Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author Notes: This is set during and after the series three episode 'The Inheritance' so contains major spoilers for that episode. Thanks as always to rusty_armour for betating. Enjoy.
Isadora feels as though she cannot move. Her father's skin is still warm. Tears fill her eyes and she cannot see.
Robin crowds the others out of the room. They take the body of Raven with them. He tells her they'll be dealing with the rest of the bandits. He touches her shoulder, just once, a firm gentle reassurance. His face is solemn too, his mouth pained. These are the things that Isadora remembers later.
Her father looks so peaceful. His hair is soft to her touch. She presses her cheek against his, her tears mingling with his blood. She has never felt so singular and so empty.
Isadora glances to where the King had appeared. There is no physical memory of that encounter there. But Isadora has dust on her breeches from kneeling to receive an oath and she can still hear the King's voice, stately and full of an otherworldly surety and strength. It is not a voice she will forget.
She wipes the tears from her face and tenderly cleans away her father's blood. She presses herself close, whispers her thanks and love against his skin. Then she straightens. She is not too proud to admit that she will need help now.
There is a spot close to the castle, out in the grounds and past the stream that Robin 'died' in. It is a spot her father has always favoured. Isadora had her lessons here when she was a girl, her father's voice intertwined with the waving branches overhead and the flowing water. Tales of kings and knights and a daughter's duty.
Scarlet complains about the heat and the work as they dig. The Saracen keeps watch in case any of Raven's gang did make it out alive. Marion talks quietly to Robin. Isadora stands with them, with a composed face and a straightened back. Her father lies on a cobbled-together stretcher. He looks at peace.
He is lowered into the ground without ceremony, though Tuck offers a prayer, and Isadora casts a long look down before crouching, her fingers touching his sleeve one last time. Then she throws in the first handful of dirt and watches as the outlaws toil to make her father slowly disappear.
Marion holds her, a brief tight hug with sadness and terrible understanding in her eyes. There's a similar look on Much's face. Robin tells her to come for him again if she needs help. It isn't a slight on her abilities. He says goodbye to her as one warrior to another and Isadora nods, grateful. She watches them leave for Sherwood and their god. She lingers by her father's grave for a little longer. Then she walks.
The castle is not wholly hers. She touches the stones, lights the candles again, and breathes in the night. She can hear a feast, loud and happy and raucous, then heavy chainmailed footsteps in the hall, and, later, a whispered conversation between King and Queen.
Eventually, when the candles have burned down and the cobwebs aren't stirring and the guards from so long ago are at their posts, she goes to her chamber. She needs to sleep. Caerleon will be safe through the night.
Isadora wakes up, cold and shaking. There's a crow calling outside, close to her chamber window. Carrying a soul, perhaps. Her father.
The sunlight is casting patterns on the floor. The world has kept turning.
She hears the King's voice again, like a dream. Remembers her oath, his fingers warm and real when she'd kissed them, and how the room had seemed to buzz and blur around her, whilst the King stayed sharp and whole. It all feels like an imagining now in her empty silent room.
But her father is still buried outside and the table still needs protection.
Isadora takes a deep shaking breath. It is not just the table that needs her. She is the lady of these lands now and of the people who live upon them. It is a balance between them. She cannot hold this castle alone, or stop it from crumbling, just as the people cannot protect themselves without help.
Her father had always taught her the importance of the village - of its survival, its needs, its families. The people treasure the King and remember, just as she was taught to. Handed down from father to child. It is a bond she can share with no other, not even Robin. He and his friends have their god; she has her king and so do her people. When she walks, there will always be footsteps beside her. It is something to be protected and never to be forgotten.
She dresses, puts her sword on her belt, and pauses by the grave. Oh, Father. Guide me, strengthen me.
She heads down into Caerleon-Upon-Usk. The villagers dip their heads in the midst of salvaging what is left. Children watch her curiously, a few following with whispers. Isadora knows exactly where she is going. This is where foundations are laid. That empty feeling is beginning to recede slightly.
"How's your leg?" Isadora asks when Alice does not get up. There is a crutch beside her gnarled hand for a moment's notice.
"It'll mend well enough." Alice is looking at her shrewdly. Isadora holds her gaze, though she feels brittle, as though all the air is leaving her. "You've received the King's blessing."
It's not a question. Isadora inclines her head.
"Others will come."
Alice smiles, causing the years to fall away. She reaches for Isadora's hand, and Isadora curls her fingers in response. She wants to hold on. In her memories and mind, Alice has always been thane here. With the sick sunlight washing over the headwoman, revealing the experience embedded in her skin, Isadora remembers thinking that Alice must have been here when the King had ruled. It was easy enough to believe. It still is. Isadora feels a rush of strength, of comradeship. She clings to it.
"We will always stand here," Alice tells her, something sparkling in her eyes. "The wheel keeps on turning for all of us."
Wheel of Fortune. Turning point, opportunities, possibilities. Destiny.
Isadora has no heir yet. There are castle gates to mend, a village to rebuild, and cards to read. A table to protect. A grave to tend. Ghosts on the battlements and villagers watching and waiting. Friends so far away now. So much weight.
But she is not alone.