A/N: A little piece I wrote awhile ago for my good buddy sissyhiyah (coincidentally, shes an amazing author, check her out in my favorites) and I came across it while cleaning up my desktop the other day and thought, eh, why not post it? Anywho, she was talking about the themes of Arthurian legend relative to FF8, and I thought, hmmm...and this was the result. Hope you enjoy!
Seifer grows up with fairy tales- they follow him through life as vaporous and tenuous as ghosts.
Matron reads to them late at night, her silhouette soft against the dying light of the day. They huddle together on one of the beds, knees pressed against knees and inevitably an elbow or two in somebody's side, all trying to see the pictures. Seifer learns to love the low lull of Matron's voice and the sound of pages turning, but mostly, he loves the stories themselves. He remembers knights and dragons and fair maidens waiting to be rescued. He dreams of them.
He remembers Avalon, even now.
Avalon, the island of apples. Avalon, the "Fortunate Isle", which produces fields that never need ploughs, which of its own accord produces grain and grapes, where people live for a hundred years or more, where the great sword Excalibir was forged and where the honorable King Arthur goes to recover from his wounds after the great battle. Seifer loves the stories of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, loves to listen to the heroics and the chivalrous quests and the oaths of honor sworn between brothers. He can imagine them clearly in his mind, all steel and honorable warriors with their swords gleaming bright in the sun, their banners waving behind them, the common people out in droves to cheer on their champions. He can see himself among them, a banner rippling behind him and his silver sword gleaming in the light, the deafening shouts of the people spurring him on.
He always wishes, though, that Matron would stop reading before the end. He wants to imagine Arthur's kingdom as solid and shining, not desolate and desecrated, land of a dead king and his dead dreams.
When Matron begins the story, he runs out and makes a sword out of two sticks strung together with long, knotted grasses. He runs up and down the walkways, slaying dragons and rescuing damsels in distress. He is King Arthur, student of Merlin, leader of the Knights of the Round Table.
When Matron finishes the book, he sulks for days. He picks at his food, torments Squall more than ever, and breaks his sword over Chicken Wuss's head. He can not explain his behavior to Matron, even when pressed to. The truth is that he feels betrayed by the story, but he feels foolish saying it. Kings and queens and knights are supposed to be impervious to sadness and seduction- they are supposed to build large and looming castles that never fall, swear oaths that never die. They aren't supposed to fall on their own swords and screw up in the same ways and for the same stupid reasons that everyone else does.
As punishment, Seifer spends the next few hours in the corner, ruminating more over lost kingdoms and the broken promises than the goose egg swelling on Zell's head. Fairy tales aren't supposed to end this way. Knights aren't supposed to fall.
Their failures burn in him.
Years later he reads the story again at Garden. He lies propped up in his cot at night, one arm tucked behind his head as he holds the dog-eared book up to the dim bedside lamp. He narrows his eyes as he journeys through the pages. He is determined that he will make his own Avalon, that he, Seifer Almasy, will do better- he will succeed where they failed. He will become a knight, a true knight, his valor unfettered and his armor shining and untainted by the common mire of the world.
And in the end, he does no better.
He has the pain of perspective now, along with a myriad of other scars that will never heal completely.
He knows that he is not King Arthur (maybe Squall), nor is he Lancelot (probably Irvine) or Gawain (hell, even Zell) or anyone else remotely glorious. And Guinevere? Hell, Guinevere stayed with Arthur and became a witch. (Not all the symbolism applies here, he guesses). If he thinks enough about it, he is probably Mordred, the dark and brooding bastard son of Arthur whose name was so closely knit with treachery, who dies impaled on his own mistakes and malice.
But then, he reminds himself, this is not Avalon.
This is a land of mercenaries for hire, of self-serving governments and orphan soldiers. There are no Knights of the Round table- there is only Garden and its contracts and its child killers.
There is no wise Merlin, there is only Cid, the portly man of their past and present that hunches over his desk, fighting acid reflux and the niggling thought that his wife has left him in her mind if not her body. (Maybe Cid is Arthur, thenbut that still would not make him Lancelot).
Seifer thumbs through the old book again, if for no other reason than nostalgia and utter boredom. He knows how the story ends- (maybe he has always known), but he reads it again, and finds there among the pages little sparks of childish delight at all his old favorite parts: the instructions and teachings of wise Merlin, the hunt of the great boar, the formation of the Knights of the Round. But there is a new heaviness there, too, and sometimes Seifer recognizes his own blood between the pages.
He sits now beneath the shade of the old orchard, his clothes smelling slightly of fish, his arms pleasantly sore from a day at sea. He closes his eyes and drinks in the pleasant scent of apples rotting in the grass around him, the crispness of the fall air and the warm scatter of sunlight between the leaves. He eats an apple and reads page after page of the ancient story, unhurried now. The brashness of his youth has bled out of him.
He is not sure if he misses it.
When he finishes the book, he is not sad or angry. All stories must come to an end, after all. Kingdoms must fall, and kings with them, their memories carved into the stone and into pages, preserved far better than their bones (and probably, preserved with far more merit than they held in life).
The end of the book is more hopeful than he remembers- perhaps some kings come back sometimes to rule their shattered kingdoms, wiser for their pain and stronger for their scars.
Seifer smiles and tosses the apple core into the grass.
After all, this isn't Avalon.