Pax Romana – [Prologue]

Disclaimer: I don't own any of it save what I created myself. Notes: All right. I've had this nagging in the back of my mind willing me to write a King Arthur story, but I lacked the inspiration for a while. However, I think I may have some inspiration. So: I would consider this story a very different spin on the old Tristan and Isolde legend, combining some elements and leaving others. I've tried to make the actual history legitimate for the sake of realism. I know this is a short, rather crappy start, but I don't want to sound as if I'm rushing to give it all away.

---------------------

The place from where I want to start telling my story is when Tristan grabbed hold of my arm and pulled me out of the tavern alongside him. It was not a friendly or kindly gesture, violently and quietly and calmly done just as he does everything else, though there was a glance of intimacy in the way his fingers curled and pressed into the skin of my forearm. There was history between he and I that bred this kind of intimacy, perhaps not of a lovers' kind, but of a kind that resulted from desperation. I suppose the desperation was on my part. But that is all in the past now.

The other knights merely watched us, their sense of honour apparently forgotten in face of their own consternation, as Tristan dragged me out of the tavern. How unlike him to draw attention to himself, they might've thought; he is a man whose watchful position as scout continues past the line of work and into his life. He is a man whose work – killing and scouting – is his life, and so he cannot abandon the role. Perhaps they were wondering where he was bringing me: to my home, to my family, or perhaps to his bed? I had watched him discreetly these three months that I had been in Britain, knew that there was the occasional woman who left with him afterhours – again the difference between him and the other knights being that he did not sing later on about it.

"What is it? Where are we going?" I asked my questions in hissed, quiet tones that went purposefully unnoticed by all the others around us, but I was sure that somehow they made their way under the fringes of his hair. His fingers tightened, but he did not answer. "Tristan! Answer me!"

We passed the guards and entered the fortress; his fingers like iron around my arm as the guards on duty gave a knowing look in the general direction of his eyes. He didn't deny or correct their looks, which suggested that I was some sort of instrument for his pleasure, and when we rounded a corner I finally sunk my feet into the stone and refused to move. Of course he could have moved me with a single exertion of force. But I like to think I made my point.

His eyes were dark and dangerous under his hair and braids as he stopped and turned to me. I took an instinctive step back – his fingers released me now that we were alone – and he did not come any closer; the mere aura of danger that came from him enough to keep me still. Finally, he spoke softly, but it was not to my liking, "Do not forget that I have no bonds to you, Isolde."

A silence.

He had a calm, knowing and dignified stance to him. His posture was noticeably loose – a sign that he thought me no threat – but there were daggers in his tone.

Eventually, the expression in his eyes changed from intimidating to watchful, like a hawk, and he began to ask his questions.

"Why have you come to Britain? I'm surprised you're not dead and buried along with your house."

I would not answer him, for if he had no bonds to me any longer, then that also signified that I no longer had any bonds to him. He didn't appear to care much for my silence.

"Did you believe that if I laid eyes on you, here, that I would not tell anyone?"

After a few moments, I answered him: "What does it matter – I tasted your betrayal fifteen years ago, traitor."

He appeared to be tired of the banter – Tristan was never one for words, as the vaguely familiar long sword strapped to him attested. He gripped me arm again and pulled me along the hallways this way and that, passing carefully stationed guards who apparently thought nothing of a knight dragging a woman though the fortress. We reached a set of crudely hewn wooden doors, and with a nod to the attending guards, they were opened. He pushed me inside the room first, to be greeted with the sight of Arthur Castus and his queen sitting at their table and taking supper. Neither appeared surprised with Tristan's sudden appearance.

He shoved me further forward, and then directed his words to the king:

"Arthur, may I present to you the daughter of the deposed Perseus of Macedonia and Greece, last of the Antigonid dynasty, and..." he spat out the next word, "fugitive of the Roman Empire."

He paused and stilled, as if submerged in a quiet sense of nostalgia, and added as an afterthought, "She was my ward fifteen years ago in smuggling her out of Macedonia and into Sparta."

-------------------

Well?