A/N: Saw King Arthur yesterday, loved it, adored it but I felt there was so much more that could have been said about the knights, and more development could be made in general. So here is my humble offering. Please enjoy, and even if you don't please review... Will give prizes to reviewers ;)
Chapter I: The Lady Igraine
Igraine let her head loll back, her shaking legs she forced to hold her weight upon the tiny ledge high above the room. Every breath caused her pain, a pain that began in her feet and ended in her arms manacled above her head. She shivered as a wind blew across her. The shivering made her body ache all the more. She knew the wall was just scant inches from her back. She als knew that the spikes on the wall were sharp enough to hurt her more than she cared for in her weakened state.
Shouts and cries came to her ears as though from far away. She felt the pain in her chest that warned she was going to cough. She suppressed it. She had no energy left to cough with, all she ad was concentrated on not falling, for if she did she knew she would never find the strength to find the ledge again.
More cries came, she heard the sound of smashing chains.
"They're all dead." Said a voice in Latin.
"By the smell they are all dead." Replied another, his voice seemed disgusted. She heard them, and yet their words made little sense. She let another breath out; the pain ran through her.
"Check them anyway." Said another voice; this one held that strange tone of command about it, as though the speaker was used to having his words obeyed. "We cannot abandon them to this despicable treatment." He added solemnly. She frowned, she knew that voice.
She listened as more chambers were opened. She heard them freeing those inside the cells they had opened. She heard a small noise. They were leaving she knew. She forced her head up, she had too see she told herself if what she thought was true, she had too... The movement cost her though; her feet fell out from underneath her.
They slipped from the small shelf of rock, leaving her dangling from her wrists. A small cry escaped her lips as her shoulders were cruelly jerked and for a moment she touched the spikes before swinging free and back again, she felt as though from a distance as the cuts upon her wrists reopened and wept blood onto her forearms.
Lancelot paused in the doorway. "Did you hear that?" he asked Gawain. The others had paused as well. Arthur nodded from where he carried the girl. Gawain Grabbed the Priest and pressed his sword to his neck. "Is their any other alive back there?" The priest shuddered, his eyes flicking to the room. Lancelot turned and stepped back into the main room, his eyes swept over it again. Behind him Gawain repeated his question. "Are their any others alive?" Something moved above Lancelot's head, he leapt forwards and spun, his second sword all but leaping into his hand. He let out a small cry of shock. A figure hung suspended from chains above the entrance. Eyes blinked down at him in pain.
"Dagonet!" He called as he sheathed his swords. The man stepped quickly forwards he swore when he saw the girl and began t climb up beside her.
"Ready?" he asked, holding his axe against the chains. Lancelot nodded. With one great stroke of Dagonet's axe the chains gave way. She was falling he moved as she fell, he managed to catch her before she hit the ground, yet her dry lips still opened in a silent scream.
"By the gods!" he swore as he looked at her small face, she was barely older than a child was. Pale blue eyes watered with pain as the knights strode out into the sunshine. Weakly she was struggling in his arms. "Stay still!" He warned her as Arthur cried for water. Her bloodied hands and injured wrists flailed against him.
He brushed hair back from her pale face. Her eyes blinked weakly against the sunshine.
"Get me some water!" cried Arthur again. The small woman in Lancelot's arms struggled again, her lips moving. "Don't try to speak. You're going to be alright." He added as she continued to struggle. She seemed to frown, weakly she shook her head, but she did not have enough strength to make him release her. He saw the roman lady of the house press some water into Arthur's hand. "She's a woad." Said Tristan flatly from where he sat his mount nearby. He heard the other woman cough as Arthur gave her water. Lancelot looked up and met Tristan's eyes, the other knight nodded solemnly.
Tristan jumped down from his horse, he pressed a waterskin into Lancelot's outstretched hand. He opened the waterskin and pressed it to the girls cracked lips. She swallowed a sip and then lay back in his arms; carefully he pressed the skin to her lips again. She took several more sips, a small cough following the last sip.
