AUGUST 10, 2014 - I've been going back and revising the story chapter by chapter since March. I haven't had a ton of time to dedicate to that, but I have revised the first twelve chapters and put them up for everyone to read. As you go along, if you're reading through it and some things in the story (like character ages or names of certain places, things like that) don't quite coincide with each other, that's why! Hopefully it won't cause too much confusion.
And here we go again, starting yet another story.
I know I'm super late on a King Arthur story, but this has been in my mind for a long time now and I thought I'd see what kind of response I'd get if I decided to go for it and just write it. I will try to be as historically accurate as I can, so hang in there!
Disclaimer: I own nothing King Arthur related...unfortunately.
Standing in the sitting room of a tiny cottage located in the heart of Hadrian's Wall were two people, a tall, broad man with a mane of shocking red hair and his daughter, a slender child of only seven years of age. At the moment, the man was frowning down at the girl in apology, while the girl herself stared back up at him with her arms crossed over her chest and an almost bratty pout on her face.
"I am sorry, daughter, but we must leave," Kenrick said with a sigh, reaching down to place a reassuring hand on her cheek.
Breck stubbornly pushed his hand away and shook her head. "But why?" She asked for what had to be the hundredth time. "Why must we leave again? Why can we not stay?" For even though they had only been at Hadrian's Wall for a short while, it had felt more like a home to her than any other place they had ever lived. She did not want to uproot and move to a new place again, did not want to keep running away from their enemies. She wanted to stay here, where life felt normal and where she finally had friends.
Kenrick frowned for a moment before kneeling down in front of her with patience on his aging features. To any other person, the man would look incredibly intimidating – he was very large, made purely of muscle and brawn, with wild, red hair that fell down to the middle of his back in waves and tangles and a long, red beard that reached the top of his sternum. His eyes were dark, nearly black, and full of hard-earned wisdom, but the most dominant of all his features was a long red scar that stretched from his right eyebrow all the way down the side of his face, past his jaw, and along the line of his neck, until it disappeared into his tunic.
"You remember what I said when we arrived?" He asked gently, taking her much smaller hands in his large, calloused ones.
Breck hesitated before answering. "You said we would not linger for long," she said slowly.
"Yes," he confirmed with a nod. "Our stay here was only temporary, and now the time has come for us to continue on," he explained in a gentle tone. "We have been offered a safe escort to Ireland and we must take it now, otherwise we may never be presented with the opportunity again."
Despite her misgivings, Breck's ears perked at this. "Ireland? Where mother was from?" She asked, feeling a small tinge of excitement in spite of herself. As much as she wished to make a life here at Hadrian's Wall, she couldn't deny that she'd always wanted to see her mother's homeland.
As Kenrick nodded, she stared up at him for a contemplative moment. Though she would have rather they stayed at Hadrian's Wall where they were safe, ultimately she knew that wherever they ended up living, it was her father's choice to make. Not hers. With a nod and a small sigh of defeat, Breck took a moment to frown down at her hands. "I will miss my friends," she said, the face of one particular friend suddenly appearing before my mind's eye. They were so close, practically like siblings. She hated the thought of not being around him anymore and feared what might become of their friendship if she were to leave. Would they ever see each other again? "Arthur...he will be so disappointed."
"Yes, I am certain he will," Kenrick said, tilting her chin up with his index finger. "But he will also understand. He too has his responsibilities, his own duties that he will have to tend to soon enough," her father reminded her. Kenrick then leaned down and kissed her forehead before ruffling her coppery red curls. "Say your goodbyes, my dear," he instructed with a note of finality. "We leave tomorrow."
Breck did not immediately search out Arthur, but rather went to sit with her feet dangling in the sizeable lake near one of the entrances to the Wall. She gazed at her own reflection in the water, filled with sadness at having to leave yet another home behind. She and her father had been living in Briton for only some six months, but she had felt more welcome and more accepted here than anywhere else. Breck was going to miss the Wall and the life they had started to build here. And, most of all, she was going to miss her friends - especially Arthur.
Really it had been a miracle that Uther, Arthur's father and current Lord over the lands, had even allowed them to take up temporary residence behind the protective borders of the Wall. You see, it was widely known that Kenrick was a Saxon and that he had fought alongside the infamous King Cerdic for over thirteen years. In fact, the two men had been very good friends. Her father had explained to her once that when he and Cerdic met, they had simply been two ordinary men fighting for their freedom and had been brought together by a common enemy. They wanted the same things, and they had worked well together for many years. Yet, over time, Cerdic became greedy and tyrannical. And his biggest quest, which had once been to fight for his people's freedom and happiness, became simply to destroy any who were not Saxon and claim as much land for himself as he could. Kenrick had gone along with it at first, though it was not long before he began to feel discontented with the new route Cerdic had taken.
