A/N: Sorry for the delay, this chapter took a bit longer than I was expecting. Hope it was worth the wait! Thank you all for the wonderful comments from Chapter 2.
Chapter 3 – Run Away
Every curve of her body molded into his muscular frame. The sweet taste of his breath, the gentle stroking of his hands. Moaning into his neck, his fingers roamed over her soft flesh, sending shock waves along every nerve of her body. This was heaven for her.
"Do you know how much I love you?" He whispered into her ear causing a shiver to course the length of her spine.
Pulling back to stare into his eyes, she answered him with a coy smile on her lips, "No, I do not."
"Then let me show you." He gave a devilish grin and he proceeded to ...
Guinevere was abruptly roused from her slumber by someone being altogether too noisy in her chambers. Opening one sleepy eye, she spied the culprit - her maid, clamorously darting about the room. There was almost nothing worse than being awoken from a pleasant dream before it's conclusion, she thought irritably. Closing her eyes, she turned her back to the infernal woman, wishing to fall asleep once again and continue her delightful dreaming. The slow pulsing between her legs ached for release and she longed for her phantom lover's touch. She had been dreaming of him, as she did every night. Some say that dreams are the pathway to the soul; her soul, her heart and her body ached for Lancelot.
"Milady are you awake?"
I am now.
"It is past midday milady. Arthur has come by to check on you twice already. Are you feeling better?"
I would be if you let me be.
With a sigh she turned to face the woman, "Yes I am feeling better today, thank you."
Her maid smiled, "I have drawn a bath for you."
Guinevere nodded and left the bed for her bathing room. A nice soak would do her good right about now, she thought as she disrobed and lowered herself into the luxuriously hot water. With the smallest hint of a smile on her lips, she closed her eyes and continued last night's stimulating dream in her mind.
With a groan, Lancelot submerged his body into the chilling cool depths of the pond. When he had left the castle that morning he had had no destination in mind. He had just needed to run away from everything, to spend time in solitude, and hopefully to find some peace and quiet for once. Letting his horse roam freely, his faithful companion had brought him here - to his and Guinevere's waterfall. The whole damned world knows. Why not the horse as well?
It was a blessing in disguise he quickly decided, and after tying his horse to a nearby tree, he stripped off his garments and jumped into the water. He wanted to scrub off the filthy scent of the whore from his body. The water was freezing cold, which was exactly what he needed to temper his anger. Lately he was far too angry far too often, he thought. Experiencing one minor disaster after another; things had been piling up long enough. The past two days, culminating in this morning's events, were the final straw. He hated himself for his actions last night. Taking pleasure in another woman's body, all because of his broken heart. It was disgusting and selfish and foolish. And the sad part was, he was partly glad he had done it – he had wanted to hurt Guinevere as she had hurt him. And that damned whore knew! Enough was enough. A man can only take so much before he snaps.
The crashing of the waterfall muffled the sound of the two approaching men. With a deep breath, Lancelot immersed himself completely, the icy cold liquid tickling his skin. When he returned to the surface, he opened his eyes to the sight of two men turning to run. One carried his swords, the other his clothing. Bastard thieves! He berated himself for having been caught off his guard and instantly leapt from the water.
Naked and weaponless, Lancelot sprinted after the two men. His body, which had been freezing only a second earlier, warmed immediately as hot angry blood burned through his veins. They will pay dearly for their theft, he inwardly snarled. The fools have no idea whom they have robbed. They will know soon enough.
His legs carried him faster than he thought imaginable. His mind was racing just as rapidly – jumbling images of catching the foul thieves, of slowly torturing them, of doling out well-deserved vengeance for their robbery. They had taken his most precious items. His blades had been his unwavering, faithful companions for the past 15 years. They were a part of him, as much as his own hands were. It was a betrayal of a wholly devilish kind to see them in the hands of anyone else, and he felt even more naked without them on his back. But it wasn't only the image of his swords that entered his mind, but his cloak as well. Or rather what was nestled deep inside it's pocket. He suppressed the urge to scream and rapidly closed the gap between him and his nemeses.
With a loud moan, the one carrying Lancelot's weapons stumbled, plummeting face-first into the dirt. His companion stopped when he heard the cry, and turned to aid his fallen comrade. Lancelot's pace did not falter and in an instant he was upon them. The one on the ground lunged for the single blade that had fallen within his grasp. Quick as lightening, Lancelot picked up a thick branch of dead wood, thrashing it with all his might. The sickening sound of the man's skull cracking reverberated throughout the forest, and the branch shattered into a thousand splinters at the contact. The other thief stood frozen in horror, until his eyes caught Lancelot's vicious stare. With a bolt he was off again, running for his life, with the black knight of death quick in pursuit.
