The ceremony was quiet without fuss. Bishop Germanus performed it while her father bore witness. Soon enough the contract was signed and after a celebratory goblet of wine, Arthur and Lessa retired to her room where Arthur awkwardly sat on her bed while she paced around the room.
"You must try to get some rest, Lessa," Arthur urged.
"I can't sleep. Not now," she said, looking towards the window to the barracks. Arthur sighed.
"If you leave now, I believe you should have a few hours before sunrise. You must be back before then. And make sure no one sees you," he said, looking up at her. Lessa's eyes widened as she realized what he was telling her to do.
"But… what about father?" she asked.
"I will hold him off should he come to check, though I doubt he will," Arthur said. She nodded.
"Why are you doing this?"
"If neither of us return… it would be better for you. Your father would have less power over you if you were a widow and with child. No one would need know that it is not mine," he said. "Not to mention… he would allow you a time of mourning and you would arrive in Rome before it ended. He couldn't force you to marry another until then at least." Lessa nodded silently as tears filled her eyes. She quickly stepped behind a screen and changed into her breeches and a tunic, pulling her cloak around her before stepping to the window.
"Thank you, Arthur," she said through a watery smile.
"I'm doing this for me. I don't think I would get much sleep with you pacing and crying all night," he said ruefully. Lessa laughed softly and then turned and crawled out the window, deftly swinging down the uneven rocks to the ground. "So, that's how she does it," Arthur whispered to himself as he watched her creep through the shadows.
Galahad knew he should be sleeping, but he could not find enough calm to rest so he paced around his room instead. He knew that nothing would happen - it was only a marriage by name - but he still didn't care for the idea of Lessa being alone in her room all night with his captain.
"Psst!" he heard from the window. He looked over just in time to see Lessa crawling in.
"What are you doing here?" he asked. Lessa smiled at him.
"Arthur thought someone should have a wedding night," she said, sitting on his bed and undoing the laces of her boots. "He's covering for me. I just need to be back before sunrise."
"I know, I know. But this may be our only chance, Galahad," she said, her eyes pleading with him as she pulled her last boot off and stood, walking towards him. "And… should the worse happen… I'd like to think that at least there is a chance I would have a part of you left with me…"
Galahad laughed softly.
"I had just hoped that it would be under happier circumstances," he said, brushing her hair from her face.
"I imagined that it was you standing there with me," she said softly. "That it was you I was vowing to spend my life with, not Arthur." Galahad laughed softly.
"Knowing that you are waiting for me when I return is what gives me the strength to face whatever lies ahead," he said.
"As far as I'm concerned, I am yours Galahad. Body and soul," she said, pulling her cloak off and letting it fall to the floor. "No one can take me away from you." A single tear slid down her cheek.
"Oh, Lessa," Galahad breathed before crushing his lips against hers. She wrapped her arms around him, letting out all her fear and frustration through that kiss.
After a few moments, his lips left hers, both breathing heavily. He looked down at her, their foreheads touching. Neither had words.
"No… don't say anything. Not yet… I don't think I can bare it," she whispered. He then captured her lips in his again. Lessa reached up to his waist and undid his belt, hearing it fall to the floor with a thunk. He was left there standing in his loose leather tunic. She reached under it, running her hands up his scared chest. It was then that Galahad pulled her close, moving his lips to her neck as he slid his hands up to her shoulders to the front of her tunic. He quickly undid the laces and pulled at them until the shirt fell from her. He then made quick work of her breeches and they too fell to the floor.
Lessa took a step back, standing naked in front of him. He looked over her and then met her eyes. Lessa silently reached up, pushing the last of his clothing off his shoulders, leaving both of them bare in the room.
"No going back now," Lessa whispered and with a smile. Galahad chuckled. He then kissed her again, this more gently, running his fingers through her hair. Lessa took a step back leading them towards his bed. She ran into the edge and then they both tumbled onto it. Galahad stopped a moment, looking into her eyes.
"I love you, Lessa," he whispered.
Galahad watched as Lessa slowly pulled her boots back on, making quick work of the laces. Neither of them spoke. Lessa was too afraid if she opened her mouth again, the tears would start and she couldn't stop them. She could feel his eyes on her, memorizing every curve, every part of her face.