"Stop what you are doing!" cried a voice behind Lancelot, he turned and looked up at Marcus Honorius stepped into the circle of people. Arthur thrust himself to his feet.
"What is this madness?" cried Arthur turning to face the Roman. "They are all pagans here!" he cried, his face showing his self-righteous anger.
Lancelot growled angrily from where he still tended the young girl. "So are we." He said as he poured water into his hand and brushing the water over the girl's forehead.
"They refuse the tasks god set them!" yelled Marcus. "They must die as an example!" he added.
Lancelot carefully put the girl on the ground as he made to stand, the tension in the air making him wish he had his swords in his hands.
"You mean they refused to be your serfs!" yelled Arthur. His anger mounting by the moment. Lancelot could see the incredulity on Marcus' face, he was shocked that Arthur had saved lives, Lancelot felt a bitter smile touch his lips.
"You are a Roman, you understand! And you are a Christian!" Lancelot saw Marcus' eyes fall upon his wife. "And you!" he exclaimed. "You kept them alive!" he said his hand lashing out to hit her cheek.
Both Lancelot and Arthur started forwards. Arthur slammed his fist into Marcus' jaw.
"Make another move," he growled placing Excalibur against the man's throat. "I dare you!" The man's eyes were wide with fear.
"When we get to the wall" said Marcus' his eyes revealing his hate, "you will pay for this heresy!" his words were full of spite.
"Maybe I should kill you now, and seal my fate!" said Arthur, pulling Marcus closer t his blade tip. Lancelot snapped his head around as a hand fell on his shoulder.
"Let him live." Said a hoarse voice. The trembling hand belonged to the girl who Lancelot had helped been helping. One of the priests chose that moment to speak up.
"I was willing to die with them," said the monk, his words held a mixture of fear and religious fervor. "And to lead them to their rightful place." The man added. Lancelot placed an arm around the trembling figure at his side. The man looked at her, a strange, half mad expression coming over his face. "It is God's wish, that these sinners are to be sacrificed. Only then can their souls be saved."
The figure at his side Spat weakly.
"Then your god is no god at all." She said harshly. Arthur looked from her to the monk, his eyes narrowed in contemplation.
"Then I shall grant his wish." He said releasing Marcus. "Wall them back up!" he commanded.
"Arthur..." Tristan began. Their time was running out if they were to escape the Saxon advance.
"I said wall them back up!"
Arthur turned back to Marcus as Bors and some local peasants pushed the monks back inside the horrid dungeon and began to wall them back up. "These people will no longer do your bidding." He ground out, his eyes narrowed in anger. "As long as I live and breathe you will have no power over any Briton that crosses your path. You are a disgrace to Rome" he spat. "And your self proclaimed title of a spokesman for God is the only heresy found here." He growled.
"Arthur," Bors interrupted. "The wagons are ready. We must be on our way."
Arthur turned away from Marcus with a parting glare and nodded. "You and Gawain gather the people for departure," He ordered. "Galahad and Tristan will gather what's left of the supplies, Dagonet, Lancelot and I will get the injured in the wagons. We leave at once." Lancelot turned towards the girl beside him. She was swaying despite his arm around her waist. He quickly lifted her into his arms. He moved to the wagon Bors motioned him to. He climbed inside and laid the tiny woman down on some blankets. He took some others and wrapped them around her small, wasted form.
"Water." She croaked. He nodded.
"I'll fetch some for you." She tried to pull herself upright. He pressed his hands into her shoulders, forcing her back down onto the blankets. "Don't try to move." He said softly. His eyes softened, at the fear in her eyes. She seemed afraid every time he touched her. Her ran his eyes over her, even though half starved he knew she had a lovely body, her face was more than pretty. Her eyes were dark and bloodshot, yet he could still see their lovely blue colour, and her hair under the grime was a rich copper colour. Anger like he'd never known coursed through him; rage made his lips tighten as he gazed down upon her.
