The bonfires raged on the hillside, and people milled about, drinking and laughing.
Arthur sat quietly on top of one of the stone cairns that had been there since before his coming, and he was quite sure they would be there long after he was gone.
He smiled as Bors and Vanora danced to the tune some minstrels played, or rather, as Vanora danced and Bors shuffled drunkenly around her.
The light of the fires played across his features, and he ran a hand through his thick dark hair. The turmoil of the last year featured brightly in his mind, but rather than push it away, he welcomed the thoughts as old friends.
That's what a wake was for, after all.
And it was a hell of a wake. Lancelot would have been proud.
Arthur's hand trembled slightly around the lion pendant he held, but he forced himself to picture his friend's face, his wide brown eyes, sparkling with mirth, his strong jaw and barking laugh. He remembered how the corner of Lancelot's mouth would quirk at any joke, even if it was a bad one.
There is too little humor in this place, Arthur. I cannot discourage even the worst of it.
The queen was suddenly next to him, and he pulled her into his arms, settling her there next to him on the large stone seat. She sighed, and relaxed into the crook of his neck.
They would have no words about her actions. He knew she was half destroyed by what had happened, and he would no more cause her additional pain than cut out his own heart.
When he had forgiven Lancelot, he had been being honest. He understood. She was Guinevere, after all. No other explanation was needed in his eyes.
At dawn that morning, Arthur alone had come to this same hillside with a small stone jar. The sea air had been bitter in his mouth, and his soul had recoiled at the act he was about to commit, but he would not betray the last request of his friend.
As the sun had crested the horizon, the ashes had been cast, the east wind strong in the new light. Arthur had held aloft the twin swords that had belonged to his brother, and in a strangled voice had cried Lancelot's name to the sky. God would know of him, and would welcome him home.
He replaced the pendant in his pocket, fingering the other small charm there. A cross. One he would keep, as a reminder of just who he was, and the sacrifces others had made for him. It would be enough to help him never forget all of their faces.
"Arthur?" the queen murmured into his shoulder. He looked down at her, his green eyes meeting her gray ones with all the love in his being.
"Guinevere," he answered, making it a statement.
"I feel I should have pretty words for this night, but I find that power fails me," she said at last, sorrow pulling her shoulders down. He touched her cheek with his finger, following the line of her bones. He pressed his lips to her forehead, and pulled away with the hint of moisture in his eyes.
"Memories aren't made better or worse by beauty, my love," he replied. "They are dear to us, just the same."
She nodded, and rested with him again.
They watched as the people of the fortress drank, and danced, and ate, and remembered.
The sky was a blistering, exquisite blanket of stars, and reflected the flames burning there back into the hearts of all who were present.
My hearty thanks to everyone who stuck with me to the bitter end. I have enjoyed this story a ton and hope to write more in the KA verse soon…hopefully this time a tad more happy. ;)
Thanks especially are due to: Melissa (M), Kaarlo and Marie for the reviews and support. You guys rock. And thankee sai kindly to every person who read this and took the time to review it. You are my reason for writing! J