One down and one to go. Like a demon possessed, Lancelot reclaimed his stolen blades and gave chase, his vision tainted crimson. He was the predator and savored the hunt. He could taste it. He was running on pure emotion, his adrenaline feeding him, and his primal instincts completely controlling him. Lancelot was an extremely skillful Knight, though he had always thought the word knight to be too fancy a title for what he really was – a trained killer. He and his Sarmatian brothers had been taken from their home for one purpose – to destroy anyone or anything that opposed Rome in anyway. They had taken this innocent young boy and turned him into what he was today. He knew no other life than the one he had lived in the service of Rome. He knew not of mercy, only of death. Better his opponents' deaths than his own.
The remaining thief was not a young man and soon the aching in his lungs from the exertion was overwhelming. Darting quickly behind the shelter of a large oak, he prayed the tree would be an adequate hiding spot from his stalker. He tried to slow his ragged breath and stop the burning in his chest. The woods were strangely hushed. He knew the black knight was still silently hunting him. He continued waiting motionless until he was fairly certain that his foe had passed by his hideout and finally allowed himself to let out the sigh his lungs had been holding in. That's when he felt the cold steel pressed against his skin.
Keeping a single blade against the thief's throat, Lancelot moved from his position behind the tree to face his victim. Crossing his arms, he placed the second blade in it's proper position, his dark eyes never leaving the man's trembling features. This was the one that had taken his garments, his cloak, and the letter. This one would die slowly. This one would know exactly who was exacting their vengeance upon him.
"Are you so ignorant as to not know who you have stolen from?" Despite the heat raging through Lancelot's body, the words were ice cold.
The thief, who had not yet had the courage to look Lancelot in the eye, finally met his gaze. Terror was written on his face, but it was evident he did not know the identity of the man holding the blades against his neck. Not right away at least. Realization slowly entered his eyes.
"You! You are the one that made my Eliza cry."
Who in damnation is Eliza? Lancelot's mind was unable to properly process anything due to his frenzied rage. Nevertheless, even in his right mind he would not have been able to put a face to the name.
"She came home this morning crying her eyes out, going on about how that nasty Lancelot had used her and thrown her out."
The knight's mouth formed into a wickedly evil grin. "Ah yes. The whore from last night."
Disgusted by Lancelot's words, the man spat in his face. Not bothering to clean the saliva off his cheek, Lancelot instead increased the pressure of his blades, causing rivulets of dark red to flow freely down the man's neck.
"Now, have you nothing else to say before you die?"
The thief responded only with silence and a cold glare. He was prepared to die, and would not give Lancelot the satisfaction of an answer.
"I'll be sure to tell your daughter how I killed her thief of a father next time I take her to my bed." Lancelot took perverse pleasure in goading his victim.
Now the thief indeed did have more to say, and with what were surely his last few breaths, he addressed his executioner. "Knight. You call yourself a knight? What kind of a knight are you? You are without honor. I may be a thief, and my daughter may be a whore, but at least I have some semblance of honor. Unlike you! In love with your King's wife!"
Lancelot's jaw fused together, quelling the scream rising in his throat, as the razor sharp blades sliced clean through the man's neck. The scene resembled a nightmarish vision of the underworld. There he stood, his naked body stained with the blood and gore of the decapitated man at his feet, his eyes black as night and burning with anger and hatred. If anyone should dare come upon him in this state they would have thought him a demonic-creature come from the very bowels of hell. He would have struck terror into the heart of the devil himself.
Farther away. He still needed to get father away from this insanity.
Bending down to gather his belongings, he threw the cloak over his shoulders. Not wanting to sully his clothes with blood, he left this godforsaken part of the woods to return to the waterfall and wash up.
Guinevere was sick of puttering about. She was not one to sit idly by, doing nothing all day. But that was exactly how she had passed yesterday and today – moping about her chamber, feeling sorry for herself. Avoiding Lancelot would accomplish nothing, she chided herself. In all honesty, she very much wanted to see him. She dearly missed his handsome face and the way his dark eyes sparkled like stars whenever he looked upon her. Even if they could be together no longer, he was still dearest in her heart and she delighted in being merely in his presence. Whenever she was near to him, her heart would rejoice at finding it's companion and beat all the faster.
