The castle stone was cool and strong beneath his hands, rough and comforting as he looked out over the ocean. The nights were getting longer and the days were getting darker. The air was thick with anticipation and foreboding. He could feel it course over his skin just as he could feel the wind toy with his hair.
Darkness was coming and all he could think of was her.
Arthur closed his eyes, his hands fisting, scrapping against the rough stones. The pain on his hands was nothing compared to the anguish in his heart, but it drew some of his attention from her eyes. Those eyes that had always watched him with joy and caring and love when they were children. Mischief danced in those eyes still, the same mischief that had manifested in escapades away from the priests had grown and matured with her body.
How could he not have known?
It had been her eyes that had captivated him during his role in the rite of Beltane. Eyes that had haunted him even more than her body and hands had, and that was saying something.
He shuddered at that thought.
It had been her that he had loved every night since. When he came to Guinevere, it was her image that his hands touched, her lips that he kissed, and her eyes that he held.
It was her he still loved.
Her name left his lips and whispered on the air, hanging there around him. Suffocating him with it sweet sound. It felt so right on his lips, left so easily from his tongue. His voice had never sounded as sure as when he spoke that name.
He looked to his right, down into the courtyard, down into the eyes of his son. Mordread was always watching him, but his eyes were not his mother's and he could not see any of himself in them. Oh, there were hints and lingering traces of him in Mordread. What he had taken as proof of Morgaine's parentage, the physical that so resembled himself, he had shrugged off as the common parentage he shared with Morgaine. It was parentage that they shared, but it was a different kind.
He was the father.
Arthur looked away from his son and back out over the placid waves, his vision blurring the edge of the sea with the sky until he knew not where one began and the other ended.
Mordread was never the one who broke eye contact. He maintained it, his eyes hard and predatory. So unlike Morgaine's. In all other aspects, Mordread was Morgaine's son. His form was light and small, but well toned and deceptively delicate. Mordread was expert at the sword and physical combat, and his smaller frame gave him the advantage of speed.
Their faces were similar, faerie shaped and wicked, but Morgaine's was pleasant to look upon where Mordread's was harsh. He knew Mordread thought that his easy loss of eye contact spoke of his weakness and fear, and perhaps it was weakness that made him look away from a face that took everything that he loved of Morgaine's and twisted it into a perversion.
Mordread was the perversion of their love and he hated him for that just as he loved him for being a bond between himself and his sister.
He could regret Mordread, but not the conception nor the love that had been created through the act.
Guinevere had given up his bed and company outside of public view. He couldn't blame her. She had in her mind been betrayed by the man she had sworn herself to, the man she had sought so hard to give a son to. He had never been fooled that she loved him, but she had been fooled at his own devotions. He knew she was enjoying the pleasure of Lancelot's bed and welcomed that knowledge, hoping that in his arms she found what he had found in the arm of Morgaine. He was selfish in this want, selfish to be pleased with her removal from him because without the necessity to take her to bed he could no longer betray her, no longer imagine Morgaine when he held Guinevere.
And because he was selfish he closed his eyes and let the face that haunted him form behind his eyelids. Let the details form in all their perfect torment. Her eyes first, then her lips and face, her hair that seemed to flow like water through his fingers. Then her body, forming in shapes and lights and colors until each completed and joined, forming the perfection that was his love.
When it had been simply the Huntress he had loved, her face had been covered, but now that he knew it was Morgaine's., now that he knew the identity of his love he welcomingly brought her face forward with as much pleasure as there was pain in the knowing and accepting.
He knew and accepted his love.
It had always been her he had loved most… Would always be her. First as an adoring brother to a confident older sister, second as a mystery woman whose touch had awakened in him something that no other had, and third as the lover he had always sought and the mother of his child. In his life, only she had held so much of him… she had touched him like no other.
But what did she feel? She must know the truth behind Mordread's birth. He was sure that she had not known during the Rite, it was forbidden for either to know who they took to them that night and as a Priestess she would honor that condition.
It had been he who had told her, unknowingly of course, blind to his own sister's reaction as he had lost himself in the description of his dream lover. He had been too focused on the phantom eyes in his mind to notice those same eyes only inches from his own, wide in comprehension and denial as he continued on. He hadn't seen the pain dawn on her face. It hadn't registered, but now it did and it tore at him that he had been so blind to her distress.
She knew then, and had not told him.
