A/N:Well, my faithful readers, if you didn't already know yet...I'M BACK...if only for a little while! Thank you for your patience during my almost year-long haitus, especially for those that I left in suspense! I have had an amazing year on exchange to England, travelling my butt off around Europe, but now I'm back home and on my summer holidays. I will try to update my fics as much as possible for the next two weeks, then sadly, will be on another 5 week haitus since I am on another program. I warn you, I may be a little rusty, but I think that after a while I will get the hang of writing again! If you have any questions, concerns or criticisms, throw them at me! It would be much appreciated.
A big thank you goes out to those that have reviewed. You know who you are, and I hope you like this next installment!
(Let's savour this, because I have no clue when I will update next, haha! xx)
t t t
Lourdes immediately felt her breath being stolen from her lungs. Time itself had stood still, her body and mind frozen, and nothing else seemed to exist around her -- except for Galahad. She could hear nothing, feel nothing; she could only see the young knight before her, his eyes full of depth, love and sincerity. As she perceived a smile of adoration pulling upon his thin lips, she could now feel the smoothness of his supple fingers as they lovingly traced the side of her face. With shallow breathing, she closed her eyes momentarily, finding that she could offer no words in reply. Gripping the sides of Galahad's arms for a measure of support, Lourdes' mind desperately tried to register the knight's words, for she could not believe what he had just uttered.
Galahad had just proposed to her.
After a few moments of allowing the shock to linger, Lourdes abruptly recoiled from his being, finally managing to recover and regain an ounce of composure. As she stared at Galahad with wide, sharp eyes, the young knight furrowed his brows in worry and gazed at her with much puzzlement, keeping his hand pressed upon her now ashen face. The transparency of her feelings was not difficult for Galahad to discern, though he remained quiet, patience seemingly unwavering for her reply. When Lourdes made no more to respond after a few more moments, he then pulled away from her form, yet stood still in front of her. He swallowed. "Have I upset you?"
The choking sensation continued to wrap around her throat, and Lourdes found that she could not utter a reply to Galahad's question. As she tried to blurt out an answer, the young knight eyed her dejectedly, then twisted his head despondently away from her, having had to pry his emerald orbs from her form. Frowning at his melancholy reaction, Lourdes apologetically reached out to him, whispering, "Galahad, you have to understand..."
"I will always be second best to Lancelot, won't I?" The young knight questioned shakily in a hoarse murmur, his mist-filled eyes unable to meet hers. In the same manner, he continued, tight-lipped. "You've loved him for many months now, haven't you? Even during Lord Theodore's Tournament?" Pulling away from her trembling form, he sat down beside her, eyes distant as his stare became fixated onto the cold, stone floor. This time, without waiting for any response from her, he proclaimed, doubtless, "The night before the archery competition, when you were with him...you were not trying to find an arrow, were you?"
At these unexpected barrage of questions, Lourdes was rendered even more speechless and breathless. She felt as though she was being choked by numerous hands as her head was being repeatedly plunged into the water; and that she was desperately and unsuccessfully trying to fight for her life. When an explanation was nowhere to be found, she repeatedly shook her head, stating with a quivering voice, "Galahad, it is not only about that."
Galahad finally lifted his head to meet her eyes once more, his emerald orbs moist with tears. "What is it, then?"
With an overwhelming frustration overcoming her emotions, Lourdes closed her eyes tightly as she ran her hands through her face, then hair. As she faced another predicament that she tried so desperately to evade, she choked out weakly, "A Shinodian law states that a member of the Shinodian royal family may not marry anyone who does not have royal Shinodian blood."
As she completed her sentence, Galahad proceeded to breathe out in disbelief, "No..." With tears brimming upon his eyes now, he gripped the sides of her arms, pulling her immediately to face him. "It cannot be!"
Helpless, Lourdes stood and began defensively, "I am sorry! I do have feelings for you, Galahad, it is just...there are other circumstances that you must understand, and..."
"Lourdes," Galahad breathed out shakily, placing his hands firmly upon her shoulders once more. With a smile, he strongly proclaimed, "I love you, and I do not want to compromise you. You must understand this." Tenderly, he cradled her head in his hand, leaning his face closer to hers. He whispered with the utmost sincerity, "You have endured so much to be here, to become who you are, to take what is rightfully yours. My desires will not be a priority, and I shall no longer act in a way to disgrace you. But Lourdes, my love for you is uncontrollable, and I do not know if I can keep away from you, if I can..."
