A/N: I posted this because I was in a rut with my other fic, and after episode 4 of season 2, I needed to write something. The title was inspired by the poem 'Antigonish', which has always scared me ever since I was a little girl. I wanted to write something scary, but I hope that this will be sufficient to pass as suspenseful. This was originally posted on Camelot Love lj and my livejournal. Hope you like.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to BBC, not me, except for Norena who does. Yada yada yada.
She had once been called Norena the Beautiful during the days when she was a powerful enchantress. She was once admired-but mostly feared greatly-by many of those she came across. Literally able to stop the heart of any man that happened to cross her path, she was the most powerful being on the face of the planet. Holding a great deal of power, Norena had the world at her feet. She knew that nothing could stop her from getting whatever she wanted.
The Fates had been quick to put her in her place, stripping her of everything that she held dear and everything that she had ever wanted. It had made her into what she was now-a ghost, a shadow, a mere whisper in the darkness. Stripped of her worldly body, her powers were dwindling, a mere spec compared to what she had before but sufficient nonetheless for what she needed to do to exact her vengeance. That task was simple enough-possess the body of one she could use to return her to her original power.
After nearly a century, Norena had found no such person. All of those whom she had even considered ended up being cast aside: they were too weak, too simple, not worth the effort. None of those she was given were strong enough to handle what she needed them to, and those that could handle it were too strong-willed for her to be able to control. She was beginning to think that she would never be able to exact her vengeance, that the descendants of those who had wronged her would go unpunished.
All of that changed, however, when she suddenly found herself looking upon a certain handmaiden who was both strong yet meek. The woman was beautiful, apparently adored by many, but acted as though she was unaware of such attention. She was quiet, yet Norena sensed that the woman held a great deal of strength that she knew she could use to bend many to her will. She was the perfect specimen, and she was Norena's for the taking because she was currently in a weakened state. The woman had a broken heart, which left her susceptible to Norena's power. She even had a beautiful name to add to that, one that Norena would not mind being called. Yes, she would greatly enjoy being called...Guinevere.
Gwen hated feeling this way: feeling so defeated, so miserable, so...hopeless. She hated feeling so frustrated and heartbroken over a man who could make her feel so complete and then leave her broken. She wanted to be angry at him, the one who had stolen her heart when she had not expected it and then handed it back to her torn, crumbled, and tattered. She wanted to turn her back on his world and return to the one that she knew she belonged to, but it was impossible. He was always there at every turn, in every room, in every corridor. If he was not there physically, his presence was still there, reminding her that he would always be there but he would remain out of reach.
What had ever possessed her to fall for the crown prince was beyond her. She could remember a time when the thought of loving Arthur would have made her laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. She even remembered distinctly laughing with Merlin during his first feast when she had been so much more naive and unburdened. She remembered telling Merlin that she didn't want to be Morgana when she had thought her mistress would be the perfect match for Arthur. She even recalled saying, "Who would want to marry Arthur?"
It seemed that as soon as she had uttered those words she had placed a jinx on herself, causing her to walk on a path that was leading her directly to him, her heart open and ready to be broken. From there, she had seen the way he had changed, the way that he was willing to risk his life for Merlin and herself on more than one occasion, and the way he had felt sincere remorse at her loss when her father had died. She had seen his bravery, the care that he had for his people, the way he was willing to go to any lengths to become the man that she had truly begun to see inside of him-the king that she and the people of Albion had wished for. She had felt the butterflies that had filled her stomach when he had pressed his lips to her in a passionate kiss. Then, she had felt pride when he had actually listened to her when she had told him about his arrogance. He had continued to hold onto that advice- his demeanor more courteous and polite to those of lesser station. He had remembered her words, he just seemed to have forgotten...her.