Ever the protector of her brother, she had harbored the truth from him, keeping the knowledge to herself. It must have tormented her. He knew it had and he couldn't help the pain that told him she had rejected the idea of it being his child. Of course she had. Who would dream of begetting a child with her own brother?
The idea had at first had left him dumbfounded, but he had come to terms with it and could only hope that she had as well. He had no grand delusions that she loved him as he loved her, no hope that she had thought of him as he thought of her every night in his life.
He could hope, but hope held little strength in this world that was quickly falling in around him. The light and joy he had hoped to bring to this world was fading in the darkness that was closing in around Camelot, like the night had closed in around him, but unlike the night, the darkness would not be broken by the warm brilliance of the sun once it had run its course.
This Darkness held no course, it ran on at will and lasted for as long as it could beat down those who would seek to destroy it. It caused pain and hate. It killed and pillaged, not caring who it touched… it was indiscriminate of gender, race, age, and religion. It burned and its fire would be the only light that shone on the world.
He would be destroyed. Those he loved would be destroyed and everything he had worked for would fade. Avalon would disappear because he was too weak to fight.
He ran his hands back of the stones beneath his palm.
No, he wasn't too weak. That was the wrong phrasing.
Looking back out across the sea he felt the emptiness grow within him and admitted to himself why he refused to pick up Excalibur and fight against what was coming.
He just didn't care anymore… couldn't…
He turned from the sea and let himself sink down, against the stones that he had had raised, to the floor that so many of those who had followed him had tread. They had followed because he had led, they had stayed because he held Excalibur before them and offered a world of peace that they had only dreamed of and he had done it with the backing of both the God and the Goddess. It was an answered prayer that they could not turn away from.
He had betrayed them and let them believe…
He had needed to believe as well. To believe that he had a part in the world, that he was needed… Didn't everyone feel that way? He just happened to be the one that had been offered the chance to be something greater than most would ever be and like a fool he had grasped it, falling into the weave of fate and the plans of others beyond his comprehension.
He let his head fall forward as he pulled his knees up and wrapped his arms around them. It would be so easy to leave, to let the Darkness consume Camelot and be far from it when the pain began, but he couldn't. He wasn't so pathetic as to leave what he had built, what he had believed in. He might give in, give up on the fight but he would never leave.
Morgaine wouldn't understand…
And there it was, the main reason he wouldn't leave: Morgaine. Everything circled back around to her. Everything always had and in the final end that was coming, it would circle once again to her.
All he had to do was stay…
It sounded so easy. It was so small and simple a word, but left him shaking every time he thought of it. Staying meant facing Guinevere and Lancelot, staying meant lying to his men as he pretended to lead them as he had once done, as he could no longer do. He didn't have the will to do more than that, but staying meant Morgaine and Morgaine meant Everything.
If he could hold on till she returned.
He lifted his head and looked to the stars with a desperate look of hope.
She would return. To Camelot. To him…
Morgaine would not run, she was strong where he was not. She had strength that he could only imagine and a will as free and tough as a woman who had faced what she had would have to own in order to survive. She had survived and would survive this Darkness, but he wouldn't. He knew it, felt it in his heart, but what he held onto was the desire to leave this world in her presence.
He would die the man she believed him to be. And so he would lie, and betray, and face the stares and whispers.
He pushed up from the ground, back erect as he turned back to the sea
And so… he would stay.
If only to see her face… her eyes… once more.
If only to die with her knowing him as both of them had wanted him to be: Strong…
From below Mordread watched as Arthur reappeared, his stance surer than it had been in a long time and Mordread smiled sadly as he watched the man that was his father.
"I see what you loved in him, Mother…" he whispered.
It caused a moment of hesitation as he realized that he loved his father for the same reason. Whatever faults his father possessed, he stood against his weaknesses and though Mordread was continually trying to wear down that strength, it would not be worn.
"I was suppose to be your ultimate enemy… the one that brought you down in the end." He paused. "And physically, it maybe me that does just that." There was sadness in the voice. "But father, the one who will truly bring you down is yourself."
Mordread watched his father turn and disappear before walking away himself.
"If things would have been different, Father…" For a moment there was sadness in the voice, sorrow and regret at what Fate had planned out for all three of them, wishing he could love his father as he should have been allowed to. As he entered the castle, his eyes hardened and the sadness left him.
"But things aren't different are they Father?"
The doors closed behind both Arthur and Mordread and darkness reigned complete…