"Galahad, listen to me." Quivering, Lourdes began through light sobs as she placed her palm upon the side of the young knight's face, lightly tracing his cheek with her thumb. "If my heart is set upon it, I would do anything against any law. It is just that..."
At this unwavering statement, Galahad immediately recoiled from her with an incredulous laugh escaping from his lips, pacing a few steps back from her form. He declared indisputably with much bitterness in his voice, "So your heart does belong to Lancelot then?" He breathed out in incredulity, placing his hand upon the cold, stone wall for support. Shaking his head, he muttered to himself, "After everything that I have gone through. After everything that I have sacrificed!" He twisted his head slightly to face her, choking out, "After everything that I have done for you, Lourdes. Does it mean nothing to you?"
"Galahad, you and I both know that that is not true! I said I loved you, and I meant it!" With a sob, Lourdes attempted to seize his arm, but the knight was quick to shrug off her advance, reaching out for the latch of the door instead. At this, she wailed hopelessly, "Galahad, do not walk away! Please listen to me!"
Galahad halted briefly, his chest visibly rising and falling, emanating his heightened emotions. His conflicting feelings were overtaking him, patience being tested to its utmost limit. When he turned his head back towards Lourdes, she weakly admitted with a sob:
"Galahad, I have given myself to Lancelot."
At this declaration, Galahad felt as though the wind had been completely knocked out of him. His heart immediately constricted, his breaths becoming more sparse, as he could only stare at Lourdes in bewilderment. The young maiden's face contorted in anguish as she sat back down onto the bed, gripping its sides as she freely cried. With squinted eyes, Galahad stalked towards her, grabbing the sides of her arms and digging his fingers into her skin in rage. "Lourdes, you almost lie with me, and then you tell me...this?" Releasing her abruptly, he cried out in utter frustration and hurt, running his fingers through his curly locks. "You tell me this...now?"
"Galahad, I regret not informing you sooner," Lourdes swallowed before she stated with a shake of her head, "...but I do not regret my actions. I am in love with him, Galahad. I am in love with Lancelot."
"So that is it, then? You have finally chosen him?" Galahad muttered through gritted teeth, standing straight once more. He continued with a rising voice, "You ask me to stay here, to kiss you, be with you...and now you desire to push me away?" When she did not reply, Galahad strode towards the door, his angry stomps echoing within the chamber. Unable to take this confrontation with her any longer, he pulled the door open, informing her, tight-lipped, "You have hurt me like no other, Lourdes." Looking back painfully at her once more, he finished, almost bitterly, "I just hope that you do not regret any of your decisions and that you find happiness in your life."
With a couple of paces, he was out of her line of sight. As he slammed the door recklessly behind him, Lourdes burst into more tears, holding her head forlornly in the palm of her hands.
t t t
What if I wanted to break
Laugh it all off in your face
What would you do?
What if I fell to the floor
Couldn't take all this anymore
What would you do, do, do?
Come break me down
Bury me, bury me
I am finished with you
What if I wanted to fight
Beg for the rest of my life
What would you do?
You say you wanted more
What are you waiting for?
I'm not running from you (from you)
Come break me down
Bury me, bury me
I am finished with you
Look in my eyes
You're killing me, killing me
All I wanted was you
I tried to be someone else
But nothing seemed to change
I know now, this is who I really am inside.
Finally found myself
Fighting for a chance.
I know now, this is who I really am.
Come break me down
Bury me, bury me
I am finished with you, you, you.
Look in my eyes
You're killing me, killing me
All I wanted was you
Come break me down (bury me, bury me)
Break me down (bury me, bury me)
Break me down (bury me, bury me)
(You say you wanted more)
What if I wanted to break...?
(What are you waiting for?)
Bury me, bury me
(I'm not running from you)
What if I
What if I
What if I
What if I
Bury me, bury me.
