Sir Leon considered himself very lucky.
There were many reasons why he felt he should be grateful. The thing that screamed out the most was the fact that he had survived so many of the ordeals that had left his fellow knights six feet under. He watched as one by one Sir Owain, Sir Pellinore, Sir Bedivere, Sir Tor, Sir Galehaut, Sir Azreal, Sir Lionel, Sir Edward, Sir Meneduke, Sir... the list went on and on and on.
Leon was grateful he hadn't been one of the riders out to the citadel of Idirsholas. In that little blood bath they lost Sir Mador, Sir Balan, his brother Sir Balin, and even Leon's own half-brother-in-law Sir Anselm, (who had gone in his stead because Leonora had ill that morning). As per usual, the only ones to make it back alive were Arthur and his manservant Merlin. Leon thought that Merlin must be bloody lucky too since the lad couldn't handle a sword to save his life. Yes, Leon thought he was very bloody lucky.
The death toll was so great and the life expectancy so slim for a Knight of Camelot that Arthur was scraping the bottom of the barrel to fill the gaps of the men he had lost. Sir Leon now found himself babysitting for the young knights (or 'little' knights as Leonora called them) such as Sir Caradoc and his younger full-brother-in-law Sir Griflet. He feared for their lives and for future lives, suspecting that his own son would be expected to be knighted as soon as he was old enough to pick up a sword! Leon's own success in surviving ordeals was noted by Arthur who entrusted him with some of the harder jobs. Him, Sir Geraint and Sir Kay were among the only 'grown-up' knights left in Camelot.
Leon remarked to his wife that it made him feel like an old man. She laughed and said, "Maybe so... but at least you're not dead yet."
Arthur had noted Leon's knack for survival especially after the dragon incident.
When Leon volunteered for the suicide mission it was one of the only times he had ever seen his wife truly angry. He told her that he had to do this. "I'm doing this for Camelot, for you and for him," (That him being their only son, Little Leon), "We will all die eventually if we don't try and stop this dragon now. At least give me the chance to destroy the creature and save your lives." At that Leonora had started crying, Little Leon started crying and Leon, who managed not to cry but wanted to, hugged them both and promised he would fight to survive. All Leonora had hoped was that his string of luck would continue.
Thank God it did! After the final battle the prince was sure the last of his 'older' knights had bitten the dust—or rather burst into ashes after being burnt to cinders. But once again 'Lucky' Leon had evaded death having been knocked from his horse by the dragon's tail. He and two others survived, typically, Sir Geraint and Sir Kay.
Leon had nonetheless been knocked for six. He had awoken to Merlin's grinning face looking down at him. "You made it, then?" muttered Arthur to one side. He was then told by Merlin that Arthur had dealt the dragon a moral blow and the great creature had fled, presumably to die. Leon once again felt he was lucky that he had not died. The charred bones of the other nine knights were proof of that. But he had stopped thinking that way a long time ago. The point was that it hadn't been him.
Arthur and Merlin strode on ahead to inform the people of Camelot that the dragon was dead while Leon had hung behind to help Sir Geraint carry Sir Kay back to the castle. Despite having been knocking off his horse by a giant winged lizard's tail like the others Kay was the only one to be 'hurt'. Even then it was just a twisted ankle and oh—the fuss he made! Fergus, Dinadan, Morholt, Dinas, Henry, Edward (No relation to the Edward mentioned previously), Sadok, Lambaile and Lavain were all dead but Kay still managed to make a fuss over his injury.
Hell, Arthur had been badly injured by the dragon's claw while trying to protect the young maid Guinevere, but he never complained. 'Just a scratch' he had protested. 'A mark of love,' Leonora had muttered to Leon in private later.
"I never thought I'd see these castle walls again," Leon remarked to his companions as they stumbled into the courtyard.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw young Merlin laughing with old Gaius. He was no doubt thrilled to have dodged the arrows of death once again too. He turned to look ahead and his heart fluttered to see Leonora bounding down the stairs hurriedly to greet her husband. He dropped Kay's arm immediately and rushed toward her too, overcome once again with love and the joy of being alive.
