Author's Note & Disclaimer: Just something very short that came to my mind a few days ago ... because, admit it, you gotta love 1x13! ;)
With regards to Igraine, I should point out that this story was written before I saw 2x08 The Sins of the Father, so the characterisation might not be in line with the episode.
The sentence marked with an asterisk is owed to Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, and I just couldn't help nicking it when it came to my mind again while writing.
As far as everything else is concerned, nothing much belongs to me either, it's mostly BBC's. If someone will let me pick, though, I'll have Arthur.
A hug for my dear Sternenlicht, and many many thanks for being my beta again!
And now I hope you'll enjoy it and leave me a review afterwards!
In the courtyard, the candles kneeled one by one.
The night of Igraine's death, Uther had sworn to himself that he would never see this sight again, beautiful as it was for all its sadness.
Foolishly, he had assumed that it lay within his power to prevent the space below from filling with quietly breathing silence and yellow, trembling light again. For him, he had thought, one day, they might carry those candles to the windows of Camelot again. But that he would not have had to see, and even if so, it very probably would not have bothered him much.
It did not bother him now. It did not bother him. It tore his heart out, stole every breath from his lips and made his whole body ache as if he had just fought for days, without pause or respite.
He had believed that if he grasped something with his leather-gloved, experienced, powerful hands and claimed dominance over it, it would as a matter of nature bend to his will. Just like the people, the army, the law, magic.
What extraordinary arrogance, he thought, to believe that fate, of all things, would likewise comply. That he had any power at all. Never mind weapons and wealth and his iron fist. For, in truth, it all amounted to nothing if he could not protect his son.
He felt rooted to the flagstones beneath his feet, unable to leave, although he wished to. He wanted to go back to Arthur, but the cold stones whispered that it would bring him only pain. Because there was nothing to catch in his commanding hands, nothing he could do. He could not grasp Arthur's life and force it to do his bidding like he forced the world around him, force it back from whatever darkness it was slowly sinking into.
He thought of Igraine and her words when he first told her he wanted them to grown old together. 'I think very little of growing old,' she said, 'but I will marry you if you promise me that we will live forever.' He was puzzled and she laughed, and so they would marry. A few years later, with the first snow in her golden hair and fire in her bright blue eyes, she whispered to the winter wind, "I do not want to fade. Oh, let me die in an instant!"
How could she help but die young?* She had a love for life that accepted the moment only, nothing before and nothing beyond. She simply had not been fashioned for uncertainties and doing things halfway.
He never knew if she, in the end, had her wish granted, or whether she had felt that she was fading during those long hours when he had prayed for her life and she for that of her child.
An hour after her death a maid came to him in his refuge of shadows, in some unlit room overlooking the courtyard. When she addressed him he pushed her away so hard she stumbled against a chair and almost fell. Uther never forgot the wide-eyed disgust on her face as she held the newborn prince more tightly against her chest.
Twenty years later he was looking down at the same scene, wondering how he could endure this again, and then he thought that he could not. He could not lose that child.
For just a moment, his thoughts stalled, and then he almost laughed, because that exceptional arrogance of his could, as it seemed, not even be thwarted by this tremendous grief. Even in the face of a hundred burning candles, it still looked fate in the eye and decreed, You shall not! But the truth was that Uther would bury his son, tomorrow or the day after, and then all would go to ruins. He was certain of that because he also knew that he could not lose them both again. Arthur as well as Igraine, whose image their son was in looks and in soul. The same eyes and the same fierce love for life.
The truth also was that Uther had forgot, or perhaps he had never truly learned, how to look at his kingdom and his people with compassion. Like Igraine had, like Arthur did because he had his mother's eyes.
Uther's vision was black and white, and while he knew that it was only this damned candlelight that made him admit these things, it was still no less true that without its Prince, Camelot was lost.
And yet, looking down at his people, Uther still could not find that sorely lacking compassion within himself. He could only think that none of this was really that important.
After all, what did Camelot mean when his son was dying?
Not thoughts a king should have. But then they weren't really a king's thoughts at all. They were a father's.
Morgana was surrounded by candlelight.
She sat and stared at the golden haze that filled her bedchamber, trying to remember the visions of her dream. Trying to swallow her anger.
She had gone through so many emotions today, the hours that had passed since the morning felt like a whole lifetime compressed into that inadequate space. She had been frightened and desperate, mortified and ashamed, frustrated and restless, and now she was struggling. With her anger and the desire to use that anger as a shield against a cold, very certain fear that lurked just behind the candlelight.
She did not dare look out of her windows. She knew what she would see. Candles, only more candles. Candles and faces that gradually became bodiless as the night deepened. She wondered how long the people would stay there. Until all the wax was eaten up by the shivering flames? Until dawn broke? Until they were tired?
She grimaced and cursed the pointlessness of it all. Why stand in a silent courtyard with candles until the Heavens knew when? What good would it do? Faces floating in the darkness and burning wax saved nothing, healed nothing, helped nothing, just were stupidly and mutely there.
She thought back ten years, to the candles on the table in her room when she had first crossed its threshold. Frightened, her cheeks taut with dried tears and her lips compressed to stifle her sobs and her choking voice. Candles everywhere, on every table and on the drawers, as if their golden glow could shimmer away the loss of her father.
Candles everywhere, she thought, all over the courtyard, all over the lower town probably, as if they could flicker this past day from truth to lie, and death from the Prince's bedside.
At intervals her anger was so strong she thought it might suffocate her. Who, she asked herself, who was there left to talk to, if Arthur did not listen, if Uther did not listen, not even Merlin. Not even Gaius. If the only person in the world who believed her was Gwen, and Gwen could do nothing, nor did she believe that those dreams sometimes told the truth about what was about to happen. She believed that Morgana believed it. But that was not the same thing, and it meant nothing in the end.
In the end, she was always alone with her dreams, and her prayers that they had been just that: dreams. Insubstantial nighttime visions with no link to reality. That they had not been brought to her by a wind blowing backwards through time, through the ice and blackness of as yet unwritten history.
She stared at the candlelight and suddenly hoped that this anger would not desert her after all. She tried to feed it, fuel it so it would be strong enough to save her from fear. But now that she wanted it, she felt it dwindling, rapidly, as if it were tied to daylight and fading as night descended.
She tried to be angry at Uther, at Gaius for not listening, most of all at Arthur for dismissing her so readily and entirely this morning, but in the end she knew it was never a matter of listening at Camelot, only of no choices. They were all people caught up in an absence of choices, kings and princes and subjects that they were.
Her anger knew that better than her, and vanished.
Suddenly chilly, she pressed the heels of her hands against her cheeks and wondered what kind of Camelot she would find herself in when it was just her and Uther. Remnants that they were of families they had lost.
Maybe he loved her like a daughter, and maybe she loved him almost like a father. They still stood on two sides of an abyss, he with his absolutes and she with her profound sense of justice. What made them a family despite their differences, was only Arthur.
He was their in-between in every sense, his father's son but also of a mind with Morgana, more often than not. He was the string that tied her to Uther, more than, or perhaps just in a different way than the memory of her father did. By life, not death, and the bond of their growing up together, not a sense of loss and obligation.
When that link was gone, she thought, she and Uther would merely be two people who wanted to, but did not know how to be at ease with each other.
Well, she suddenly thought, come then, visions. You cannot frighten me tonight. I know the future already.
She waited for a little while, as if for an answer, then she silently stood up and extinguished all the candles in her chamber, careful not to look out the windows.
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