- "The Kill" by 30 Seconds To Mars
t t t
It was now a fortnight since Lourdes, Akira and the Sarmatian knights had returned to Kenji, though Sarmatians, Shinodians and Woads alike were increasingly becoming anxious about a rebel Shinodian attack. All vied for caution and heightened defense, for an ensuing retaliation from their enemy to avenge the loss of rebel Shinodians in the most recent skirmish was more than possible -- nay, it was to be expected. For the past few days, provisions had been continuously gathered, and all that could be procured from outside of Kenji's curtain wall had been taken into the inner keep. Guards patrolled day and night, eyes always watchful of any activity, ears always alert for any sign of intruders. King Lothair utilized every precious moment in order to prepare their defences; and now, it was time to gather the warriors able to fight and decide upon their course of action.
The main Kenjian castle hall was crowded with many Sarmatian, Shinodian and Woadian warriors, some clustered in groups, others scattered around the spacious room as they respectfully greeted their allies. Low murmurs floated in the air as men continued to gather inside, servants busily zigzagging their way through the massive assembly as they went about their daily duties and attempted to cater to many of the warriors' needs. King Lothair, Prince Lucas, Arthur and Merlin convened at the front of the hall, speaking in low tones to one another as they observed their amassing army. They were pleased at the budding friendships and sense of camaraderie that resonated between their men -- and this, they hoped, would contribute to a high morale during their forthcoming battles -- for an army that stood united was a strong army indeed.
"With our numbers and the skill of these warriors, I am confident that we will be able to defeat the rebel Shinodian army." Lothair's statement caught those around him by surprise, though, a sense of relief passed through them, hearing the strength and conviction in his voice. As the king's cursory glance glided through the sea of men, he spoke in confidence with Arthur, "Commander, there has been something I have been meaning to ask you for quite some time now."
With raised eyebrows, Arthur turned his undivided attention towards the king, answering slowly, "What is it, your majesty?"
"Do you know of Lancelot and Lourdes' relations?"
At first, Arthur was quite taken aback by the forward nature of the king, especially since they were within earshot of many men. Though seeing the stern expression that now covered his countenance, Arthur answered steadily, "I do, your majesty, and I have never questioned it." The commander gave a heartfelt sigh, seeing the king give him a curt nod in silent reply. "I know of Lancelot's preceding reputation, but King Lothair, I assure you that he cares for your daughter as much as you do. He has risked his life numerous times for her, and I do not doubt that he would willingly do so again."
At his statements, Lothair met Arthur's eyes, "And Lancelot...he loves my daughter?"
"With his entire being." Arthur responded with certitude lining his voice and a smile creeping upon his lips. "You should know, your majesty, that your daughter has changed my best comrade -- tremendously, in fact -- for the better. It is as though she has given him new life."
"I cannot deny the happiness -- and stubbornness -- that your knight has instilled in my daughter." King Lothair replied, surprisingly with mirth in his tone. "Though if I may, Sir Arthur, I desire to speak with him."
"Of course, your majesty." As Arthur's green orbs searched throughout the sea of men, he found no sign of his best comrade. Turning to his nearby knights, he called out, "Knights, know you of Lancelot's whereabouts? The king desires to speak with him."
Arthur found it puzzling that at this query, Galahad's countenance became as hard as stone, his gaze immediately falling towards the ground. Arthur continued to observe in wonder at Gawain's sympathetic reaction to his best comrade's expression, becoming further perplexed by his knights' actions. Bors and Dagonet only managed to share a look before shaking their heads in answer at their commander. Surprisingly, it was Tristan who spoke.
"I checked on Lancelot's wounds a while ago." he informed them with a slight tilt of his shaggy head. "He was sleeping soundly in his quarters when I left."
"Have you also seen my daughter, Sir Tristan?" King Lothair questioned a little worriedly, motioning to Lucas with his hand. "Prince Lucas and I have not seen her at all today."
As Tristan shook his head in response, Akira, who stood beside him, squeezed his hand as she proclaimed, "Worry not, your majesties. I will search for her."
When she received nods of acquiesce from both Lothair and Lucas, she endowed a tender caress upon Tristan's cheek before turning on her heel and leaving the gathering. Akira quickly paced through the castle corridors, keeping her eyes alert to any sign of Lourdes. Though, following her instinct, she walked determinedly towards Lourdes' chamber. As she approached, she began to hear faint sobs coming from inside, worry instantly lining her features. Gingerly placing her ear upon the entrance, she waited for a few moments before knocking. "Lourdes, your father desires your company." The Shinodian commander called out lightly, eyebrows furrowing. "Lourdes, are you alright?"