Gwen had a hole in her heart that he had placed within her when he had told her that his father would never understand, and that hole had only grown larger and larger with each glance that she shared with him but that either he or she would quickly avert their eyes from. She had known that they could never be together before he said those words, but as soon as he had spoken them, confirmed them, she had felt her heart shatter. It was possibly there, at that very moment that she had realized that she loved him-the moment right before he broke her heart. Even though she had anticipated those words, they had made her feel like she was falling from the highest tower, towards a chasm that was ready to swallow her whole.
Lancelot was someone that she had hoped would be able to fill the gaping hole that Arthur had left behind, but in the end, she had felt worse about his affections. She had hated that she was using him as a shield to cover up the weakness that had taken a hold of her heart. She had even felt that a part of her was glad that he had left before anything more could come between them. She hated using him, and she hated the way she felt when she was trying to feel something for him that just was not there. She admired his ability to walk away from something that he knew could never be because she knew that she could never walk away from Arthur even though he had told her that they would never be accepted by his father-by his world in general. It had been because of that realization that she was alone again and could very well live the rest of her life alone that made her cry when Merlin had revealed that Lancelot had left. Even he could move on, but she could not.
Shaking herself out of her gloomy thoughts, Gwen, finished placing the rest of the fresh linens that she had just brought up from the washrooms into the cupboard She closed the door as quietly as she could so as not to wake her mistress who had already fallen fast asleep for the night. She sighed as she watched Morgana sleeping peacefully, something that was more common now ever since Morgana had been returned from the Druids many months before. Even if Gwen's nights were filled with haunting thoughts, she was glad that Morgana was no longer having nightmares.
Going to Morgana's bedside, Gwen made sure to pull the covers up over her lady before blowing out the candle on her nightstand. After assuring herself that everything was in its rightful place and that there was nothing more that she needed to do, she then found her shawl on top of her chair and wrapped it around herself in preparation for her walk home. She made her way out the door and once more closed the door shut as quietly as possible behind her.
As she turned away from the door, a cold breeze suddenly blew past her, making her shiver. The castle was generally drafty, but that particular draft had been especially cold, sending a tremor down her spine. Gwen could not help but suddenly feel like there was someone watching her even though she found no one around when she looked up and down the corridor. Shaking her head, she turned that thought away, telling herself that she was letting her imagination get the best of her.
She headed towards the steps that would lead her down towards the castle entrance, pulling her shawl tighter around her. Humming softly under her breath, she reached the stairs only to find herself looking back over her shoulder, the feeling of someone watching her stronger than ever. Once again, however, she found that the corridor was empty.
Ready to push the uneasy thoughts away once more, Gwen turned to leave when she suddenly heard a faint whisper. 'Guinevere,' it said, sounding from behind her.
Whirling around once more, Gwen looked back down the corridor, her hands clenched into fists at her side. There was still no one there.
"Wh-Who's there?" she cried out, her voice shaking slightly. "Whoever is there, this isn't funny. Come out, now!"
Her words echoed throughout the empty hall and after they had faded, there was only silence. The only thing she could hear was the sound of her breaths that had grown somewhat heavier from the little scare that she had had and also the sound of her blood pounding in her ears. Despite the fact that her eyes could not see anything, her senses were telling her that there was something there, watching her. Goose bumps covered her flesh and her heart was pounding against her chest as though it were trying to break free of its prison. No matter how much she wanted to tell herself that she was just reacting to an over-active imagination, her head was telling her that she should still run.
Before she could turn around, however, Gwen felt another draft of cold air that sent a shiver down her spine before she heard her name being whispered again, this time louder. Whatever it was, it was growing closer.
Suddenly, she saw the torch at the opposite end of the corridor begin to flicker before it blew out. Though that wasn't such a rare occurrence in and of itself, the fact that the torch next to it went out a second later, and the one after that as well, was cause for alarm. She watched as one by one, the torches flickered and blew out as if invisible hands were pinching out the flames like they were mere candles. The darkness that filled the hall with each one became larger and larger, stamping out any evidence that any light-or life for that matter-had ever existed, and it was growing closer. Before Gwen could even fathom the need to run, the darkness had nearly reached her-merely four torches away.