She gasped in pain and he realised his hands had tightened painfully on her upper arms. He released her and fled the wagon, passing Arthur and the girl he carried on his way.
He moved back to where his horse waited and mounted, his blood pounded in his ears as he watched the Roman soldier's marched past. He knew deep down that all soldier's committed terrible acts, but a strange rage possessed him at the thought of these soldier's hands on the slender girl who lay in the wagon. He wiped absently at the small spots of blood n his hands and lower arms.
Igraine watched the knight leave. He seemed angry. A wince ran through her as she lay back upon the blankets as Arthur entered the wagon with another woman. Igraine recognised one of the villagers who had been with her in the dark dungeon. She had to search her memory for a name. Guinevere. She was a young passionate girl, and a fine fighter. She was from Merlin's clan in the north.
Igraine sighed softly. Guinevere was a fine girl. She sent another faint prayer to the gods for sparing the girl, another knight entered with a young boy and another prayer was silently said. The boy was perhaps unconscious. She watched Arthur leave, her thoughts caught up in a confused tumble, the pain from her body numbing her thoughts. As she considered what it meant that these knights had been sent forth she slipped into slumber.
The wagons had been traveling for days through the mountains east of Marcus' estate. Lancelot felt the biting cold as he pushed his horse into a swifter trot, as he passed the wagon containing the three from the cells under Marcus' estate he slowed. A face looked out at him. The girl call Igraine turned away as he smiled at her. Behind her he saw Guinevere was asleep and the buy still burned with fever.
He pushed his horse up the slope to where Arthur waited.
"Arthur?" Arthur nodded at Lancelot's words. "We're moving to slow. The dark-haired girl and the boy aren't going to make it, the fairer one might." He paused and looked at the line of wagons. "We can protect the family, but we're wasting our time with all these people." His words were spoken with reason and regret, as though he wished he were less logical.
"We're not leaving them." Said Arthur simply, his tone firm. Lancelot nodded and returned to the wagon. Dagonet sat next to the small boy.
"How is he?" asked Lancelot softly.
"He burns." Came the short reply. "Brave boy." He added running a hand over the boys dark blonde curls.
Lancelot smiled and moved further into the wagon. The dark haired girl was asleep, her knees pulled up t her chest, and the copper blonde seemed determined not to look at him. He watched her; she was watching the snowfall outside the wagon. Finally she turned her eyes on him.
"Are you feeling better?" he asked softly, s as not to wake the other girl.
"A little." Her words were softly accented. She returned his gaze. He smiled and sat beside her. She drew back as he reached for her hands.
"May I?" he asked. He pulled bandages back from her wrists, he noticed two of her fingers were bent at odd angles, he would have to set them but after he had checked the cuts on her wrists from manacles.
He lifted the last bandages away from the scabs. He brushed a finger lightly over them. She didn't flinch though he knew it must have hurt. No heat from infection was apparent; neither did the cuts seem as deep as he had first feared. He then took her hand.
"I'll have to set these." He looked up. Fr a moment fear flashed in her blue eyes. She swallowed and nodded. He carefully pulled her fingers back into place. She didn't cry out, he smiled up at her pale face, her had last what little colour they had regained. He turned his head at a sway in the wagon, Arthur had stepped inside. Lancelot moved further up the wagon s he was sitting between the two women. The darker haired girl stirred and shifted away.
She winced as her bandaged hand brushed the floor of the wagon.
"Are you alright child?" asked Igraine softly. Lancelot turned in surprise at her choice of words, Arthur too looked surprised at the term, though Guinevere herself seemed un-surprised, though perhaps a little nervous.
"Y-yes," said Guinevere. "I'm fine. How's Lucan?" she said her head turning t regard the small boy.
"He is doing alright." Replied Dagonet, his hand still stroking the boy's hair.
"Now is not the time to worry for him." Said Arthur. "May I see your hand?" Guinevere shied back.