She threw her arms around him and wept into his shoulder. "Arthur said you lived! Thank God, thank God—you lived!" she moved away and looked up at him, eyes damp with joy. "I waited for you with Gaius and young Gwen. I never stopped praying but I thought, I thought—"
Leon pressed her to him. "Nora, I'm alive and that's what matters."
Geraint helped Kay stumble into the castle; neither of them had wives and neither had most of the knights that offered to take down the dragon. Leon had been the only family man. The only other knight who had a wife was Fergus but everyone knew his wife Lady Amelia was having an affair with Sir Bors (and was probably in bed with him right now). That was a rather unpleasant fact that Leon didn't dwell on, not when Leonora had been so worried.
They slowly walked back towards the castle.
"Thank goodness Arthur survived too," Leonora remarked, finally calming down from her former dread.
"Naturally," Leon agreed. "Camelot would have been damned to lose him—"
"I say this as a woman, Leon" she said with a sweet and knowing smile that made him feel inadequate. She looked distantly ahead of her, still smiling. "Gwen was so anxious. She is normally so good at comforting people in distress but she was damn near close to joining me in fearing for the worst."
"A good subject to a prince," Leon agreed, having always believed that Gwen was a good girl with a noble heart. "She sees off the best of us at times with her grace."
Leonora gave him that smile again, "You know as well as I do it's more than that! When she saw Arthur enter the courtyard from the window we were watching from she shot out like an arrow from a bow. You know, I've suspected something for a long time..."
"I nearly died and you are already matchmaking Prince Arthur again?" Leon joked as the finally made it into the castle doors. He almost wished he hadn't told Leonora several months ago during the troll-scandal that he had found Arthur and Gwen talking in the prince's chambers. 'It was probably very innocent,' he had said. 'We'll see about that,' Leonora had said. "It's just speculation, Nora!"
Leonora's smile widened. "You are denying the very instincts that keep saving your life, my love! You did not see the way she greeted him in the courtyard; they embraced."
Leon smiled, "Really? That's very... nice."
Leon loved Leonora.
They had been married just over four years and he still remembered how taken he had been with her since her father Lord Valette had come to court with her and her two brothers. The eldest child and only daughter of him and his second wife the family were noble but not especially wealthy, much like Leon's own family. They were an ideal match, really, and there had been no objections between his father and her father when after a year of courting the decided to marry.
Leonora was by no means the most beautiful lady at court. Her eyes were simply blue, not a special burst of colours like some. Her complexion was average, not beautifully fair nor gorgeously dark like other ladies of the court. Her skin was not all that it should be, pores and spots kept cropping up and she desperately tried to conceal it with power. Her hair was mousy blonde, thin and straight, just a flat colour and flat body. He would often find her and her maid trying to make it curlier but she always ended up wearing a wig to thicken its look.
Lord Valette had been glad that someone had 'picked up' Leonora. He couldn't hope for any better than Sir Leon, nor did he expect it.
But Leon had thought Leonora very pretty for her cheeks had a natural blush and her smile had wonderful character. She had a little birth mark in the left corner just above her top lip. Leon knew it well; he has accidently kissed it during the first awkward weeks of their courting. He had been aiming for her mouth.
The other knights thought Leonora was pretty enough but not worth their time and attention. Not against the more beautiful women at court like Lady Morgana. This pleased Leon; it meant that he would always have Leonora to himself. Not that Leonora had ever looked at another man since coming to court. She had been sceptical about Leon at first but after a conversation with him (He had been egged into talking to her at the time by the other knights including a young, boisterous and slightly naive Prince Arthur) she felt she could want no one else.
The knights had teased Leon that they were such a virtuous couple. They courted chastely and married before they took 'a rough and tumble'. It led the knights to assume there was no passion in boring old Leon but they were wrong. It wasn't like they just held hands in bed, else how would have little Leon come to be? He was very passionate with his wife... he just didn't boast about it to the other knights.
And that was the conventional love story that was Sir Leon du Cap-Rogue and Lady Leonora Valette. Yes, Leon knew it was boring and nothing like the epic romantic love stories of ancient times that Nora liked to read before going to bed but he didn't care. He liked being boring.
Arthur would have given anything to be boring, and Sir Leon had noticed that. It had been obvious on the day before the joust that it frustrated him being the prince at the times in the sense that he couldn't be 'normal' like everyone else.
