Author: chemqueen PM
She has no name, and no past. Having rescued her from Marius' prison, the knights witness Cerelinde come into her heritage and perhaps a love for Tristan. But once she finds her idenity, can she keep both her heart and her name? DISCONTINUEDRated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Chapters: 4 - Words: 10,403 - Reviews: 50 - Favs: 16 - Follows: 32 - Updated: 05-07-06 - Published: 08-17-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2539318
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Oooh . . . new story. Where shall it go . . . what shall it do? . . .
Read and find out!
So now . . .
Chapter One: Cerelinde
"Come back to us, little sister . . ."
Behind her fluttering eyelids, Cerelinde watch two men reach out to her. Their skin glowed liquid gold, and their eyes were kind. Their names were within her grasp . . . why couldn't she remember?
Her eyes cracked open, the light filtering in painfully.
Am I dead? wondered Cerelinde as an angel scooped her from her putrid cell into his arms.
Damn Marius, was her second thought, and she filled her mind with images of staking the evil Roman leader with many small pointy objects. Stabbity, stab, stab.
"Who are you?" asked the angel, who had begun to walk away from the prison cells and towards the light of the day, and the forest, which for some reason she was drawn to. The call of the trees inexplicably whispered to her soul.
"Guinevere calls me Cerelinde," she whispered, her tongue bruised. She had refused to scream, and bit her tongue enough times to draw blood. The monks were more bearers of pain than the soothing comfort their god promised. Her throat constricted around the words, and they came out breathy.
The angel smiled, and his face glowed. "I am Lancelot," he replied to her unspoken question, and she only had time to think, I have never met an angel named Lancelot before the sun thundered down on her sensitive eyes, and she buried her head in her savior's chest.
"Another admirer?" inquired a rough voice, and Cerelinde realized that angels didn't have beating hearts, and she felt her face grow red with embarrassment. The last man she had done this too . . .
She couldn't remember.
As a matter of fact, the woman called Cerelinde couldn't remember much of anything. She remembered stumbling from the forest in a daze, and when she watched taunting Roman soldiers string up an old man – one she couldn't help classifying as hers – a hot rage burned up her chest, and erupted as she launched herself at them, remembering too late that she lacked a sword or a dagger.
Cerelinde had managed to land a few well-placed kicks and punches before one had put his sword rather dramatically under her chin. She shot the man a look of sorrow and regret, but he had simply smiled thanks.
She also remembered the green dress she had worn. The bodice was fitted and velvety, and the taffeta skirt flared slightly. Small jet beads were scattered over the skirt and lined the seam between the skirt and bodice. The back laced in five silver circles of twining leaves which connected to close it.
She remembered being thrown at Marius' feet, and the lust and laughter in his eyes as he had ordered her dress, "Too fine for such a rotting peasant", to be removed from her person, and the rough hands of the guards as they had torn at the silver fastenings. Finally she had pushed them away and taken off the dress herself, her head held high.
Then they threw her in the rotting hell with even more rotted priests who mumbled incoherently as they sharped glittering tools of torture with which to prick her. Their eyes were full of madness and they had chuckled, reciting in high voices the words of their god.
"Join him, and let repentance heal your torn soul."
That night she met Guinevere, a petite blonde girl, who called herself a woad, and bestowed her with a name.
Who are you?
I can't remember.
What if I call you Cerelinde?
It's very pretty . . . what does it mean?
Whatever you make it into.
Guinevere had told her tales of the forest to frighten away the night terrors. She was so incredibly strong, and together they blocked the scary things, and protected the boy Lucan. Both of them took extra punishment to relieve him of some.
Suddenly remembering her friend, Cerelinde unburied her face, and craned her neck to look for the child ( how strange that she always thought of Guinevere as a child, even though the woman, at twenty, had at least a year on her).
Sensing her unrest (or perhaps the swiveling of her neck gave her away), Lancelot murmured, "She's over there, with Arthur."
Arthur? Arthur, Roman, leader of the Sarmatian knights, son of a Roman and a Britain, carrier of Excalibur.
Where had that come from?
Cerelinde turned to where Lancelot had pointed his chin, and saw Guinevere greedily gulping water, and then choking as her stomach rejected the liquid as too much. The man, Arthur, stood and handed Lancelot the skin, who lowered her to the ground beside her friend, and gave her the water. Cerelinde drank slower, and felt an icy burn trail down into her stomach.
