A/N: Well I thought I had the rest of this fic all planned out. But as luck would have it, I was inspired by the most amazing Lancelot/Guinevere music vid, which has caused this chapter and the following ones to evolve in wonderful ways that I had not originally envisioned. I hope you all enjoy it. Feedback is much appreciated!
Chapter 2 – Lancelot's Lament
Damn this woman. Damn this heart.
Lancelot quickly paced the length of his room lamenting his misfortunes. One night's rest had done nothing to temper his rage or stop his mind from revisiting yesterday's sight in the forest. Walking slowly to the window he stared out and contemplated, not for the first time, running away. Abandoning his duty, his friend, and his love. Cowards run away. Lancelot had been called many things in his lifetime, but a coward? Never. He was emotional, to a fault perhaps, intensely passionate, endlessly stubborn, but above all else loyal. Loyal! Ha! Who would dare call me loyal now? He mentally berated himself. In love with my best friend's wife-to-be. He of course could not stop loving her. She held all sway over his heart, since the moment he had first glimpsed her swollen eyes behind the gates of her prison cell.
The thought of running away was fleeting and swiftly passed from his mind. He would never leave Britain, or Arthur. His duty was to the future king and queen of these lands. Lands not his own. But he stayed not for the land. He stayed for one reason alone, though he masked the reason in the veil of a half-truth, namely his loyalty to Arthur. He knew the real truth, as did she. He stayed for her.
He had saved her from certain death by the hand of Cynric, taking an arrow to the chest which had almost claimed his life. Better he had died himself that day, for this torment shattered his very soul. She haunted him in his dreams and throughout his waking hours. Only death would bring release.
A banging on the door roused him from his musings, and he strode to the entrance to see who his visitor was.
"You coming to dinner or what? We're all waiting for you." Bors lumbered into the room, not waiting for an invitation to enter.
Lancelot sighed, "No Bors, I'm not. I am ill."
Looking his up and down, Bors scoffed, "Really? Well you don't look ill to me boy. Maybe you have the same illness the lady has. She refused to dine with us for the same reason."
"Aye, perhaps I have." Lancelot lowered his eyes to the ground, avoiding Bors's gaze.
Moving himself directly in front of Lancelot, he continued. "You think we're all stupid, don't you Lance? I see how you look at her. How she looks at you."
"You don't know what you are talking about." Snarling, Lancelot raised his eyes to meet Bors's stare.
"The hell I don't! Now get your arse to the hall before Arthur starts to question why both his lady and first knight are missing."
Arthur. A look of concern flickered through Lancelot's eyes at the mention of his name, and he bowed his head in shame.
Bors grabbed Lancelot's arm and reassured him. "Arthur suspects nothing. He's blinded by his love for the both of you." Giving him a shake as if to knock some sense into the dark night, he added sternly, "But you best watch yourself Lancelot. And you best not make a fool of him."
Lancelot meekly nodded and silently followed Bors to the hall for supper.
Lancelot entered the great hall and took his place at the table. Arthur nodded to his friend with a smile and raised his glass. They toasted their fallen comrades, as they did every night before dining. Heads bowed, eyes closed, each knight partook in their own quiet reflection on their fallen brothers. Though they preformed the same ritual nightly, the pain never lessened for any of them. Their table once filled to capacity, now held mostly empty seats. Gone but not forgotten.
After much food and even more wine, dinner ended on a high note, with the men clamoring to head out to the tavern. Lancelot was about to give his usual nightly excuse for why he would not be joining them, but Bors was having none of that tonight.
"Come on you brooding bastard. Let's go!" Lancelot shot Bors a look of death, which did nothing to stay the man's tongue. "We ain't taking no for an answer this time."
"I will meet you soon my knights. I must check on Guinevere's condition first." Arthur left the jovial troupe, watching as Bors practically dragged Lancelot out the door.
Guinevere lay in the comfort of her bed, eyes closed, feigning sleep. She heard hushed voices in her receiving room, and on silent tip toes moved across the cool stone floor, pressing her ear to the door to better hear who was speaking.
"The lady is sleeping sir." She heard her nursemaid addressing someone.
"I shan't bother her." It was Arthur's voice. "Does she require the healer?"
"No sir, she insists it is a simple headache and only requires some rest."
"Fine. The men and I will be at the tavern. Please do not hesitate to send someone for me if her condition worsens."
"Aye sir. As you wish."
Guinevere was saddened by the concern she had heard in Arthur voice, but her ruse was necessary. She could not face Lancelot, not yet. Moving quickly back to her bed, she slipped under the covers in the event her nursemaid should decide to come check on her.
Closing her eyelids, the utter silence of the castle set her mind free to wander where it may. Where it always went in her solitude. Lancelot. At times, she was wholly lacking in an explanation to account for the singing in her heart at the mere thought of him. But love could not be simply explained away. It was without rhyme or reason. Her love more than any other, she conceded. She must marry Arthur, it was not a choice. Merlin had told her it was her fate - written in the stars even. She did not begrudge her destiny; it was of utmost importance, to unite her people, to save her land. The rewards surely outweighed the cost of two broken hearts. Or so Merlin had tried to convince her. He was right of course; he was always right. Wasn't he?