It might have been nice to have a simple little romance with someone no one could object to, marry then and have a few Little Arthurs of his own. But fate had decided otherwise. While the world was kind and simple for Sir Leon it had decided to be equally kind in love but complicated and painful at the same time for Arthur. That was the story of the star-crossed lovers, Arthur and his Guinevere. Leonora thought it was one to match Pyramus and Thisbe.
Leon had first noticed something wasn't quite right between them after the girl had been abducted by Hengist's men and Arthur had dashed off against his father's wishes to rescue her. He had brushed it off as a gesture Arthur made towards his adopted sister Morgana who was quite fond of her little maid.
Leonora disagreed, "No man goes to all that trouble just because someone begged them to save a servant girl."
He didn't know what his Nora was getting at but then he caught Gwen in the prince's chambers talking to the prince. There had been something odd about it. He was certain that the pair had been talking intimately about something. It was the way Arthur's posture was relaxed. He seemed distracted and Gwen awkward when Leon had told him that the king had asked for him.
Before Arthur had followed Sir Leon to the audience room Leon was certain that the prince had snuck a glance in the direction of the young handmaiden. It had been odd, odd enough for Leon to mention it to Leonora.
"I wonder if he's in love with her," Leonora remarked as they ate lunch.
Leon had been sitting with Little Leon squirming on his lap, trying to convince him to eat more vegetables. He chuckled, "Really, Nora! You've been reading too many love stories. Prince Arthur is love? I'd like to see that."
"He's had love interests before."
"For about five minutes," Leon corrected her. "Arthur goes off most women very quickly. It's because so many woman among the nobility are spoiled and selfish..." he offered his wife an attempt at a romantic smile, something he never fully perfected. "Not all women are sweet as you, Nora."
Leonora fluttered her eyes in a flirty manner. "Leon, you're trying to butter me up!"
"I was merely stating fact, my love."
She picked up her cup of wine and smiled again. "Maybe that's why Arthur is in love with her... because she is noble of mind but modest and unspoiled."
At this point Leon remained unconvinced. He had other things to worry about especially with Arthur being replaced in the line of succession by Queen Catrina. Leon wished his wife would get her priorities right... but she accused him of not getting his right.
"You use one sentence to tell me that Arthur has been disinherited," she told him as she dressed for the ceremony that afternoon that see Catrina crowned as first in line to the throne. "Yet you go through a detailed description about how you fetched Arthur to take him to 'the slaughter' as it were and how young Gwen was there and—" she held a dress in front of her, "I don't think yellow is appropriate for a crowning ceremony but..."
"It is fine," Leon said quickly before replying to her previous remarks. "I was merely describing my role in this whole farce. I still can't believe the king has disinherited Arthur..."
"It won't last," Leonora assured him, going behind her screen with her maid to put on the dress. "Give it a few weeks and Arthur will be reinstated. The king and queen are probably doing it to shake him up a bit. I'll put my wig on."
"Your hair is fine!" Leon protested. "And I hope you're right..."
"Of course I'm right," Leonora replied with a chuckle, stepping out from behind the screen in the yellow dress, her waving extensions already in place. "Too late I've done it now. I wish I had her hair, though..."
"You mean the queen's hair? It's nothing special..."
"No, I mean Gwen's hair!" Leonora told him. "I'd love to have wavy hair all the time instead of this flat lifeless rag and this horrible colour. She is a pretty girl I wouldn't be surprised if Arthur liked her."
Leon nodded. Gwen was pretty for a handmaiden. She was also good natured; the other day when Little Leon fell and hurt his leg it was she that took him to Gaius. It was just a small scab but it was a lovely gesture.
"I think Arthur likes her for more than her hair, Nora" Leon teased.
She playfully whacked him with her shawl and they walked arm in arm towards the great hall where the ceremony would be held.
Now, if Arthur's disinheritance or his peculiar relationship with a young handmaiden had seemed odd imagine how shocked they were when the graceful and polite Catrina just lost it in front of the whole court, yelled at old Geoffrey (Although Leon and Leonora had found him frustrating at Little Leon's christening), sat there fidgeting and then stormed out of the as if her backside were on fire.
