Chapter 23: Alive Again
Abigail idly drew circles in the sand with a dead branch she picked up on the way to the beach that morning, shrinking the circle until she was drilling on one spot in the sand before widening it again. Subconsciously, she repeated the routine as she stared out at the colouring horizon from her seat on the silky sand, her dress just warm enough to keep out the chill of first light.
She watched as Breamas pranced smartly in the rolling waves, tossing his head and whinnying as the waters hit his legs. She laughed as the black stallion saw a tide coming and cantered urgently towards shore just in time to escape its assault. Triumphantly, he reared up on his hind legs and shook his thick neck of mane proudly.
"Breamas," she called, and the horse looked up at the sound of his name, but defiantly stayed where he was, staring at Abigail inquisitively.
"Come, Breamas," she beckoned, and the black beauty snorted as if irritated, then tucked his head in and cantered to his mistress's side.
"Good boy," cooed Abigail as she rubbed his nose affectionately. He snorted again and shook his head, then nudged her none too gently. She laughed and waved him off, to which he delightfully obliged, bolting out to the sea again, as if chasing the waves.
She sighed and tossed the stick aside, then leant back on her elbows, her eyes on the burning sky. Several gulls had assembled and began their daily flight, circling above the water for fish. She giggled as she watched Breamas' plan of ensnaring a gull backfired, and the stallion had resorted to fleeing the scene as a small army of birds drove the much larger animal away.
The first ray of light broke out of the dark line from which the sun was rising, and she had to angle her head to the side to keep the searing light from her eyes. She felt the warmth build up on her skin as pillars of sunbeams followed, marking the beginning of yet another day.
On a normal day, a couple of fishing boats would be on the sea by now, swaying ever so gently on the calm bay which was bordered by lush green clumps of forests. But today, the cove was empty save for the dancing shadow of Breamas. She thought it odd, as the village was monotony itself. But all the same, she savoured the solitude that was scarce in the small village- even at the break of dawn.
She allowed herself a few more minute's of luxury of watching the sun's slow, tedious climb and listening to the calming tides, then she pushed herself up and brushed the sand off her bottom, stretching her stiff arms and yawned as habit required. She gazed at the rising sun somewhat wistfully, knowing that she could stay at the beach for a whole day but also the fact that she could not.
Lamenting the impossibility of remaining by the sea, Abigail picked up the coil of rope she brought Breamas to the beach with and whistled loudly.
"Breamas!" she shouted to the horse who stood in the shallows, his neck bent as he examined something of his interest in the water. "Breamas! It's time to leave!"
The said stallion merely looked up at Abigail briefly as if in annoyance, then lowered his head again, submerging his nose. Shaking her head, Abigail gathered her dress in her hands and walked into the waves, and she shuddered at the sudden coolness. Her breath hitched at the exhilaration of the washing tide, and her smile widened to a spirited grin.
"Now, what has our hero found?" cooed Abigail as she approached Breamas, who swung his head side to side, then dipped his head and pushed a large white seashell into sight.
"Oh my," she laughed and picked the peculiarly shaped shell up. "It's beautiful."
Breamas snorted proudly, then brought his nose to the shell and sniffed at it, inspecting it. Abruptly losing interest, he snorted again and trotted off.
Abigail did not stop him, being fascinated by the pearly white shell in her hand. It was shaped like a cocoon with a few curling tendrils stretching from its body in a flaunting display, its surface polished by years past in the ocean. Mesmerized, Abigail ran her fingers over the smooth, unflawed shell, and she found herself wondering how long this seashell had stumbled on the seabed of the ocean before finding its way ashore?
Pressing the hollow of the seashell to her ear, Abigail closed her eyes as echoes of the ocean rushed from its void. Waves crushed around her, tides swished around her feet, mournful cries of foreign sea creatures enveloped her. A sigh slipped past her lips as she let the overwhelming sounds of the ever-changing sea bewitch her.
Suddenly aware of the red behind her eyelids turning black and sensing a presence in front of her, she smiled and said quietly, "A few more moments, Breamas."
Just then, Abigail heard her stallion's domineering whinny- faint and distant.