When she was only answered by more sobs, Akira finally pushed open the door with a steady arm, peeking her head gingerly inside the room. What she beheld then made her heart ache. Lourdes was curled upon her bed, wrinkled sheets all about her, as she uncontrollably sobbed into her hands. Closing the door immediately behind her, Akira swiftly made her way to Lourdes' side with much concern, sitting upon her bed as she worriedly beheld her friend's current state.
"Lourdes, what is wrong?" Akira questioned with furrowed brows, compassionately stroking Lourdes' head in comfort. "Why do you cry like so?"
"I...I don't deserve them!" Lourdes wailed in an erratic response, confusing the Shinodian commander even more. "I never did!"
"W-what? Lourdes, what are you speaking of?"
"I have made many mistakes in my life, Akira, and they have all amounted to this." With blurred vision, the princess of Shino looked upon her friend, grasping her arm desperately for support. She confided, "All they have ever done was love me, and yet, all I ever do in return is hurt them!"
"Lourdes, please, calm down." Akira shook her head, embracing the anguished princess as she attempted to quell her frantic crying. "I am here for you. Start from the beginning."
Inhaling highly needed oxygen to regain an ounce of composure, Lourdes began, "Akira, my heart is torn. It has been torn for many months now." The princess glanced upwards to meet Akira's focused brown orbs. "I am in love with both Galahad and Lancelot."
Akira pulled away from the princess slightly, her eyes twinkling with sudden realization. "So these were the two men that you gave your heart to in Sarmatia?"
"Yes." she replied simply.
"Oh, Lourdes!" Akira embraced her tightly once more, trying to bring her as much comfort as she could. Deep down inside, Akira had an inkling of what was transpiring between the three. She could not miss the looks that were exchanged between Lourdes and Galahad, the loving gestures that passed between them. The young knight's feelings -- which, for Akira, were quite transparent -- were not that difficult to detect as well, even in the presence of Lancelot. Akira had also wondered about Lancelot's current state, why he seemed to hurt, angry and utterly displeased with everyone around him. Did the knight know of Lourdes' feelings for Galahad? Was that the reason for his current state?Feeling much sympathy for the young woman, Akira whispered in a consolatory tone, "We both know that you would never hurt them intentionally. Your heart is confused, torn, and both Lancelot and Galahad are good, honourable men. I cannot blame you -- and you should not blame yourself -- for loving them both."
Lourdes paused for a moment to think upon Akira's words. She was surprisingly receptive to her reasonings, finding much truth in them. After a few moments, she spoke once more. "Galahad proposed to me, you know." Lourdes informed Akira hoarsely, making the commander's eyes widen. "Since I am no longer with Lancelot, I could have accepted him. And yet, I did not. That Kenjian law was holding me back, but it was more than that. If I wanted to, I would have defied that law and have taken him as a husband. But I didn't."
"Because you felt as though it would be unfair to Lancelot no matter what your circumstances are?" Akira reasoned comfortingly, expressing Lourdes' exact feelings. "Although your circumstances may have changed verbally, you still feel an unspoken bond with him. You still love Lancelot, and it would also be unfair to Galahad, for your entire heart is not with him as well."
Lourdes could only give her a weak nod in agreement. "Did you know about the laws, Akira?"
Akira glanced away from her, suddenly embarrassed. "Yes."
"Why did you not tell me?"
"I wanted you to be happy." She replied truthfully, rubbing the side of Lourdes' arm. "I do believe that you should be able to make your own choices, to choose your own destiny. You should be with whomever your heart chooses and should not be limited -- controlled -- by a stupid law."
"Oh, Akira." Lourdes placed her forehead upon Akira's shoulder, sniffling. She forcefully choked out, "My heart chooses Lancelot, but a part of my heart will always be with Galahad. What am I to do?"