She turned to Guinevere, and with a few choice looks they had, by some inbred warrior instinct, positioned all escape routes and which of the knights behind them was the weakness. It confused Cerelinde, and led her to think that perhaps there was war in her past.
Moments, barely seconds later Marius appeared, furious, his beady black eyes blazing with self-righteous anger. "Stop what you are doing!" he exploded. He whirled on Guinevere and Cerelinde, who both glared defiantly back at him. When she was certain no one was looking, Cerelinde childishly stuck out her tongue and her middle finger.
"What is this madness?" demanded Arthur, their rescuer, and he stepped between the girls and the furious Roman.
"She is a pagan," shrieked Marius, pointing an accusing finger at Guinevere. "And SHE," he continued, whirling around to face Cerelinde, "SHE is a creature of darkness. A child deformed by God so her tongue will not speak for Satan! She will not speak, not to beg forgiveness!" He finished his tirade and turned to the knights for support. And received none.
A young knight (Galahad, her mind told her) yelled, "We are pagans!" and Arthur stepped forward. But the most surprising reaction of all was Cerelinde, who whispered,
"I can speak, Marius. But if I do not scream for your monks, it is none of your concern." The Roman lord looked shocked, and was speechless for a moment. Then, seeing no support in the knights surrounding Guinevere and Cerelinde in a half-circle, turned his anger inward.
"And you!" he yelled at the cowering woman at his side, who was dressed in a crimson cloak, "You helped them!" His slap echoed in the silent field, and both Arthur and Cerelinde lunged forward. Arthur made it first, mostly because Cerelinde's weak body was too tired to support an angry launch at the bastard. She made it half way before collapsing.
Lancelot put a hand on her shoulder and firmly shoved her backwards, but she remained rigid and watched Arthur threaten Marius at the tip of his sword. As fear blanched the Roman's eyes into bleak pools of blue, Cerelinde and Guinevere shared a savage grin of joy. Revenge blossomed in their hearts. Guinevere's fingers twitched as if whirling a dagger.
"Wall them back up," commanded Arthur, and Cerelinde turned quickly. She had missed something.
"Arthur . . ." said a voice behind her, and Cerelinde turned to get a look at the voice which sounded vaguely familiar. A man sat on a lithe horse behind her, his eyes on his leader, a dagger caught in his hands. His mangy brown hair was interspersed with braids. As Arthur snapped something behind her, his eyes drifted over to her. She frowned, lines forming between her brows.
He seemed so familiar . . .
But apparently he didn't feel the same, because he turned and wheeled his horse away as Lancelot once again picked her up, and carried her to a wooden wagon that was already occupied by an unconscious Guinevere, and the little boy Lucan.
Lancelot dumped her unceremoniously in the wagon, and disappeared in a swirl of cloak, obviously furious about something that Cerelinde had a nagging feeling was about her and the village people. They were all rushing about, packing their few belongings and loading wagons. One half of Cerelinde's mind whispered, "They'll drag us down," but another, somewhat larger, part replied, "You cannot let your people die." Her people? Since when had they become her people?
Before Fulcina and her large helper (Dagonet) could notice that they had another patient, Cerelinde peered out of the wagon opening, as the village people scrambled to gather their lives in few minutes. The knights were interspersed with them, eyes alternating between muttering at the sky and glaring at their commander. Behind them stretched . . .
Dark trees were coated in a layer of crystalline snow that glittered. The sun was never very high in this land, but evening was closing fast, and strangely the moon was missing. As she watched the forest, Cerelinde caught a glimpse of a moving creature.
That strange knight. He was watching the wagon, and perhaps her. Not a very efficient scout if he's looking the wrong way, thought Cerelinde, and then realized that she didn't have a way of knowing that he was the scout.
So she must know him. Then again, she knew the names of all of the knights, and they didn't seem as familiar as the dark scout, who finally noticed her gaze, and turned away, slipping like liquid into the woods. I could do that . . .
Cerelinde was jerked from her mental meanderings as the wagon lurched forward, and Fulcina finally took note of her. The small woman stalked forward with a formidable look in her eyes.
