As if Arthur's death wasn't hard enough they returned to Camelot just in time to see the Nun set the crown on Morgan's head. Leontes felt his world turn upside down as he heard the deafening applause. She was loved, better loved than the boy-king had ever been, and the look of triumph on her face made him want to vomit.
Ulfius and Kay held Gawain back; one of Kay's hands covering the warrior's mouth to keep from screaming something they would all regret. Brastius announced to the gathered folk the story of Arthur's death. Leontes noticed he was keeping the details vague. The prisoner, the one whose words could have knocked the crown from Morgan's head, had escaped after Arthur's death. There was no evidence of her ruthlessness.
Brastius might not have been the best choice to speak for them, but Leontes was in no mood to talk. While Morgan loudly mourned her brother, he noticed Merlin, gagged and chained to a wall. After making certain nobody was watching him, he made his wall over the sorcerer and freed his tongue.
"Arthur is dead?" were his first words, whispered against the backdrop of Morgan's proclamation that the kingdom should mourn her brother.
Merlin was visibly crushed. He licked his lips and thumped his head against the stone. "Twenty years," he whispered. "Twenty years of waiting for nothing."
Leontes felt a twinge of guilt. If he had seen the arrow a little sooner, if he had moved a little faster… "He died a good death. A warrior's death," he said, not knowing if he was comforting Merlin or himself.
"You're a good man to forgive him."
"I'm not sure I have." It was odd; he was more honest with the pagan sorcerer than he was with any priest.
"Then be a good man and find his mother."
Queen Igraine was dead. From grief, Morgan said, although all who knew the lady realized that was a lie. Igraine was too strong a woman to give in to despair. Her faith was too strong to let her risk the wrath of God by committing suicide.
This time, Leontes held Gawain back. "What would you do to her? Kill her?"
"I'd take her head from her body," the other man snarled and Leontes wished he could give in to such violent desires. But no, somebody had to keep a cool head.
"And who would lead the Britons? The Nun? Besides, you would have the whole kingdom out for your head if you killed her."
"Gawain," Merlin said, and he sounded tired. There was no life in his eyes ever since Igraine's death. "Stop being stupid."
Gawain glared and stomped out of the castle. Leontes turned to Kay. "Can you calm him down?"
"I'll see what I can do."
Arthur and Igraine were cremated side by side. Leontes watched Morgan. The dramatics paused for a moment and she seemed, if not sorry they're dead, than sorry they had to die. Her hair and black dress blew in the wind, her eyes cast down.
Whether because he deemed no longer a threat, or because she wants to rub his face in the fact that she won, Merlin was unchained and allowed to attend the funeral. He knelt by Igraine's body and howled for her, sounding more wolf than man. Morgan looked unnerved and left the funeral early.
"I loved you," Merlin said to the burning body of Igraine. "I thought it was you that night."
Guinivere wiped her eyes and wrapped her hand in Leontes. "Do you forgive him?" She really meant, "Do you forgive me?"
"Why did you come to Badon Pass?"
"You left your Bible."
"Did you come to bring me a Bible or did you come to make sure he was alright?"
She didn't answer. Two days later their marriage was quietly annulled and she left for a convent. The knights stayed at Camelot because they had nowhere else to go.
He had to admit, Morgan settled into her role quickly. Between the funeral and the death of his marriage, she passed half a dozen laws. Half of them protected women.
Gawain looked at the paper. "What's it say?"
Ulfius turned it right side up. "It says a man can no longer beat his wife. If he does, he will face equal abuse. It's a good law."
"It is." Gawain punched Kay in the shoulder. "Hey."
"You promised to teach me to read." He held up the paper. "I want to read this."
Kay barely gave it a glance. "Later."
"Why not now?"
"Because I said later," Kay said so loudly they all jumped.
Gawain looked at Ulfius, who shrugged. They both looked at Leontes and the three of them proceeded to have a silent conversation.
He shook his head, indicating he didn't want to get involved.
Gawain jerked his head in Kay's direction.
Ulfius gave him a Look, with a capital L.
It wasn't his place to pry.
Gawain growled. Then whose place was it?
That was a good question. Leontes glared at them, but stood up. He marched across the room to Kay. "Come train with me."
Kay didn't look up. He was slumped against the wall, a thoroughly pathetic figure. "Don't feel like it."
That, Leontes thought, was what was wrong with them: nobody felt like doing anything except moping. "I didn't ask if you felt like it." He grabbed the collar of Kay's shirt and hauled the other man to his feet. He ignored all protests and dragged him outside to the courtyard.
"What is the matter with you?" Kay screamed. "Can you not bloody understand why I don't want to fight now?"