"It's just a bruise." She glanced towards Igraine, Lancelot followed her gaze, an inscrutable look was fastened on the fair girl's face as she watched Arthur.
"Then you won't mind if I take a look." Arthur smiled slightly and took the bandaged hand without asking. Guinevere flinched as he removed the bandages. "Must be some bruise." He commented, if he was aware of Igraine's watchfulness he did not show it. He examined Guinevere's fingers.
"Igraine's were the same." Said Lancelot softly. Though on Igraine most had been pushed back into place, on Guinevere they were all still out of place.
"Some of your fingers are out of place," Arthur told her. "I have to push them back." He paused as she sucked in a breath. "If I don't do this; there's a chance you may never use them again." She nodded. As Arthur pushed the fingers into place she cried out. Lancelot winced as the finger cracked and popped until they were all back in place.
Guinevere collapsed against Arthur, tears marring her face.
"He tortured us," her whimper was slightly hysterical. "With machines. He made us tell him things that..." She closed her eyes. "That we didn't know to begin with. "And for what?" the last seemed addressed to Igraine.
"Hush, hush now." The words were soft. Lancelot turned to find Igraine watching with a caring expression. "They won't hurt you again. I promise you child, nor roman will touch you again." Arthur turned t look at the other woman. The enigmatic eyes raised to meet his.
"Will they? Arthur Castas, and his brave knights?" she tilted her head to look up into Lancelot's eyes.
"No one will touch either of you again." Arthur promised. He gave Guinevere a long look before turning to Igraine. "My lady, you seem troubled." He said calmly. She returned his look with a slight smile.
"I am not troubled, Arthur Castas." He frowned, Lancelot shifted uncomfortably. Few used Arthur's full name. Few in the north knew it.
"Why do you call me that?" Arthur asked. He shared a look with Lancelot.
"Because I chose to." She replied softly. He frowned their was something about the girl that troubled Arthur. She seemed fearless, apart from when she was touched. He frowned again, Her eyes were pale, and still held a little f the feverish look that all three of them had had about them. But beyond that was a commanding presence, as though she were not some common girl, as did the other one, Guinevere. Though in Guinevere it was more her fighting spirit he thought than an actual command presence. In fact she behaved more like a nobleman's daughter, or a ranked officer than some woad girl would. Arthur frowned at this turn of thought and left the Wagon swiftly.
He mounted his horse and let the wagon fall behind. He imagined her face in his head. There was something familiar about it, about the set of her chin, the shape of her large eyes. He frowned fiercely. Then he called Guinevere to mind. He found himself calming, She was the opposite of Igraine, where Igraine seemed a mystery the way Guinevere spoke and the way she behaved were normal, if you could call what had been done to her normal. Guinevere was also strong and beautiful, he smiled, and then a thought struck him, he was enchanted by the pretty Guinevere, and drawn to the fair Igraine. He shook his head. Romantic follies were for other times. He realised the wagon was drawing close. He wheeled his horse and pulled in beside it. Guinevere was sitting in the open.
"My father told me great tales of you." She said with a smile.
"What sort of tales?" He asked, amusedly.
"Fairy tales. Of men so brave and selfless, they can not be real." She smiled wider. "Arthur and his knights." She finished. A pause spread between them then. She seemed to be thinking about something. Presently she asked. "How many Britons have you killed?" The question made him pause, what purpose did it serve.
"As many as tried to kill me." He said. He considered. "It's the natural state of any man to want to live." She looked at him with a slightly sad and perhaps wistful expression.
"Animals live. It's the natural state of any man to want to live free..." She paused. "In their own country."
Lancelot was sitting across the fire from Gawain. Gawain was stirring the pot of stew slowly. A tasty aroma filled the air from the stew, yet most of the others were at anther larger fire.
In the far distance Lancelot could hear the soft pound of Saxon drums. He shivered as the snow fell around him.
"You know Gawain, I do believe I too can't wait to get off this island." He grumbled as he shifted position.
"Pardon?" Asked Gawain, having forgotten his words of days past.