Her eyes snapped open to an orange sea in front of her. Frowning, she lowered her hand holding the shell to her ear and turned to see Breamas flouncing in the turning waves at the other end of the beach. Yet she was certain- almost certain- that there was someone, something right in front of her just now-
"Village life has unceremoniously dulled your senses."
Abigail could not help a startled gasp and dropped both the helm of her dress and the seashell as she spun around to the voice, her hands flew to her chest, and her heart beat wildly against her palm.
As quick her panic had come it subsided, yielding to bewilderment as she stared at the familiar face a few paces from her, his shoulders slightly slouched as always, the sun drenching his shaggy mane of hair.
Not a heartbeat later she was aloft, spinning, in his arms.
Her cottage rested on a low flat-topped hill, surrounded by quaint gardens blooming with flowers and buds. They reached the small house by a secluded grassy path from the beach, and she proposed a change of clothes before proceeding to the stables to deposit her devil of a horse.
The backdoor creaked in welcome and an aroma of freshly baked bread lured them into a small but orderly kitchen.
"Have a seat," she said merrily and pulled out a chair from under a rectangular table that guarded the mouth of the kitchen.
"I'm fine," he declined with an appropriate smile.
She nodded and disappeared into one of the two doors on the left side of the room, leaving a trail of wet footprints on the wooden floor.
"Have you just arrived?" she asked as she emerged from the room.
Tristan nodded. "At the crack of dawn."
"Are you all staying at the boarding house?" she asked before entering the second doorway.
"Yes," he answered. "There are fortunately enough rooms."
After a triumphant "ah-ha!" she reappeared clutching a black tunic and breeches.
"I meant to return them to you," she said with a grin. "You'd better change, you're soaked."
He nodded again, taking the clothes, deliberately brushing his fingers against hers. The faintest hint of colour that surfaced on her pale face did not escape his gaze.
"We should hurry, the King and Queen are waiting," he told her.
Abigail's eyes widened at his words. "What? Guinevere's here?"
Tristan's lips twitched. "Yes."
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked in exasperation, but she was grinning in delight.
"You did not ask," he replied matter-of-factly.
She laughed and skipped into the second room, shutting the door, then opening it again.
"You can change in there," she pointed to the door next to hers with a grin.
Tristan obliged, and when he had changed into the dry clothes supplied by Abigail, he reentered the main room of the cottage and found it empty. Typical of women, he thought wryly.
Abigail burst from the room clad in a white dress while he was looking out a window facing the village, and as she neared, he instantly recognized it.
"You still have this dress?" asked Tristan.
"Hmm?" her eyebrows went up in question.
"Do you not remember?" he gestured to her dress.
"Oh," her face lit in comprehension. "Yes. I'll never dream of disposing of it. Give me a few more moments."
He smirked as she skipped into her room once more. He let out a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair. It had been too long.
"I've been meaning to ask- why are you here?" Abigail asked as she strutted out again, two or three books in her hands.
Tristan regarded her with a teasing smirk. "Does my presence displease you so?"
"You have no idea how much," she retorted playfully. "But really, what brings the royal court to our humble village?"
"The northern part of Arthur's kingdom is a blank," explained Tristan honestly. "We are here to put the villages on the map."
Abigail cocked her head to one side. "Mmm, I see. Nothing else?"
Tristan shook his head, and he could see the disappointment in her face. Before he could speak, she had tied up the books in a cloth together with a few apples and was opening the door.
"I have some business to tend to," she said plainly, her warmth veiled. "But I'll accompany you to the boarding house. I look forward to seeing the Queen."
Reaching over, Tristan pushed the door close ahead of her, and took the load from her hands.
"Not before you answer me one question," he said softly, his eyes on hers as his free hand curled around her waist.
She stiffened and asked, "What?"
He laid the package carefully on the floor then tilted her head upwards. Gently he pressed his lips to hers, relishing the sensations that coursed through his veins as he tasted her soft lips, and he felt her guard break down. It had been too long.
"Abigail," he sighed against her forehead as they broke away.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed a kiss onto his neck. "What?"
He pulled back and looked at her, taking in the contours of her face that he had waited for months to look upon, and smoothed his thumb over the tender skin of her cheek.
"I know your love for your home runs deep," he began somewhat hesitantly. "I understand what home means to a heart, but I must ask you this."