With that thought in mind, she made the decision to go to dinner tonight in the great hall. Besides her true motive, she did not want to rouse Arthur's suspicions. He was already concerned about her well-being, believing she had been ill these past days. If she stayed in another night, his worry would surely grow to the point of demanding they call for the healer. Then her fake illness would undoubtedly be found out, which would only lead to more questions she was not prepared to answer. How many times could she look at Arthur and lie to him? How deep could her betrayal run? Everything will be fine after the wedding. She had become so adept at lying she was even doing it to herself now. With a final glance at the mirror to ensure her Queen face was on, she left her room en route to the great hall, while all the while a flock of butterflies danced in her stomach at the thought of seeing her now former lover.
It seemed her nervousness was unfounded, for when she arrived the first thing she noticed was Lancelot's empty seat. Arthur and the rest of the knights all stood as she entered and bowed to her. Her eyes were still transfixed upon the vacant chair; not even realizing she had ignored the men, she promptly nodded her head in return.
She moved to seat herself at Arthur's side, who turned to her with a grin. "Glad to see you are feeling better."
"Yes, thank you." She replied with a false smile in return.
The men continued clamoring on about some business, no one making any mention of Lancelot's apparent absence.
Unable to contain herself any longer, she finally asked, "Where is Lancelot?"
"Galahad saw him leaving this morning in haste," Arthur replied, nodding at the youngest of the knights.
"He just took off on his horse. Never said a word to me, not even a hello. Just completely ignored me like I wasn't even there," Galahad elaborated.
A look of concern passed over Guinevere's face and out of the corner of her eye she noticed Bors regarding her oddly.
Looking pointedly at Arthur, she asked, "Have you not sent anyone out in search of him?"
Laughter ensued at her comment, as the men looked at each other knowingly.
Arthur turned to her with a smile, "One night has not even passed. I am certain he shall return soon - this is not the first time he has left in such a manner."
"Nor will it be the last!" Bors chuckled. Looking over to Gawain he continued, "Remember that time the bastard took off when you beat him in cards. He swore you were cheating! Conceited hot-head couldn't believe he could lose!"
The rest of the knights laughed loudly at the reminiscence.
"He was gone for only one night that time," Gawain recalled. "Another time he left for two days when Tristan bested him in an archery contest. " Gawain nodded to Guinevere, "Don't worry. It's just Lancelot's nature. He will be back after he has cooled down from whatever has set him off this time. He always comes back."
Guinevere had an annoyed look on her face. Lancelot was gone, Arthur would not go look for him, and the knights found the whole situation extremely amusing. She could not continue asking Arthur to go search for his missing knight without stirring even a tiny hint of suspicion, and did not query him further on the topic. A few times throughout the night she caught Bors looking at her with the same curious look he had on his face earlier. She in turn avoided his gaze, and attempted to act more jovially, laughing along with the men as they each told tales of their journeys with Arthur. At the conclusion of dinner she took her leave and hurried back to her chambers.
By the time Lancelot returned to the waterfall, dusk was settling. He was exhausted and though he wished to ride even farther away, he knew it would be best to leave in the morning. Placing his belongings into the cave, he waded into the frigid pond and stood directly under the rapids. Sheets of freezing water crashed down upon him, along with thoughts of everything else that had happened. Washing away the dirt and blood was easy. Washing away the anger and the pain was an altogether different matter.
With the waterfall pounding down on him, a hellish scream erupted from deep inside the fierce knight. The dark bellow that had been festering in his gut since he had left the castle that morning. The swelling roar that had been building inside him for far too long. The overwhelming cry he could contain no longer. Lancelot screamed his heart out – all the rage, the pain, the hurt, the blood, the tears, the love, the hate. Every agonizing emotion came gushing out of him, in a sweet and unfettered roaring outpour. He continued screaming until there was nothing left to purge and his throat was afire with red hot flame.
This was all her fault. The knights thought the whole situation laughable, but they did not know the real reason Lancelot had left. She knew he had been upset after their talk in the cave, but she had not ever thought he would leave because of it. And why did he not leave until today? If he truly had been so distressed over her, why would he not have left yesterday? Something else must have happened. But what exactly she did not know.
The letter! Had he read the letter and then left because of it? She had only written her heart's truth, and did not believe her words would have ever caused him to flee. Yet she knew Lancelot was entirely unpredictable at best. Perhaps something in the letter had set him off. Either way she was certain that she was the true cause of his disappearance. Though she could not surmise all the details, nor know what exactly he was thinking, or what he had hoped to accomplish by leaving. She feared this was not just some angry one night rant he had embarked on. The stories the men told of his prior disappearances were all fueled by anger due to childish reasons – cards, archery, and petty arguments. This was a wholly different matter. This was a matter of the heart.