He did understand; but letting Kay wallow in grief would be taking the easy way out. "Did we burn your manhood with Arthur?"
"What?" Kay sounded like he couldn't believe Leontes said that. A crowd gathered around them and Leontes saw Morgan out of the corner of his eye.
"Did what Arthur fought for die with him? Are you so pathetic you can't function without him?"
"You go too far," Kay growls.
"Prove it. Prove you're still a man."
Kay drew his sword and attacked. It was a good fight; Leontes would later remember it as one of his best. They screamed, hacked, slashed and tried to kill each other. It felt good; it got their rage and frustration out in the open. It was more than a fight, it was a release.
Hours later, when they were tending their wounds, Kay thanked him.
"Don't mention it. I just hope I wasn't too much of an ass," Leontes said.
Kay laughed and the laughter turned to tears. He broke down and told Leontes how much he missed his little brother, his mother, his father, his whole family. He was totally alone now and it hurt and he felt childish for missing them as much as he did.
Because it would embarrass the man further, Leontes resisted the urge to embrace him. Instead, they prayed. It was the only thing he could think of.
The next day Kay started teaching Gawain how to read, and Morgan appointed Leontes as her Champion.
"You served him. Give me the honor of your service."
He wasn't a fool. She was just using him to gain more credibility. 'Oh, Arthur's Champion serves Queen Morgan now. He wouldn't do that unless she was good.' He wanted to say no. He wanted to tell her to burn in hell.
"I am honored to serve you, Lady Morgan." The lie burned his throat almost as badly as Merlin's eyes burned a hole into his skull.
"What other choice do I have?" he asked the man later. "Where could I go? What would I do? This way I can try to keep what Arthur fought for alive."
"And what did Arthur fight for?"
"Justice." He wanted to add 'honor' and 'decency' to the list but the words died on his tongue. "Her laws are not bad, even you must admit that. I could guide her to the greater good as her advisor."
"I can't tell if you're naïve enough to believe that or if you're lying to yourself."
By the end of the week, Leontes convinced Morgan to pass a new law easing the permissible punishments for juvenile thieves. "It's harsh to sentence a hungry child to hanging."
"There are those who would say you're soft on crime. That your leniency would encourage child thieves."
"I'm not suggesting they not be punished. I'm saying that a few weeks of working a field is a more fitting sentence than hanging."
Morgan looked at Sybil. The nun shrugged. "Why not? Nobody actually likes seeing children swing."
The law passes and Merlin begrudgingly agreed it was good. Ulfius was more congratulating.
"It was needed." Leontes remembered that Ulfius's older brother died because he stole a chicken.
"A victory for justice. Where're Gawain and Kay?"
They were having a lesson in reading and for such a quiet activity they were awfully loud. Gawain cursed, Kay snapped, a clash of personalities. Leontes intervened and they calmed down.
They fought again the next day. He broke them up again.
The next day Morgan's holding court, making it clear that the rape of new brides isn't tolerable under her rule. She's stopped in mid sentence when Kay and Gawain burst into the throne room, swords drawn and swinging.
"That's enough!" Leontes' voice echoed through the halls of Camelot. "You're both grown men. Will you please take it to the bedrooms, or the stables, or the moors, if you need to?"
He didn't mean to say that; it just slipped out of his mouth. Even though he knew everybody else was thinking the same thing it was still embarrassing.
With a few moves Kay disarmed Gawain. While he still had the element of surprise, he maneuvered the other man over his shoulder, no small feat because Kay was the slimmer of the two and Gawain snarled and cursed like a wild cat. Somehow, he carried him up the stairs to the second floor of the castle and they disappeared behind the door of Kay's bedroom.
Silence reigned. Everyone exchanged awkward looks, unsure of what to say.
"Moving on," Morgan said loudly. "Now." Leontes noticed her face was red.
"My Lady, they are…" Sybil was halted by a raised hand.
"I have more pressing matters to worry about. As they harm none, they may do as they will."
Brastius sided next to Leontes and kept his voice low so they didn't interrupt the court. "Can they do that? Is that allowed?"
"I guess so."
"Look at it this way," Ulfius whispered, "more girls for the rest of us."
Brastius grinned. "This. Was. A. Great. Idea." He put an arm around Leontes' shoulders. "I'm so glad you're our leader. For a while I was afraid you all were going to let me keep talking."
"Who said I'm your leader?"
"We had a vote while you were convincing Morgan to open a school," Ulfius said. "We nominated you, you weren't there to say no, so you're the leader. Congratulations." He held out a hand like he expected Leontes to shake it.