Uther and Morgana followed after her immediately but Arthur lingered behind with astonished courtiers and servants. As Leonora made her way over to Leon they caught sight of Arthur and Gwen looking at each other before after a tiny nod the prince decided to follow on after his stepmother, father and sister.
Leonora turned to Leon and smiled. "I told you so!"
"I'm yet to be convinced," Leon chuckled back.
When the Witchfinder Aredian accused and forced Gaius to confess to crimes of sorcery the world seemed to land on its head with a great big smack. Leon had liked the old man as much as anyone at caught and could not believe, whether the amulet was his or not, that their friend had committed enchantments of evil with it. Nor Merlin, either.
Gaius had been treating Leon since he was a child. He had been the one who told Leonora that she was expecting their child and helped deliver him when there had been complications. He had looked after Leon's father when he died of the mysterious plague that hit Camelot the previous year. He had hone with him to confront Uther about the fact Queen Catrina had been a troll, although it achieved nothing. Leon felt terrible because he had been the one who found the damned amulet and now Gaius would die because of it. After all the lives Gaius had saved the king would thank him by having him burned.
Leonora refused to attend the execution in person and Leon was excused attendance by Arthur when he asked if he might stay with his wife to comfort her. The two of them stood by the window of their chambers that over looked the courtyard as Gaius was wheeled in like a traitor in that ghastly cage. Lenora felt tears well up in her eyes as Aredian grabbed Gaius and dragged him towards the stake. "I can't watch this," she said shakily and went over to her little son who sat at a table drawing unaware of why his parents were so upset.
Leon looked down into the courtyard as Gaius was roughly tied to his funeral pyre. He then caught eye of Arthur... at his side rushed a frantic looking Gwen. Leon leant forward a little to get a closer look. It seemed a little odd that a servant girl would address Arthur in public at an execution. He imagined that she was asking him if nothing could be done. Leon had asked that very same question to the prince, to which he had grimly replied "There is nothing to be done."
The flame that was about to light the mound distracted Leon as his heart began to race and he closed his eyes, thinking he would be unable to watch. Just as he reached over to close the window Arthur's voice filled the courtyard. "Wait!" he commanded. Aredian stopped and the execution was postponed. Leon thought it best not to leave Leonora and find out why at the risk of getting her hopes up.
They later found out that Aredian had been the real sorcerer had he had set Gaius up in order to get the money Uther promised him for his services. He had tortured Gaius into confession, backed him into a corner and accused him of 'enchantments' that were actually the effects of belladonna in their beauty eye drops.
It then came out that the entire thing had been foiled by the detective work of young Merlin and Gwen.
Aredian had fallen to his death from the high tower and Gaius was acquitted of all charges. As for Leonora... she threw away all of her eye drops immediately. "My eyes are probably my best feature, anyway" she remarked to Leon as her maid took them away. "Thank goodness for the quick thinking of Merlin and Gwen!"
"I hear it was Gwen who delayed the execution."
"Yes, I saw her speaking to Arthur from the window" Leon told her. He looked up and saw Leonora grinning to herself, amused at something. He knew exactly what it was. "Nora, stop grinning—the moonlight is reflecting off your lovely teeth."
She winked at him. "I'm saying nothing."
Arthur really did go through turmoil and madness over the next few months.
After inexplicably trying to kill his father over some mix up about the late-late queen's (not the late troll-queen's) death and something that mysterious female sword fighter Morgause had (apparently) led Arthur to believe. Either way Gaius, Merlin and Leon were all sworn to secrecy by the king never to reveal what happened between Uther and Arthur that day on pain of death, so Leon couldn't even tell Leonora.
Then there was the dreadful business with that brainless spoiled daughter of that visiting king. The moment she walked into the castle everyone had taken an instant disliking to her. Vivian, her name was. Leonora was among those who couldn't stand the woman. "She maybe the most dislikeable woman I have ever met," she had remarked after the dinner. "All she cares about in lavishness. You should have heard the way she spoke to a stable boy the other day. It seems our horses aren't good enough for her precious ladyship."
Leon found the female ability to bitch amazing. Leonora rarely bitched but it came so easy to her in regards to the buffoonish king's daughter.