Spinning on her heel, Gwen immediately turned around and started to descend the steps as fast as her feet could carry her. Even though she dared not to look back, she knew that the darkness was following her, blowing out the torches on the stairway. She kept descending and descending, the staircase suddenly feeling like it had been lengthened a million times over. She nearly stumbled over her skirt once because of the break-neck speed in which she was running down the steps, but she recovered quickly, glancing quickly over her shoulder only to find that the darkness was now only one torch away, the cold that lay within it nipping at her heals. Crying out, she continued to run down the steps faster than she had before even though her legs and lungs were already beginning to scream at her. She could just imagine pale, dead fingers reaching out to snatch her back into the black depths. She just needed to reach the bottom where she knew there would be guards. She just needed to reach them to be safe.
As though her prayers had been answered, Gwen saw the end of the stairway and her salvation, and found the strength within herself to run a little faster. She could still feel the cold shadows reaching out for her, the picture of those dead fingers making her want to scream out, but she knew that she needed to focus on getting to the end, to safety.
A few steps from the bottom, Gwen suddenly saw the last torch suddenly blow out before she felt something tug at the end of her skirt, nearly making her fall backwards. She pulled against it as she continued to fight to get to the bottom. The force from the black was strongly pulling at her, but she continued to pushed herself. Looking down, she was horrified to see pale fingers holding the back of her gown. Crying out this time, Gwen grabbed a hold of the gown from the top and pulled as hard as she could before she heard a tear and felt herself flying forward. She was then stumbling down, and the next thing she knew she was falling into the light, the ground rushing up to meet her.
Not even allowing herself the chance to let her hands and knees scream from the pain of the fall, Gwen quickly flipped herself over to see if her attacker was still pursuing her. Sure enough, she gazed into the black and suddenly saw a pale figure that appeared to be a woman, shrouded in darkness. The face of the being was partly concealed behind long tresses of raven-black hair that blew around her with a non-existent wind. Gwen could just make out the being's eyes through those tresses and she knew that she did not want to see more. They were dead, cold, and completely black.
Even though she was still panting for breath, Gwen let out a fearful scream as she kicked her legs to project her body backwards, away from the stairwell where the creature seemed momentarily confined. The corridor that she was now in was still well-lit with many torches, but Gwen could not help but remember how quickly the torches in the other corridor had been blown out.
As if sensing what she was thinking the being slowly turned her head, her movement jerky, corpse-like, and suddenly Gwen saw one of the torches on the far side of the corridor flickering before going out. Just like the previous corridor, the torch next to it was quick to follow.
Despite the fact that her body was pleading for her to stay still, Gwen pushed herself up against the wall and used it to get back to her feet. The torches were being doused faster and faster, and she knew that she did not have much time. The creature was already looking like she was ready to pounce.
She had thought that there would be guards, but luck was not on her side for there were none there. It was most likely the time for the guards to be changed, which meant that she was on her own. There was more running to do, she was not yet safe.
Gwen started to run, but she stumbled as she felt a sharp pain suddenly shoot up her leg. The ankle that she had twisted when she had tried to escape with Morgana before had been twisted again during the fall. That meant, she was going to be even slower than she was before. That didn't mean she was going to give up. She was a fighter, she was not going to let the darkness take her without a struggle.
Grinding her teeth, she tried to fight the pain that felt with every step of her wounded ankle. It felt as though it was crippling her, but she once again started to run, her steps more of a limp with her injury. The torches at the far end of the hallway had all been extinguished and the creature was now once again hot on her heels.
Turning down the corridor, Gwen continued to limp, her senses telling her that the creature was gaining on her fast. She fought against the pain and the fatigue that was taking over her. She tried to remember that she had a lot to live for, and that she was not going to give it up willingly.