Leontes just glared. "If I'm the leader, then I say we start training again tomorrow. At dawn." The smile of satisfaction fell away from Ulfius' face.
Training makes the year go by faster. It helps them focus on something other than grief. Brastius and Brigit took walks along the beach during the next twelve months and by Christmas they discussed marriage. Kay and Gawain took walks too and slowly, very slowly, Gawain started opening up to other people. On Christmas he hesitantly read a passage from the Bible aloud.
It was a little jarring to see the proud warrior so obviously unsure of speaking in front of a small group of people, but Leontes didn't mention it. "That was good. You've improved."
"I had a good teacher. Where's Ulfius?"
"With Viviane. They're under the mistletoe."
"Good for him."
"Yes, good for him," a new voice spoke. "And congratulations to you, Sir Gawain. You brightened our Christmas." They hadn't seen Morgan creep up behind them. One of the many eerie things about her was that her footsteps made no sound.
Gawain quickly excused himself, leaving Leontes alone with the woman.
"He doesn't like me," she said.
"He's shy, Lady Morgan." It was partially true.
"He doesn't like me. You don't like me. None of you do."
That was completely true. "The current situation is not one any of us would have chosen. But we're trying to make the best of it."
"Arthur slept with your wife. Why do you mourn him?"
Her bluntness threw him. "I will not deny the betrayal stung, but it is not good to hate the dead."
"No, I suppose not. He likely doesn't know we hate him."
"Despite his faults, he really believed that every man was worth listening to, that nobody should be ignored or let suffer."
"Noble ideas. But without a figurehead to preach them, what meaning do they have?"
"It doesn't have to be a figurehead." He nodded to the corner where Kay and Gawain were huddled together. Kay's fingers played with a string securing Gawain's shirt together.
He gestured to Brastius, who was dancing with an old lady. The jocular knight loudly proclaimed to have found his new love. The old lady blushed and flirtatiously batted his arm while Brigit laughed and said he shouldn't threaten old women.
Finally, he pointed to Viviane and Ulfius. The normally composed servant woman was smiling and holding a cup of ale. They clinked cups and drank.
"All evil needs is men to ignore it. Good needs men to uphold it."
"And what could I do to convince the men that I am upholding it?"
"You could stop scheming. We're not fools; everyone knew what you were doing when you made me your Champion. Eventually, the people will notice they've been fooled and turn on you."
"Odd advice. People like to believe what they're told. Means they don't have to worry about thinking."
He ignored her cynicism. "Keep opening schools and hospitals. It'll do more good for your reputation than all the scheming and lies ever will."
"Hmm." She nodded. "You know, Sybil doesn't like you. She thinks you're too decent."
"What a compliment."
"I say your decency is exactly why I need you. Decent people are easy to manipulate."
"I say you're not half as evil as you would have me believe. You're just lonely. And sad."
She looked miffed. "I am not…"
"Yes, you are. You would be a lot happier if you came to Mass on Sundays."
"Religion," she scoffed. "Is that all you can offer me?"
"What else have you got? You have no friends."
"I have a crown," she said. "That's enough."
"A crown that could slip from your head at any moment. If any of us had a choice, you would be in Arthur's place and he in yours. But we're stuck together and our thoughts will turn less to your successor if you stopped trying to manipulate us."
She listened to him and the next few years are smoother than the first. She was ruthless, but that was the nature of their world. Slowly, she earned a little trust. Nobody will ever ask her to officiate at a wedding, but nobody doubts her ability to defend the realm.
Leontes wasn't happy, exactly, although he has no reason not to be. He met a woman, one that's faithful to him this time. His role in the castle is satisfying. He enjoys a night at the tavern with the other knights.
Brastias usually brags about whatever his children are up to. He and Brigit are up to seven now.
Ulfius smiles and suggests they play matchmaker with their respective eldest children. Leontes isn't sure whether to tell them the kids are already in love.
Gawain scoffs and their sentimentality but he'll brag about how the new crop of would-be-knights are shaping up. One of the boys is all but his and Kay's; they adopted the kid when he turned up at Camelot alone one day. Kay says nothing; he doesn't have to. It's obvious they're both proud.
Leontes is waiting for the birth of his first grandchild. The thought makes him feel a little old, which makes him think back of his life and the people in it.
He's not exactly happy, but he is content. And that's enough.
Author's notes- Yeah, yeah, babies ever after. I didn't intend to end the fic with such an emphasis on kids but part of life is creating the next generation.
This was written after the finale. The death of Leontes displeased me, as did the death of Ulfius (to say nothing of his lack of characterization), so I fixed it. I never liked Arthur anyway.
I'm n ur fandoms fixin ur finales.