She had always known their affair could not last forever. But she had never expected Lancelot to put an end to it, before the necessary time. She could not truly imagine how he must have felt, to have seen her making love to Arthur. The ache in her heart surely outweighed his, for the one who causes their lover pain always bears the greater anguish in the end. She had always feared this affair would cause some complication; she had been so careful not to give Arthur even a hint of her feelings for Lancelot. Though it seemed she had forgotten to worry about somehow hurting Lancelot in the process. She was lost in the heavy emotions of her guilt, her shame, and the utter hopelessness of it all.
There was only one thing she could do now. Guinevere moved to seat herself at the heavy wooden desk. Pulling out a piece of parchment from the drawer, she closed her eyes, trying to fashion in her mind what she would write. Putting ink to paper, the words flowed from her fingertips as she poured her heart out onto the page.
The music was pounding in his ears, as Lancelot knocked his head back to pour the fifth tankard of ale down his throat. Seated at a table by himself, he was attempting to drown his sorrows, yet failing miserably. The alcohol was dulling his mind, but he could not stop himself from thinking of her. His heart would not let it go, and his mind would continually bombard him with awful images. The sensation it induced in his gut was nauseating, and he took another draught from the mug in hopes of settling his stomach. He felt an arm wrap around his neck and a body plop down beside him on the bench. Gawain laughed and nodded his head to the left. "Look at those two over there".
Lancelot turned his head in the same direction and spied two young girls sitting at the table across from them.
"Whores," he muttered under his breath.
"Hmm?" Gawain had not heard him.
"Whores!" He said louder this time, and shrugged off Gawain's arm from his shoulder.
Gawain laughed loudly. "Aye, and which one do you want?"
Lancelot looked at him in disgust. Part of him wanted to take Gawain up on the offer and bed one of the two young ladies. He was known to be quite the ladies man, but his actions of late were not in keeping with his reputation. Before Guinevere, he could be found in the tavern almost every night, and go home with a different girl for every night he was there. He could so easily leave with one this very evening; lose himself in another's body. Maybe he could forget about her, maybe she would hear about it and feel the same pain she had caused him. He was in too foul a mood to be good company to anyone, and honestly, his heart was not in it. He didn't want another, he wanted Guinevere. Damned woman. She has no idea what she has done to me.
He looked over to Gawain and shook his head, "Not tonight."
"Fine then, more for me." Laughing, Gawain left the table and headed over to the ladies.
What a fool I am. With a heavy sigh, he motioned to the waitress to refill his ale. Lancelot stared into the amber liquid, unconsciously twisting his knife into the table. He thought drink would soothe him; instead it was having quite the opposite effect. His earlier melancholy was slowly fading, and in its place something darker and more primal had taken hold. His temper was legendary, but mixed with the alcohol it became the deadliest of his vices. How could he not be angry? The alcohol would not make it go away, it only made it worse, although the realization came far too late as he quickly finished off the stiff bitter.
Lost in his thoughts, he felt a hand on his back again. He turned his head quickly, dagger in hand, ready to drive away whoever was disturbing him.
"Arthur!" He smiled a sheepish grin at him, "I thought it was Gawain again."
A look of concern passed over Arthur's face and he took a seat next to his friend, "What occupies your thoughts, brother?"
"Nothing Arthur. Everything is fine." He managed a fake smile as he lied through his teeth. "Too much ale is all. How is everything?"
"Life is good Lancelot. We are at peace at last, and soon all of Britain will be united."
"Ah yes, King Arthur will soon unite all the lands."
Arthur smiled quietly at the sound of his new title.
"But a King is not a King, without a Queen by his side. Have you not thought of settling down yourself Lancelot, taking a wife perhaps? I know you are not the marrying kind, I just wish you could be as happy as I."
Happy. Why can I too not be happy? There was only one kind of happiness for Lancelot. The kind of happiness that existed when he was with Guinevere, alone in their secret cave. The kind of happiness that lasted for only a few hours of the day. The kind of happiness that waxed with the moon and waned with the sun. This had been his kind of happiness, but was no longer.
Arthur continued, "Guinevere has also expressed much similar concern for your well being."
He had known it was a bad idea to come to the tavern tonight. Why couldn't Bors had just let him be, instead of insisting he accompany them? The other knights were clearly enjoying themselves; Bors was dancing with his lover Vanora and Galahad had joined Gawain in charming the two young ladies from earlier. Lancelot felt suffocated, unable to breathe. Something inside the dark knight snapped, and a heat surged throughout his frame. Slamming his knife into the wood of the table, he turned to face Arthur.
"Has she? Well you tell our fair queen not to worry herself further over me." He spat the words out, garnering a raised eyebrow from Arthur at his outburst.