That is why she was horrified when that whole embarrassing business with Arthur came out. Leonora nearly died of shock, "But she's so rude and stupid! Arthur would never look twice at a woman like that... not when her father was equally stupid and idiotic!"
"Well, he has" Leon told her. "And they're going to fight it out tomorrow."
Leonora was still horrified. "Are you should he wasn't drunk out of his mind?"
Leon laughed before he decided this was no laughing matter. "This is serious—the prince might die tomorrow and Arthur doesn't seem to care."
"Drugs," Leonora decided. "She must have drugged him, or someone must have drugged him, or he's been smoking some hemp... because even I know that Arthur isn't so stupid to behave like that. Only an idiot would think he would!"
Leon shook his head and placed his hands on his hips. "Why are you taking this so personally? This isn't because of your silly idea that Arthur is in love with young Gwen, is it?"
His wife folded her arms and looked away. "I bet you my jewellery collection that once Arthur has come down or sobered up or recovered from whatever it is he has been taking that he'll go back to her."
"I'd be careful, Nora" Leon warned her. "Your jewellery collection is worth a lot of money."
But as it turned out her jewellery was safe. It seemed that after being whacked around and made to look like an idiot in front of everyone not only in Camelot but all over their area of Albion Arthur came to his senses and, instead of looking at the direction of the enthusiastic Vivian, he looked over at the end of the box where the knights of the neighbouring kingdoms all sat. That was where Gwen was sitting.
Leon and Leonora had watched the fight curiously and Leon was finally converted to be belief that something had been done to Arthur to make him act the way he had. Just as equally something must have been done to fix him. They had no idea what, though.
One thing was certain; once 'recovered' Arthur was irked by the very sight of Vivian. He couldn't stand her! Leon was ready to write this off as typical Arthur. The prince didn't even seem to have much memory of the last few days and Merlin had to fill him in (as well as the court gossip that likened all of this to the incident with Sophia last year).
When Leon and Leonora came across a brightly recovered Arthur with Merlin they couldn't help but ask whether he was feeling alright. The prince gave his servant a sly look and the boy smiled back. They couldn't tell the real reason as to why Arthur had behaved the way as if Uther were to ever find out it would damage the peace treaty. Arthur would just have to live with the court gossip, a fate he felt he could handle as long as a certain person knew the truth of the matter.
"Someone must have slipped the wrong remedy into my wine," Arthur explained, in a more realistic good mood despite his pain from his injuries that morning. "But I'm fine now."
Leonora looked up at Leon. Her look said 'I told you so!'
"Is there anything else you want to do?" Merlin asked Arthur before the couple parted ways with the prince.
Arthur smiled and pulled out a note from his pocket. "No, actually, I've decided to do it myself this time." Merlin grinned while Leon and Leonora just looked at each other, wondering what he meant.
The prince turned to nod politely to the knight and his wife, "Leon, my lady—" he then stopped dead as he caught sight of Lady Vivian and her lady-in-waiting at the end of the corridor. "Oh, no..." he muttered under his breath. The girl was in tears over having to go home tomorrow because she couldn't bear to say farewell to her love and risk never seeing him again.
Leon couldn't help but chuckle and he turned to Arthur again... but he was gone. Without a moment's thought Arthur had leapt over the cloisters, across the courtyard and managed to escape Vivian's notice. It was a good job too; if he hadn't she'd have probably chased after him!
"Glad to see everything is back to normal," Leon remarked to Merlin and Leonora.
Merlin's grin widened. "Thank God!"
Leon considered surviving 'the last stand' with the dragon is greatest achievement. Not only had he helped save Camelot but had safely returned to his beloved Leonora. After everything that Leonora had told him about Gwen and reflecting on everything he had witnessed between Arthur and Guinevere he began to truly believe that Leonora had been right all along.
It seemed Leon was not the only luck one when it came to survival and women. If Arthur had Gwen's love and she his then all Leon wanted to do was wish them luck. It would not be easy for them. That went without saying. Leon had been lucky to fall in love with the perfect girl. But then so had Arthur... it just happened that his perfect girl was of lower station.
Now it was time to rebuild all of their lives.
The summer ended, the autumn came and left and very soon it was the freezing cold of winter. Snow fell in great flurries, sections of the castle dangerous to inhabit were abandoned and the homeless people of Camelot were offered refuge at the castle.