"'If it's not raining, it's snowing, and if it's not snowing, it's foggy.'?" Lancelot reminded him.
"Yeah…" Replied Gawain vaguely. Lancelot was content t allow silence to reign once again. He added some small sticks to the fire and waited. His stomach grumbled. He knew that he would be up again before first light yet for some reason he knew sleep would not come that night. The blonde Gawain sighed.
"Be back in a few minutes." He said and moved off into the trees. Lancelot nodded absently, his eyes fastened on the fire. "And don't eat it all before I get Back!" came the warning out of the trees. He chuckled softly. Leaning back he turned his eyes to the heavens. He watched the distant stars twinkle in the night sky, above him his breath hung in the air.
"It's a beautiful night." He spun and stood in a single movement. He paused when he saw the slender figure of Igraine. She watched him and raised an eyebrow. "So quick to see enemies in every shadow?" she asked softly.
"Few on this island are not my enemies." He replied shortly. Unnerved by her silent approach and calm manner. A smile touched her lips. o
"Few on this island could harm you, Lancelot." She replied. He frowned, for once lost for words.
"Would you like to sit?" he asked after a moment.
"Thank you, I would." She replied. She sat gracefully by the fire, lifting the wooden ladle she stirred the stew. She sniffed. "I believe it's cooked." She said.
"Well then please, be my guest." He motioned. "I'm sure you must be hungry." She smiled.
"Are you not hungry milord?" she asked as she lifted a wooden bowl. He nodded.
"I am…" He paused. "But I am no lord." She glanced up at him, pale eyes quizzical.
"And you are not a Roman are you?" she inquired softly.
"No." he said; her questioning made him slightly uncomfortable, in fact her presence at all made him slightly uncomfortable. "I'm Sarmatian." He said finally.
"Here." She said handing him a steaming bowl and some bread. He smiled his thanks and fetched a rough wooden spoon from his pack. He ate voraciously. He noticed that she ate her food slowly and with far more decorum and manners than he did.
He finished with a satisfied sigh. She smiled.
"I take it you enjoyed your food?" she asked with a small laugh. It was the first laugh he'd heard from her and he was amazed by the sweet sound of it. He could not help the grin that leapt to his face.
"I did. And you?" he asked motioning to he bowl.
"I fear I have eaten so little during the time I was in… that place… That my stomach rebels at the slightest amount of food." Her smile now seemed wan, her body he noticed was shivering and, her teeth were clenched to stop them from chattering.
"You are cold." He stated rising and taking his blanket to her. He wrapped it around her and then sitting beside her pulled her close. He felt her muscles spasm at his touch. "Relax. You will warm quicker this way." He said softly into her ear. Varying smells hung around her, through the scent of death from the dungeon he could smell wildflowers that she must have used the oil from on her hair. He smiled and pulled her even closer. He brushed lips across her hair and rocked her slightly.
He realised he was humming.
"What is that tune?" she asked softly.
"One my mother used to sing, to make me sleep." She nodded at his words.
"Is it a very long time since you were home?" she asked drowsily.
"Yes," he whispered. "A very long time..." He picked up the tune, and softly in Sarmatian he began to sing the words he knew of the song, humming the parts he didn't know. It was the story of a boy who longed t be a great warrior, but died on a battlefield far from home, his spirit though had come back in the steed that took his son to battle… A chill spread through him. He wondered if that was to be his fate, if he would die alone on some field on this accursed isle. And if he did die here, would his mother or sister ever know. Would they ever be told of him. Those who had come from the villages near his home had all departed. All were long gone to the home of the dead.
He looked down and to his surprise fund Igraine asleep in his arms. Her face seemed wondrously innocent in the night, he lay down, pulling her small body close, her back to the fire. Too his surprise sleep came easily, though his dreams were troubled. A strange path lay before his feet, and suddenly he wondered what would become of him if he journeyed home again. What awaited him in Sarmatia, and what was here for him.
Please review! You'll make me so happy!