"Ask," she whispered, her fingers starting to massage the back of his neck.
He leant forward and buried his nose in her hair, his lips brushing the skin below her ear before kissing her ear, smiling as he felt her shiver under his touch.
"Will you come with me?" he whispered against the shell of her ear. "To Camelot?"
A few moments of silence passed, and he waited, trying to hide his tension as he stroked her back.
"How long has it been?" her voice interrupted the stillness.
"Five months," he answered, straightening and looking into her eyes again.
A somewhat shy smile alit upon her lips, and she swept his hair to one side tenderly, averting her gaze to the tattoo on his cheekbone.
"Abigail," he said, his eyes searching for hers. "Look at me."
When she did, he took her chin and said slowly, the words tearing at his heart. "You do not have to say yes. But you have to understand one thing," he paused, his grip on her chin extending to cup her cheek. "I love you."
He forgot how to breathe the moment the words left his mouth, and silence had never seemed so ominous as it did now, waiting for her answer, waiting for her to save him- or to destroy him.
She slowly reached for his face, and he closed his eyes at her caress.
"Do you know how long I've waited for today?"
"Since the day you were born?" he asked with a relieved touch of humour as he opened his eyes, smiling.
Abigail laughed, then hit his arm mischievously. "No. Since the moment you said you couldn't save my father from going through the mountains in the south."
A low rumble of laughter sounded from his chest, mingling with hers.
"In that ridiculously thin dress you're wearing now," he added, drawing her closer.
"In the snow," she threw in, her voice shaking with mirth.
"With an outrageous accent-"
"And you turning your back on me-"
"I never did that again, did I?" he asked, kissing her softly.
"You'd better not," she murmured against his lips, savouring the closeness of him. "Because I doubt I could find my way to Camelot alone."
"Why, you are a disgrace to scouts," he said in pretended mockery.
"Which is fortunate that I have one all to myself, correct?" she asked with a grin.
She shrieked in surprise as he hoisted her up all of a sudden, but was silenced by a kiss with mutual passion.
"I love you, too," she said, drunk in happiness, still in his arms.
"I know," he said with a smile, inclining his head upwards to kiss her chin.
"We should go, our King is waiting," said Abigail vaguely without moving.
"They can wait," replied Tristan. "They need to learn how to wait. Patiently."
Abigail laughed. "And we're just the ones to teach them, hmm?"
"Precisely," he said and kissed her neck, then looked up into the eyes that had once been dead but now twinkled with life renewed. "And I am glad that I am not the student."The End
I can't believe this. I can't believe this. I really, really can't.
This is the end of the journey of Abigail and Tristan. Finally.
Oh gosh, I'm so emotional right now. This is the first long story I've ever completed. And I never would have been able to without my lovely reviewers and readers, do you know how much your words encourage me? I want to thank everyone who has followed this story all along, your support has been essential in times both easy and difficult for me in writing this story.
I would like to thank a few of my readers in particular:
KnightMaiden, greenDayzIdiot for being faithful reviewers not only in this story, but also in my others. :)
MedievalWarriorPrincess for always cracking me up and sending Gawain and Galahad over when I'm stuck in my writing :)
ButterflyKisses26 for your support and sensible comments, not to mention for writing a story that I so immensely enjoy :)
Kasora for being such a funky person- I hope your cast is taken off wherever you are!
And really, to everyone who likes this story enough to put it on your favourite stories list: ALL 50 OF YOU! You guys are awesome! You have no idea how encouraging it is to know that this story is a favourite among FIFTY writers on a note, I apologize for the delay in the uploading of this chapter. I wanted the ending to be perfect, and I know this is far from perfect, but I am satisfied with it. I hope you all enjoyed this last chapter, and I hope that though this story is finished, you will sometimes reread it and still enjoy it!
Lastly, there will be no sequel. I leave Abigail and Tristan's future to your imaginations, and I hope you foresee a happy one for them!
Do I have anything else to say except thank you once again, now that I'm closing a door on this story? I wish all writers luck and joy when creating stories of your own, because only now do I understand the happiness and pride of finishing one after all the hard work put into it.
Happy writing, everyone! And goodbye!