ride with thee to every battle, I will walk behind thee in every step thou takest. Only I pray thee, expose thou not this man, and thyself to public censure. I fear the people will indeed lose faith, and thy power for good will be diminished."
He looked at me for the longest time, the expressions in his eyes a mixture of many thoughts and emotions. Then at last he spoke, "Such great wisdom to proceed out of the mouth of one so young. I wouldst I had had thee at my side instead of the vain and selfish woman whom I wed."
"Well," I said with a blush. "It doth help to know the end from the beginning... Though, in truth," I added suddenly realizing something, "If thou takest the course I have prescribed, I fear my foresight there ends. History will have changed."
"We will make the change for the better then, thou and I. Nay, not for the better but for the best!" he said the spark of hope and vision lighting his eyes. He rose from the chair, pulling me up with him. "Come, we must be started, call thou the mislead lover to meet with me and thee."
I cast him a concerned look and he grinned, "I swear to thee, my fated bride, I wish only for him to look into thy eyes and see, and to hear thy story and to understand. I shall not make thee face thy fears of a dark future."
I grinned and pressed my hands to his cheeks, and finding them still wet used my sleeve to wipe them dry. The tender gesture brought more tears to his eyes and while I smiled and wiped them away I also silently cursed the other Guinivere for neglecting him so that such a simple act would be unexpected.
He raised his hand to still my wiping sleeve and with the other cautiously reached for my waist. When I did not resist he turned my arm and gently kissed the inside of my wrist.
The warmth that spread through me from that kiss was so unlike my reaction to Lancelot's kiss upon my hand that I marveled I had ever let the Knight's touch affect me. The comfort, the safety, the trust that filled me as I stood wrapped in Aurthur's arms was such bliss that I knew, this was what love was. This is where I belonged, in this time, in these arms, as King Aurthur's true Queen Guinivere.