Once both were on she sat up and looked over at him, the tears starting to flow again.
"Come back to me Galahad," she said softly before falling onto him again. He kissed her head and ran his fingers through her hair again.
"I will," he said. "Nothing will stop me from coming back to you."
"Good. Otherwise I just might kill father if he becomes too insufferable," she said. He chuckled.
"Please don't," he said. "And please don't run off while I'm not here to run after you," he said.
"I'll try," Lessa said.
"You should hurry back. And I must sleep," he said.
"I can stay a bit longer," Lessa said.
"I don't want to risk us falling asleep and waking up too late. You should get back," he said. Lessa sat up and looked at him.
"I shan't give him a Roman name," she declared. Galahad looked at her confused. "If… if… I won't give our child a Roman name. I'll give him a Sarmatian name." Galahad placed a hand to her cheek.
"We will give him a good strong name," he vowed. Lessa nodded. She leaned forward and kissed him again before standing and grabbing her cloak from the floor, pulling it around her. She stepped over to the window, seeing that the coast was clear. She looked at Galahad one last time and then pushed the window open and slipped out.
The next morning, the knights readied for their journey in silence. The sun was barely starting to rise as they solemnly packed their saddlebags and weapons in the stables. The sound of pounding feet grabbed their attention as they looked towards the stable doors, a tearstained Lessa appearing, dressed in little more than her night shift with a cloak thrown over her.
"Alessandra!" they heard her father booming behind her.
"I couldn't let you all leave without wishing you luck," she said as she stood there, her eyes bloodshot. It looked as though she had been crying all night even though it had only been more like an hour or so. Arthur sighed and glanced at the men. They all looked worried, yet glad she had come.
"This is most innapropriate," her father said as he strode up behind her.
"Oh, shut up father," she said, glaring at him over her shoulder. "These men have put their lives at risk for 15 years for you and a country that is not their own. I will speak to them before they leave. Rules be damned." She locked eyes with Galahad, who stood just behind Arthur. "Besides, I'm not your property anymore."
For once, Marcus was silent.
Lessa lifted her head and walked over to Gawain, who was standing closest. She hugged him and kissed him on his cheek.
"Don't cry for me, Lessa. We'll be back before you know it," he said, smiling down at her. She nodded and stepped next to Lancelot.
"Despite everything, I will miss you," she said softly.
"Sad you might have missed your chance to warm my bed, are you?" he asked softly. Lessa stepped back and glared at him.
"Don't make me regret saying that," she said. Lancelot chuckled. She then moved to Tristan.
"Please avoid climbing up trees while I'm gone," he said softly, causing Lessa to laugh and then cry as she hugged him fiercely.
"At least I won't have to worry about being pierced by arrows," she muttered.
"You didn't have to worry even when it was me," he whispered, causing her to laugh. She stepped back and moved to Bors, the tears starting to flow more freely.
"You look like Vanora," he said before she was enveloped in a giant bear hug.
"Just come back to us both," she said.
"Don't worry. I have no intentions of dying," he said with a chuckle. Lessa then moved to Dagonet, her tears starting to stem her ability to speak.
"There, there, Lessa. No tears for me," he murmured. All she could manage was a mournful look at him before she stepped to Galahad. She held back a moment, knowing her father was standing there. They had already said their goodbyes, but she couldn't help but feel her world was ending. Galahad just pulled her towards him. He glanced up at Marcus who was looking elsewhere, as though bored.
"I will come back to you," he whispered in her ear.
"I know," she responded. She then stepped back and walked towards Arthur. He pulled her towards him, kissing the top of her head.
"Bring them back. All of them," she murmured into his chest.
"We will come back," he said.
"Alessandra, they must be going," her father said impatiently. Lessa turned her head and glared at him before looking up at Arthur.
"May God be with you," she said solemnly. He swallowed and then gently wiped a tear away from her cheek.
"We will come back," he vowed solemnly. She nodded and stepped away, walking to her father's side. She swallowed and held her head up as they all mounted their horses. Her eyes met Galahad's and she nearly lost it again but swallowed her sob and nodded instead. He returned it, a look of fierce determination on his face.
They all then rode out of the stables as Lessa and her father watched. She took a deep breath, trying her best to hold in the tears.
