|Fables from the Heart
Author: Annwyd PM
Beyond the stories that are told, Oswald confesses a truth that Gwendolyn did not know. Post-game.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance - Words: 1,228 - Reviews: 8 - Favs: 14 - Published: 12-15-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6558708
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
One day they will tell stories. Parents will tell their children of the man and woman who revived the world, the sole survivors of the Armageddon, the mother and father of them all (and children will wonder how that was possible, and if it was lonely). They will tell their children of how the man awoke the woman from her enchanted slumber with a kiss that bound her to love him, and children will wonder how either of them lived with that. Children are smarter than their parents realize about some things.
In every story there are lies. Truth does not unfold itself so neatly, and so it is cut away over the ages, each retelling trimming a little more of the original fabric from the cloth of the story and adding a bit of its own lace.
The truth that almost everyone accepts is this: in the weeks and months that followed Armageddon, Gwendolyn and Oswald began to root out other survivors. They were far weaker and more vulnerable than the Valkyrie princess and the Shadow Knight, and they looked to the two of them for guidance. They were content to fade away from the stories. Instead, they would live through their children and their children's children, even if those offspring would be said to be of Gwendolyn and Oswald's line.
But there is another truth known only to the few, found only in the most obscure of books. That is the nature of the love between the so-called mother and father of the new world. As for their own shared knowledge of it, that is even more of a secret truth, because only Gwendolyn and Oswald were there for those conversations. Only that legendary couple was there, alone with each other, when in those first few weeks of exploring the new land, they began to realize that they did not know each other's lives.
So as they gathered around their fires, painstakingly made with flint and wood instead of sparked with phozons, they began to talk not just of the last surviving monsters they killed each day or of the unending purity of their love for each other, but also of the dim lives they had led before they had met. Oswald told in low tones of the loneliness of growing up the only human in the fairy court, and Gwendolyn gathered each word to her heart, feeling the familiarity of it. Gwendolyn spoke softly of the years spent training for battle under her father's careless eyes after her mother's death, and Oswald turned her words over in his head, sensing the feeling in them that he shared.
They knew that even if they found other survivors, they would never tell them of these things. The process of discovering each other was their own story, and they would not have it worn into new shapes for the future.
But their lives were young ones. The nights around the fire passed quickly, and in time they had told each other all there was to be told.
"And then," Gwendolyn said one night, "I woke up in the old castle, with the spell upon me."
"The spell?" Oswald murmured. "But I had broken it by then."
"'Tis not so, I fear," Gwendolyn said, lowering her gaze into the flames. "You only changed its form. I rose from my slumber bound to love you."
"Ah!" Oswald stared at her. Had even she been given that lie about the spell? She had acted so cold to him at first, he had thought she knew even then. But now he recalled what she had said to him later, on the terrace of the castle. She had not known the power of her own heart after all. "The spell..."
"No, Oswald," she said. "You must not feel shame, nor guilt. I do not need to choose; I need only to serve you. It is all I ask."
"Gwendolyn!" In an instant, he reached across the fire and seized her weary shoulders. The light glimmered in her startled eyes as she turned them to him. "You must not say such things! No more. You no longer exist to serve without choosing. You exist to live!"
"Almost so," she said. "I exist to live for you."
He softened, his grasp on her gentling. "And I for you. But...we chose this path."
She hesitated. "I think...I would have chosen it."
"You don't understand," Oswald said. "You did choose it. Gwendolyn, you slept under your father's spell, but no spell could bind your pure heart. You..." He faltered, here, as the realization came to him in its entirety for the first time. "You chose to love me."
She froze in place, as if untouched by the fire's warmth. Then, slowly, she lifted her hands to cover his. "How could that be?" she whispered. "I thought my heart a traitor, swayed by forces beyond my control, when first I longed for you."
"You...longed for me?" Oswald would have let his hands slip away again, but they were trapped now.
"From the time I woke up, and you looked upon me with those gentle eyes," said Gwendolyn. "I denied it. I believed myself to be struggling against the spell. When I learned you had slain the dragon for my sake, I thought my resolve broken, and the spell taken hold. But it no longer mattered, for you were everything, and you alone in the world made me happy."
"Gwendolyn." Oswald's voice was a hoarse whisper now. "From the first time I met you, that was all I sought. To make you happy by my own will. Not by a spell that painted your heart as if it were a blank canvas. I would never...I would never have woken you, had the spell been real. I would have searched forever for a way to restore your heart to you."
"But when it was returned to me," she said, "I gave it to you after all."
"You already had mine," he said.
"How strange it is," she said.
"Strange...?" Oswald shook his head. "No. It is fitting, that you should have control over yourself as such. We are people, not objects to be tossed from one master to another."
"No, 'tis not that of which I spoke," Gwendolyn said, gently pulling Oswald's hands from her shoulders and clasping them over the fire. It was small enough, now, that it did not burn: it only warmed. "How strange, that we should spend this time trying to know each other's lives, when already we knew each other's hearts far better than we thought. My heart has chosen, Oswald, with or without my consent. You are its lord, and will be for eternity."
"Then," Oswald said, "the spell exists after all, but it is on both of us, and far more powerful than your father ever thought. For I can be no one's lord, yet you say I am; and my allegiance was sworn to another long ago, yet you hold it now within your hands."
In ages to come, this story would be lost, a single grain of truth in a desert of fable. But in the hearts of Gwendolyn and Oswald, it was the only truth that mattered. They needed no other story.