"Lourdes, listen to me." Akira placed her steady hands upon Lourdes' shoulders, eyes devoid of doubt and adorned with much conviction. "Do not feel as though you have to rush these things. Take time for yourself. Think hard upon your situation -- do not evade them -- as you find solace and comfort in other things. You are a princess of Shino. Occupy your mind with duties, with other matters. Spend time with those that you love." Akira embraced her once more, hand rested behind her head. "And I have no doubt that, in time, your heart's choice will become clear."
t t t
The few days of elapsed time since Galahad had last spoken with Lourdes seemed like an eternity. As the young knight consciously avoided all forms of confrontation with the young maiden, he had only seen her sparingly throughout the castle, often by a chance passing, at other times only a glimpse of her ghost-like apparition. Though Galahad did not openly admit it, the young knight felt so despondent, coupled with much remorse and regret, for what had transpired between them. Frankly, it was more than unchivalrous of him to do what he had done, to accumulate all of his bottled emotions, his hurt pride, and, with unyielding callousness, open a barrage of attacks against the already defenseless, vulnerable maiden. Through his fit of confusion and determined persuasion of her coming affections, he failed to realize the severity of his actions, the damage that he had dealt to their already unstable relationship. He found that he could not muster up the courage to speak with her, to mend the growing rift between them. It was cowardice of him, and Galahad knew this, but a part of the young knight also knew that he would only burden her further if he even tried to speak with her. Now, he realized, that his very presence must be a burden to her.
As the young knight took a midnight walk throughout the castle in an attempt to clear his turbulent and unrelenting thoughts, he beheld a familiar silhouette in the distance. With arms leaning over a second-story balcony, Lancelot gazed up at the midnight-blue heavens, as if trying to find answers, solace and comfort in the diamond-like stars above him. Galahad wondered at this sight, for this was the first time that he had seen Lancelot out of his chambers. Indecisive about whether to approach the brooding knight or to turn on his heel and leave him be, the young knight had stopped a few metres from his comrade, observing him curiously. Though, before Galahad could make a firm decision, Lancelot's keen hearing had detected his light footsteps, and, his silent contemplation interrupted by the young knight's appearance, Lancelot had looked upon Galahad with a shrewd expression on his countenance.
Galahad cleared his throat in half apology, half greeting. With a cordial nod, he inquired lightly, "How are you feeling?"
At his query, Lancelot actually gave out a half-hearted, humourless laugh, twisting his head to gaze out at the mockingly tranquil scene before him. "Everyone has been asking me the same question for almost a fortnight. Every time they do, I never quite know how to answer."
Galahad swallowed at Lancelot's outright admittance as he took a few more steps towards his rigid comrade. Stopping by his side, Galahad began uncomfortably, "I know what has happened between you and Lourdes...and Lancelot, I feel -"
"Ecstatic?" As he interjected, Lancelot glanced upwards at the young knight, complete bitterness lining his voice and features. "You feel as though everything that you have done, everything that you have sacrificed, was all worth it?" Lancelot stood up straight, his keen brown eyes flickering with simultaneous rage and amusement as he turned his body to face his comrade. "You feel as though what you wished for has finally become a reality?"
Galahad closed his eyes in order to steady his rising emotions. Exhaling once, he replied calmly, "That is not it." Opening his emerald orbs once more, Galahad continued with all sincerity, "I never wanted ill emotion to pass between you and me, nor to ruin your relationship with Lourdes. I only followed my heart, Lancelot, and I came back to behold that you two were together. Do you know how that feels?"
With a voice ranked with distaste, Lancelot rejoined, tight-lipped, "I would guess the feeling is similar to what Lourdes felt when she returned to see you with Isabella."
Galahad shot Lancelot a humourless look. "Lancelot, do not start..."
"And why not?" Lancelot utterly boomed, leaning his face closer to Galahad's. "There I was, finally content for once in my life, finally feeling as though I had everything that I could ever want, could ever need in this lifetime...and then I am faced with this?" He lifted a steady finger contemptuously to Galahad's face. "I broke ties with her -- I made that sacrifice -- not only for her, but for you. You!"
"I understand that, Lancelot," Galahad's countenance distorted at his comrade's open exhibition of pain, unflinching as Lancelot's aggression continuously rose as every tense moment passed by, "and I am sorry because of it."
"Oh, do not be sorry, Galahad!" Lancelot retorted with much sarcasm lining his voice. He held out his hands in front of him, breathing in his restraint as he acted as the more sensible of the two. "By all means, ride out with her into the sunset after a lavish ceremony held in your honour. She's all yours now."