"Don't worry. Hopefully an heir has come of this," her father said. Lessa whipped her head up to glare at him.
"Is that all you care about, father? An heir?" she spat, hot tears falling down her face. "No wonder Mother died. She couldn't stand living with you. Sometimes I wish that she had taken me with her and spared me this." She didn't wait for a response, instead marching back home.
Her father just stood and stared after her. Again, speechless.
Later that day, Lessa sat silently at the table in the main hall as her father and the bishop spoke and ate, reminiscing over shared friends and acquaintances in Rome. She listlessly picked at her food, not feeling as though she could not eat.
"Do not fret, dear Alessandra. These are Arthur and his famed knights. They will return," the bishop said with a smile. Lessa's eyes flicked over to him and then back to her plate.
"I wouldn't try, Bishop. She gets mopey and temperamental every time they leave these gates," her father said. The bishop studied her.
"Have you always been so fond of Arthur?" he asked. Lessa remained silent.
"Answer him, Alessandra," her father said.
"Yes, I've always been very fond of Arthur and his knights. They would play with me when I was a child," she said softly.
"I often wondered if I should have indulged her so, but… she was a lonely child after her mother passed," her father said with a sigh. "I saw no harm in her getting close to the knights. Some of them weren't much older than her. Of course, I had no idea just how much I would come to rely on them in terms of looking out for her."
"So I hear. It seems you have a penchant for sneaking beyond the wall," the bishop said, looking back to Lessa. She looked up at him and then over to her father, who was watching her sternly.
"I was always curious what it was like beyond the wall," she said. "We've never left. And the knights always came back with stories of other lands and villages." The bishop chuckled.
"Then you will like Rome. Big, bustling. So many people and many things to do. You and Arthur will no doubt be invited to many a feast and many a home," the bishop said. Lessa reached for her goblet of wine.
"Sounds fascinating," she said.
"I am curious… why the rush?" Germanus asked as he looked over to her father. "I'm sure Alessandra could have made a great many advantageous matches in Rome." Lessa fought the urge to roll her eyes. Of course they would continue talk about her like she wasn't there.
"It was time. And I didn't trust her to not run off from the caravan as we traveled without a husband to keep her in line," he said.
"Ah, so it was not Alessandra's affections for Arthur," Germanus mused.
"I'm sure it will be a happy marriage, once Arthur returns," Marcus said. "And it's better than her marrying one of these pagans."
"Father seems to forget that he himself married one of those pagans," Lessa said, causing her father to glare at her.
"Your mother converted," he said bluntly.
"Ah, so I'm not to refer to myself as half-pagan?" she said, playing with the food on her plate.
"Alessandra, you are Roman," her father said.
"Half," she shot back, looking up at him. Germanus chuckled.
"You do remind me so much of your mother, dear Alessandra," he said, breaking some of the tension in the room. "She had such a spirit as you."
"Hard to believe considering father has none," Lessa said.
"Oh he did… many years ago. When he was a young man. He was a great warrior for Rome and God," Germanus said, looking at Marcus. Lessa looked up at her father, trying to imagine him as anything but the sour, serious authoritarian that he was. She couldn't.
"If it's alright, father, bishop, I wish to retire for the night," she said, standing. Both men nodded at her as she made her way out of the room, fiddling with the gold ring on her finger.
"I only hope that there is an heir," she heard her father say with a sigh. "I'm not as young as I once was and should the worse happen, it will pass to her son."
"You think a child was made?" the bishop asked.
"From the haggard looks on both of them this morning, I should think there was at least an attempt," her father said with a sigh.
"But really, Marcus, why Arthur? In Rome, she could have married a rich merchant or a politician. She is still young and very beautiful," Germanus said.
"Not once they found out she is half-Briton. No, Arthur is the best I could do," he said. "Besides… he always seemed to understand her better than I do. Perhaps he will have better luck of controlling her than I did." Germanus chuckled.
"It certainly seems that he will have his hands full," he replied. "I wish him luck and patience."
"As do I. He will need it."
Apologies! I know it's been awhile, but like an idiot, I'm now juggling a lot of stories. I've got more written on this one, but have been holding off on posting until I get more written. I think I'm nearing the end of it, at least.
Anyway, hope you guys enjoy!