"What do you think you're doing, sitting out in the cold?" she scolded, and dragged Cerelinde away from the forest's strange call, and back into the covered area where Guinevere slumbered. Fulcina looked at Cerelinde's fingers critically, and then turned to her hulking helper, who had vanished.
"I'll have to get one of the men to set these," she muttered, motioning to Cerelinde's right hand, where her ring finger and thumb were broken. Strangely, her left hand was unbroken, and other than mal-nutrition, Cerelinde didn't have much to show for her stay in Marius' cells.
Fulcina sat back on her heels, and for a moment watched her strange patient, who simply looked back at her with strange eyes that seemed to be liquid silver now, as opposed to the usual deep green. As she watched, the eyes shifted like some sort of animal, and a circular ring rose through her eyes, across the iris, then vanished.
"When I brought you bread two days ago you had two fingers on your left hand broken," said Fulcina, and Cerelinde blinked at her. Her fair skin was slightly pink at the cheeks, but she refused to answer. Cerelinde couldn't exactly tell her that she had awakened the day before to healed fingers.
Fulcina sighed. "Fine. Don't answer." She turned away, and bustled with a few sleeping herbs in the brazier that tipped with each lurch of the cart. Cerelinde fell into a deep sleep.
When she had arrived before Marius, he had stripped her of her forest green gown that she had worn. It was a comforting thing, and she wished to have it. Quietly, she slipped her hand inside the wagon, and grabbed one of furs, and wrapped it around her shoulders.
Then she moved towards the nearest campfire, which housed the knights. Arthur was absent, but the strange scout and Lancelot were there, trading rowdy jokes. They all fell into silence as she stumbled closer.
"Hello," she said a little awkwardly, and felt her face heat as the men all scrutinized her form beneath the lumpy fur cape she had wrapped herself in.
Obviously determining her safe, a particularly bawdy large knight (Bors, whispered her mind) moved aside and let her move into their ranks. The silence was broken as Lancelot said: "Looking to ditch Vanora, eh? How d'you think she'll respond to that?" and there was hearty laughs all around that broke the uncomfortable silence Cerelinde had brought when she emerged from the mist.
Vanora? Bors' lover. Born his eleven children, some of them Lancelot's.
By now Cerelinde was getting used to the buzzing thoughts in her mind. She ignored them.
The strange, staring scout was to her left, leaning against a tree trunk as if it belonged to him. To her right was the stout Bors. Silently, the scout handed her a leg of meat, and she dug in hungrily. Eventually she realized they were all staring at her.
"I'm Cerelinde," she offered with a smile, and the men introduced themselves hastily in a circle. Her mind prompted the name before the knight spoke it, and it produced an eerie echoing effect in her head. It ended with the strange scout.
"That's Tristan," said Bors, obviously not expecting his friend to fill it in himself. "Quiet sort." Cerelinde offered him a hesitant smile, and it wasn't returned. The smile dropped and she placed the stripped bone next to her in the dirt.
"So where are you from?" asked the young one, Galahad. Cerelinde looked into the fire.
"I don't know," she replied, and they all guffawed. "No," she reassured them, "It's true. The first thing I remember is coming out of the forest to see Marius' minions stringing up that poor village elder. I tried to intervene, and forgot in the process that I didn't have a weapon on me."
Gawain snorted at that. "Not a good thing to forget," he said, and Cerelinde grinned.
"It's not very good to forget who you are either," and there was laughter all around. She settled into the background as the men began to swap tales of bravo, the group occasionally correcting the storyteller.
"And that time with the raid? And Gawain launched that axe o' his, and couldn't find it?"
"You think that was the worst? It has nothing on the time we went north of the wall and found those wandering Saxons, and they turned out to be women in disguise."
"That wasn't brave, you idiot, that was just stupidity."
"No, that just proves that Saxons don't have men. That's why they're so easy to beat."
"They just spawn then?"
Their stories all lead to an argument, but their eyes were fastened to Cerelinde's slight figure, wavering with fatigue between the two tall knights on either side of her. Eventually her head nodded off to the left and collapsed against the same tree trunk as Tristan. The stories faltered for a moment before continuing with gusto.
But they all faded to snores in time, and Tristan was left on first watch, the mysterious girl's head lying on his shoulder. His hawk, who despised all living creatures but himself, had perched on her shoulder, head nestled under her wing.
Strange. Very strange.
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