There was another corner up ahead, and Gwen took it quickly as she dared a look over her shoulder to see how close the creature was to her. She could only see blackness behind her only to turn and suddenly feel herself running into a cool body. Swinging her arms every which way, hoping to make contact with anything, she screamed at the top of her lungs, struggling and fighting with whatever might she had left. She kicked and punched only to find hands grabbing a hold of her arms.
"Gwen. Gwen. Guinevere!" she heard her captor say firmly as they struggled with her, and immediately she stopped. The voice that had said her name was one that she recognized well, for it was one that belonged to the man that she dreamed of every night. She was with Arthur! She was safe.
With tears that she had not even realized she had allowed to fall coursing down her face, Gwen looked up into the prince's blue eyes as her entire body shook with exhaustion and fear. "A-Arthur!" she cried as she reached up and placed her hand on his face. "It's you! It's really you!" she exclaimed though it only came out as a whisper, her body already beginning to weaken from the toll she had pushed upon it. She allowed more tears to fall as she buried her face in his chest, wallowing in the warmth of his arms as they wrapped themselves around her, holding her close to him.
"What's the matter, Guinevere? Why are you trembling so?" Arthur questioned as he gently stroked her back with one hand while he cupped the back of her head with the other. "Are you hurt? Are you ill?"
"Th-There was a woman, and she was chasing me," Gwen answered quietly as more tears continued to fall. Pulling away from Arthur, she looked up into his face. "She was horrid. She wasn't human...at least she wasn't anymore. She kept calling my name and she came from the darkness," she then cried, the memory of the creature's eyes suddenly making her tremble even more.
Taking her face into his hands, Arthur looked deeply into her eyes. "It's all right, Guinevere" he said softly, his face so close to hers that she could feel his breath on her lips. "You're with me, now, and I'm never going to let anything or anyone hurt you."
With a smile beginning to touch her lips, she nodded. Gwen believed him. No matter how much she may have doubted his feelings towards her, Gwen knew that she could always be safe with Arthur. Being with him was all that she needed to feel secure. The security with him only increased as he unsheathed his sword and took her hand with his free hand. She suddenly felt ready to take on any foe that wished to come her way. That didn't necessarily mean that she wasn't holding her breath as she walked-or rather limped-with him around the corner.
She had expected to see darkness and black images that would haunt her nightmares when they turned the corner, but instead, she found herself looking into a well-lit corridor, empty of any demon or witch. There was no one there. Whatever had come after her had vanished and covered up any tracks that they had left.
Looking to Arthur, Gwen shook her head. "She was there, Arthur, I swear!" she cried. "I don't know where she went, but she was th-"
Placing a finger to her lips, Arthur shushed her. Sheathing his sword, he said softly, "I believe you, Guinevere. You don't have to say anything more. Whatever was there must have just left. It doesn't matter, now. All that matters now is that you're safe, and now we can take you to Gaius to look after that ankle."
Nodding slowly, and slightly relieved, Gwen lowered her eyes to the ground as she held on to Arthur's hand a little tighter. She was preparing to turn around to begin the walk to Gaius's when she suddenly felt Arthur's arms wrap around her and suddenly felt her body being lifted off of the ground. Letting out a startled cry, she looked up into Arthur's face only to find him grinning down at her. He really was her knight in shining armor.
Carrying her bridal style, Arthur began to turn the corner. Wrapping her arms around his neck, Gwen relaxed in his arms, suddenly content. She did, however, lean her head back as they were turning to gaze once more down the empty corridor. She nearly let out a cry as she found herself gazing into the far corner where there appeared to be a figure standing in the shadows, the raven tresses still blowing around the ghostly pale head. Gwen's brown eyes met the onyx eyes of the creature, and she swore that she saw the creature smile before Arthur turned the corner completely making the creature vanish behind the stone.
Gwen wrapped her arms tighter around Arthur as she buried her head into his shoulder. "She wasn't there, she wasn't there," she murmured to herself even though she knew full well that she was lying. "She wasn't there."