He noticed an attractive young lady across the room smiling at him. "She should do nicely, do you not agree?" his voice dripping with sarcasm as he pointed the young woman out to Arthur.
He called her over to him, pulling her into his lap as soon as she approached the table. He whispered into her ear causing her to giggle in response. With one final glance at Arthur, he took the girls hand and made a hasty exit from the tavern.
The couple stumbled into Lancelot's room, pawing at each other like two love sick teenagers. In the darkness they both tripped and tumbled onto the bed. With clumsy fingers he tore at her clothes, his primal desires fueling him. She wasn't anything special, but she was what he needed right at this moment. They quickly shed each other of all their garments and Lancelot lowered himself between her legs and penetrated her swiftly. He didn't care if she was ready or not, he was.
"Kiss me," she softly moaned.
Ignoring her request, he buried his head in her neck as he pumped harder and faster. Her scent filled his nostrils, musk and liquor and smoke. She smelled of the hundreds of other men she had undoubtedly bedded, and he didn't even care. It seemed forever ago that he was with a woman like this. He was not normally a selfish lover, but this time was different. He needed her body and cared for nothing save his own pleasure.
Biting her lip, she arched her herself into him. Wrapping her legs around his buttocks, she moaned and pushed him deeper into her. He rammed his hard cock into her with such ferocity, he feared the bed would be shattered to splinters. She enjoyed his roughness, moaning his name in his ear, and he realized he couldn't even remember hers, though he was certain she had told him. It didn't matter.
He felt his climax approaching, and not wanting to come inside her, he pulled himself out and spilled his warm seed on her stomach. She seemed to take delight in the sight of his juices covering her. Without uttering a word, he retrieved a towel and handed it to her so she could clean herself. He was mentally and physically spent. He didn't want to talk, he didn't want to think. Lying back down on the bed, he turned his back to her, closed his eyes and fell fast asleep.
Something was weighing down on his arm when Lancelot awoke. Turning his head he realized the woman was still there in his bed, and his arm was trapped beneath her. With as much grace as he could muster, which wasn't much, he freed himself and moved to edge of his bed. He bowed his pounding skull into his hands, rubbing his thumbs into his temples to soothe the throbbing behind his dark brown eyes. Every muscle in his body ached and his head hurt too much to even think about what had happened last night. He was about to get up and get dressed when he spied a piece of paper poking out from between his feet, half-hidden under the bed.
He reached down to retrieve the folded piece of parchment, sealed in red at the crease. The pounding in his heart told him who the letter was from. Curiosity got the better of him and forgetting that he was not alone, he opened the letter quickly, without a second thought.
Just as he was reading the first few words, his bed companion awoke and made her presence known by gently running her fingers down his spine. Lancelot bolted from the bed at the touch, the letter still clutched tightly in hand and turned to her. In his lifetime, Lancelot had experienced more morning-afters than he could remember. He had mastered the art of getting the woman to leave quickly, yet always with a smile and a false promise to see them again soon. Not this time.
"Get out." He growled, his eyes turning completely black and filled with repulsion.
She stared at him in shock and disbelief, unable to respond at his outburst. Though she didn't know him well, she knew well of him. She had heard plenty a story from the tavern girls about the knight with the large appetite for female company. The girls had plenty of names for him - Lancelot the Lover, Lecherous Lancelot, and the Salacious Sarmatian. But never had any of the girls described him as he was now before her, menacing, cruel and hateful in all his knightly glory.
"What are you deaf? I said get out!" His voice echoed in the room.
A look of horror crossed her face, and she raised her hand as if to slap him across the face. From the dreadful glare Lancelot gave her, she wisely stayed her hand, but still made no move towards the door. To help encourage her hasty exit, Lancelot retrieved her clothes from the floor and hurled them on the bed. She dressed hastily in silence, not able to even look at him. Fully clothed, she still made no move to leave; rather she seemed content to simply glare at him from across the bed. Just as he was about to shout at her again, she at last decided to address him.
"What kind of a knight covets his brother's wife?"
In a thousand years he would not have expected these words from her, as the shock on his face so evidently indicated.
"You called her name in your sleep."
"Not another word!" Running to the other side of the bed, he grabbed her roughly by the arm, dragged her across the room like a rag doll, and savagely tossed her out the door.
Enough of this madness!
Without a second thought, Lancelot quickly dressed. Throwing his cloak over his shoulder, he carefully placed the letter into the inner pocket. Donning his sharp blades on his back, he rushed out of the room and headed directly to the stables hoping to make an unnoticed exit from the castle. Luck was not on his side this morning, and he groaned aloud when he saw Galahad trotting his horse around the stable. Damn it all to hell. Completely ignoring the young knight, he moved directly to saddle his horse. He leapt atop the beautiful dark beast and galloped quickly out of the stable, not stopping at Galahad's shouts of questioning. With the sun in his eyes, the dark knight rode, away from the castle, away from Arthur, away from Guinevere, away from everything.