On the evening of Yule, the celebration of the shortest day of the year, Leon came home from overseeing the rebuilding of the citadel and the town to find Leonora preparing for that evening's celebrations (which were still going ahead despite the hardship Camelot had been through). He noticed she was being helped with her hair by two handmaidens, her regular maid and another girl. It took him a while to notice who the second one was. It was none other was none other than Gwen herself! Without Morgana to fuss over anymore, (and no hope of the lost lady ever being found and returned to Camelot), Gwen had spent the last few months helping out in town, doing errands for Gaius and serving other noble women when they needed help.
"Good evening, Sir Leon" Gwen said politely as she unravelled a rag from Leonora's hair.
The reason she was there was because Leonora had asked her help in getting some more body into her hair for the Christmas mass tonight. Gwen decided to teach Leonora a secret trick she used to use on Morgana's hair and Leonora jumped at the chance. "Lady Leon requested my assistance."
Leon smiled, "I hope she hadn't been keeping you from your duties."
Gwen chuckled, "Not at all! I've enjoyed myself today and I even got my hair done."
"While we were waiting for my hair to fix," Leonora explained, turning to face her husband, "I did Gwen and Sarah's hair. What do you think?"
Being a man Leon rarely noticed a change in a women's hair unless it was something drastic (Like they had gone bald or something) but he noticed that both Gwen and Sarah's hair had been styled by someone other than themselves. It was neater but prettier. Leon smiled, "You both look lovely, ladies."
Sarah blushed while Gwen turned back to take the rags out of Leonora's hair. Bit by bit the stands came down and by the end what was left were beautiful locks of wavy hair. Even Leon was impressed and Sarah insisted that Gwen show her how to do it. When everyone assembled in the great hall they were all surprised to see that Leonora's hair looked so much more lively than usual and that she wasn't wearing that awful wig.
The Yule celebrations drew on throughout the evening. A large fire was lit in the great hall as a tree trunk was brought in by Arthur, some of the younger knights and servants. Then one by one everyone in the castle made a prayer. Leon imagined most were praying for the same thing; for a more peaceful year. Before the trunk was burned Geoffrey of Monmouth read the rites, the king made a speech that no one listened to and, at midnight, everyone stood in a crowd to watch the fire burn in silence.
Leon and Leonora stood together just a few rows behind Arthur and his servant Merlin. Gwen was also in the same row with Gaius, very close to Arthur. When no was really paying attention Arthur shifted his position slightly so he stood by Guinevere. His hand then reached behind him to take one of the hands behind her back. From the front they managed to keep their smiles hidden but from behind Gwen's hand gently squeezed Arthur's before they gently brought them to the front and stood close though to no one would see them standing hand in hand.
And no one did see, except for Leon.
He smiled and nudged Leonora to show her. When she saw the romantic little gesture she couldn't help smiling also. There was no more refreshing sight than that of love.
Leonora slipped her own hand into Leon's and they both smiled. "Next year," she said softly. "Let's allow Little Leon to make a wish at the Yule ceremonies, and Christmas too. I know he's too young now but..."
"Yes," Leon replied cheerfully, "Let's do that."
They glanced back over to Arthur and Gwen before Leonora squeezed Leon's hand again and whispered even more softly. "By then I hope that Camelot will be rebuilt... and Little Leon will have a little brother or sister to enjoy Yule with."
That was true. When Leon had made his wish it was merely that Leonora would have an easier time with their second child than she had with Little Leon. They both knew that now was not the best time to bring another child into the world but no one can choose when children are born.
Despite the crowd around them Leon reached down and kissed her. There was no better reason to be glad he survived this hard year. And once more he intended to survive next year too just to have those plans that his Nora had spoken of to him. And he had no doubt that Prince Arthur was hoping next Christmas would be easier than just a squeeze of the hand too.
Yes, Leon knew he was very lucky.
And he hoped that Arthur's luck would continue too.
A/N: Don't worry! I am working on the final chapter of "To You, an Admirer". This is just one of the ideas that I've had to keep my creative juices flowing. Plus I thought I'd spread the Leon-love in a more... original way rather than putting him into cranky pairings. I hope you enjoyed this and there might be a few more before I'm done.