"Would you listen to me?" Galahad spat sternly through clenched teeth, grasping the sides of Lancelot's arms and roughly shaking the irate knight. At this gesture, Lancelot immediately pushed the young knight from his form. though, Galahad persisted, continuing, albeit shakily, "I proposed to her, Lancelot, and she denied me. She denied me."
Barely heeding this statement, Lancelot scoffed, leaning his hands upon the balcony ledge once more. He snapped with conviction, "She only denied you because of a Shinodian law."
"No." In response, Galahad shook his head firmly, walking to Lancelot's side once more. The young knight continued shakily, "Both of us know that Lourdes would not let any law halt her from doing what she truly desires." He breathed out, closing his eyes, "She denied me for the love of you, Lancelot. Even if she has feelings for me, it is not enough."
Lancelot was at a loss as how to respond to these statements. If he proposed to Lourdes, would she deny him as well? Or did she truly deny Galahad's hand in marriage because her heart belonged to him? Feeling frustration, anger and pain engulfing his every being once more, Lancelot gritted his teeth, running his hands roughly upon his face, then curly locks. Galahad persisted, and with a pain-filled voice masked with a calm countenance, he proclaimed in but a murmur,
"She chose you, Lancelot. She has given herself to you. Can you not see that?"
So now, Galahad knows what had transpired between he and Lourdes and the extent of their relationship? Lancelot could not muster an answer and kept his firm gaze fixated to the cold, stone floor.
"I have hurt both of you so much, and you know that that was never my intention." stated the young knight sincerely, fists clenching at his side. "But promise me this, Lancelot." As Galahad forced himself to swallow the lump that had progressively formed in his throat, Lancelot finally glanced up to meet his misty emerald orbs. "Do not make the same mistake as I did. Go after her. Do not let go of her. For if you do, Lancelot, you will one day regret your decision, and it will torture you, haunt you, to your very core."
Turbulent and confused emotions coursed through Lancelot as he understood Galahad's submission. A part of him could barely believe what Galahad was saying to him, and yet, fervent hope had been restored in his heart. He no longer regretted having broken ties with Lourdes, for he realized that it brought them all to this very moment. And yet, guilt also coursed through his veins, feeling much sympathy for his young comrade. He had never wanted things to transpire this way. Though, they knew of love's capricious nature, its binding spell uncontrollable, unyielding to whom it is bestowed. As Galahad rested his hands upon the balcony ledge as well, Lancelot placed a consolatory hand on his shoulder, a gesture of thanks, apology and understanding.
Lancelot then outstretched a steady hand to Galahad. The young knight glanced up at Lancelot's neutral countenance, then his hand. Lancelot breathed out cordially, "Comrades?"
Through his sorrow, Galahad forced a smile, first taking Lancelot's hand, then patting his back. He replied sincerely, "Comrades."
t t t
Upon Lancelot's departure from Galahad, a fervent voice within him cried out to make amends with Lourdes as soon as he could. It had been so long -- too long -- since he had last spoken with her, even caught a glimpse of her. He found that taking comfort in solitude and attempting to find solace in the confines of his chambers did not erase the pain, but only increased it. He needed to see her, to speak with her and to hold her once more. It was the only way that he could put an end to his misery, and, with all his heart, he hoped that it would end hers as well.
Through the dead silence of the castle corridors, Lancelot steadily walked, his confidence and need for Lourdes increasing with every step. Now even more desperate to see her, he increased his pace, finding the door to her chamber slightly open. Tilting his head to the side in confusion, he gingerly pushed the door open, its eerie creaking heightening his defences. "Lourdes?" The knight called out, beholding a pitch-black room before him. Almost immediately as he entered, his gut instinct screamed at him that something was awry.
Snapping his head to his right at the sound of shuffling, he faintly heard Lourdes' muffled voice: "Lancelot! Help!"
Before Lancelot could retrieve the dagger from his waistband, the hilt of a sword connected with the back of his head, causing him to lose all consciousness.
t t t
A/N: So what did you all think of that? Thank you once more for all of your patience during my haitus. Check out my other fics, especially my newest project, "Faces of Truth".Thank you for reading! xx