But what was she to do? She could not just leave and search for him. She knew not where he had gone. He could be far away at this point. And how would she ever explain it to Arthur if he found out she had gone looking for Lancelot? Also, there was Bors, who had glanced strangely at her all night, almost knowingly. She feared he suspected something.
No. There was nothing she could do at this point, except wait and pray he returned soon. She resigned herself to this fact, and slipped under the covers, hoping the next day would bring Lancelot back to the castle.
Lancelot entered the small cave having thoroughly exhausted himself. He was numb to the bone; not just from his bath in the frigid water. His baser emotions - anger and rage, had been released into the night air, but the sorrow was too deeply rooted in his heart to be so quickly expelled. He lit a fire in the darkness, and laid himself on the dirt staring into the flickering flames. But not even the intense heat radiating from the fire could warm his chilled body.
Sleep was threatening to overtake him, and he went to retrieve his cloak to act as a makeshift pillow. Lying back down, he put his hands under his head, and rubbed against something coarse. The letter. He chastised himself for having completely forgotten about it. After the day's events he was thoroughly spent, but his heart begged him to read it's contents. Sitting up, he pulled the letter out of the pocket and began reading.
My dearest love,
I write you this with my heart in my hands. My heart, which I have pledged to you and only you. I pray in reading this you will come to understand all the things I have not told you. All the things I have not shared with anyone, I share now with you.
I did not want this – any of this. When I was a girl, my father told me of my fate. My destiny, he called it. I did not believe him. I did not want to believe him. My mother died giving me my life. My father was my only family. He was my whole world. Until you.
When I was young he would take me out into the forest at night. Teach me to hunt, to fight, to live. Look at these trees, he would say. They are ours, mine, yours. They belong to us. As our land belongs to us and one day will be ours again. He would point to the stars and say , look - for it is written, for all time. One day we will once again rule that which is ours by right, by birth. And he would look at me with a smile and say – because of you. You, my dearest daughter, will save us. You will give us freedom and you will reclaim our land.
I could not understand how I could be so important. How I could save our people? And how am I to do this? I would ask him in disbelief. You must always do what you know is right, he would tell me. You must never be swayed, though your heart may be broken, you must always do what is right.
At first I was too young to understand his words. But he would tell them to me over and over again until they were etched into my memory. And only when my eyes fell upon you did I understand the truth of everything he had told me.
I loved you from the moment I beheld you. You, who saved me not once but twice. The moment I first saw you, my heart both rejoiced and mourned. For my father's words came rushing out from the back of my mind. I could not stop myself from loving you. Freedom, but at what cost. Only two broken hearts. Only. If it were only one broken heart, I would gladly be the sole bearer of the pain. But to know that your heart breaks along with mine is far too great an agony.
I went to my father and begged him to release me from my duty. Your destiny is not in my hands, he said. Your destiny is written in the stars, and lest they fall from the sky, it shall be as it is written. You must do what is right. For our people you must.
I knew his words held truth, all the truth in the world. But this did not lessen the ache in my soul. For I shall love you until the ends of my days. The land may be united, my people may be free, but I - I will never be complete without you.
Never forget, you alone hold my heart.
A few wet splotches marred the ink. He hadn't even noticed the warm tears that flowed freely down his cheeks and dropped carelessly onto the parchment. The weight of it all was overwhelming. Lancelot felt as broken and shattered as the branch he had wielded earlier. He put out the fire and curled up on the floor of the cave, carefully placing the letter back inside the pocket of his cloak. Closing his eyes, the image of Guinevere remained constant in his mind until sleep finally took him.
Lancelot awoke the next morning and immediately felt the presence of someone else in the cave with him. Keeping his eyes closed to avoid alerting the intruder of his awareness, Lancelot silently tightened the grip on his blade. He had been sure to place one of his swords directly aside him last night. He would not be repeating the mistake of yesterday again. With catlike reflexes, Lancelot was instantly on his feet, sword held at the ready. Upon recognizing the trespasser, who remained sitting calm and silent on the other side of the cave, Lancelot lowered his blade and slowly shook his head.
"What do you want?"
A/N: Oh the suspense! Who is the intruder? What do they want? Stay tuned when all is revealed in Chapter 4.