It was when their voyaging and fighting took them to Ireland that things changed forever, for it was there that Kenrick had met Breck's mother, Emer, a kind, beautiful woman whom he had instantly fallen in love with. He had protected her from the other men, adamant that if anyone so much as touched her that he would kill them without hesitation. Grateful for his protection and equally as taken with him, Emer was quick to agree to marriage when Kenrick proposed it and travelled back to Saxony with him as his new wife. Though nobody had dared to say anything negative about the match because of Kenrick's position as Cerdic's right hand man, Cerdic himself had no qualms expressing his disapproval of his comrade's choice in wife. There was a great deal of tension between the two from that point on, a tension that only grew worse and drove the men even further apart when Breck was born.
When Emer became pregnant for the second time only a few years previous, Kenrick finally decided it was time to remove his growing family from the unstable life that the Saxons led. Once Cerdic had learned of what Kenrick intended to do, however, he snapped. He ordered an ambush on Breck's family, which resulted in the death of both Emer and her unborn child. Kenrick and Breck barely managed to survive it and had been on the run ever since, living here or there until, eventually, they ended up here at the Wall. It had been tricky at first, but Kenrick was able to earn Uther's trust and protection by making an offer of truce and agreeing to give up useful information on Cerdic and the Saxon army.
"I have been searching all over for you," a voice suddenly interrupted her thoughts.
Breck looked up at the new voice in surprise, then offered a small smile when she recognized the young face of her friend Arthur. He was five years older than her, but he had been a loyal and steadfast friend ever since she had arrived in at the Wall. In fact, he was the first true friend she'd ever had, and she loved him as though he were her older brother. "Hello, Arthur," she greeted with a small, sad smile.
The skinny twelve year old made his way over and then plopped down next to her, taking a moment to study her questioningly. After a second or two, he sighed and then frowned down at her. "The rumors I hear…they are true, then?" He asked, sounding as though he very much hoped that they weren't.
Breck nodded, tugging at one of her long red curls. "We leave tomorrow," she confirmed. Then she looked over at him, sadness plain as day in her eyes. "I do not wish to. I wish we could stay here."
Arthur scooted closer and dropped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her into his side. Breck offered a sad, half-hearted smile and leaned into him, accepting the comfort and support he was offering. "I do not wish you to leave either," he admitted. "Things will not be the same without you." Arthur then sighed, looking troubled. "The Sarmatians will be arriving soon," he continued, gazing over at the Wall gates as though the Sarmatians in question would appear at any moment. "So much is going to change. I had hoped you would be here. I had hoped that at least one thing would remain normal," he admitted.
Breck smiled over at him and nudged him affectionately with her elbow. "You will do well, Arthur," she told him encouragingly. "You are smart and brave and good. They will not only have an exceptional leader, but also an exceptional friend."
Arthur smiled down at her gratefully, gave her a quick squeeze, then motioned to their surroundings with his free hand. "Someday, all of this will be mine," he informed her, even though this was something she already knew. Then he turned surprisingly serious eyes on her, making him look much older than what he really was. "I swear to you that as long as I, or any of my family, rule these lands, you will always be welcome here," he vowed, eyes holding hers intently. "Come back whenever you like. You will always have a home here."
Feeling a bit overcome with emotion, Breck nodded and offered a slightly shaky smile. "Thank you," she said sincerely.
Arthur smiled and gave another nod before they fell into a comfortable silence, content to just be in each other's company while they still could. For after tomorrow, it would probably be a very long time before they saw each other again.
About Fourteen Years Later…
Breck took a moment to breathe in the familiar humid, foggy air around her with closed eyes. The smell, the plush greenery of the surrounding landscape, the sound of the forest animals...it all brought back so many memories, despite the fact that she had lived here for only a short while half a lifetime ago. She opened her eyes again, the dark blue of them reminiscent of her long dead mother Emer, and smiled to herself when she spotted Hadrian's Wall in the distance.
It had been a very long time since she had been to her old home, but she knew Arthur, along with his Sarmatian Knights, still resided there. Though the journey she'd been on was tiring and had left her feeling rather worn down, the thought of seeing her childhood friend gave her new life and left her eager to be reunited with him. Breck only hoped now that he would remember her and the promise he had made when they were still children. Breck leaned forward and patted the large, muscular neck of Lugh, her trusted steed. The horse bobbed his large head at the affectionate touch, moving closer to her hand, and then tossed his sandy mane.
"We are close," she said to the animal in the soothing, husky Gaelic language of her mother's people. "Just a bit further now." And with a click of her heels into his flanks, she sent him trotting forward again.
She reached the Wall by late afternoon, much to her relief. Not only was she excited at the prospect of sleeping on a soft mattress tonight, but she was also thankful she'd made it to her destination without suffering any Woad attacks, which she had heard were common occurrences in these parts. As she approached, she saw a few of the Wall's occupants straggling near the edge of the forest, obviously replenishing on supplies. The doors were open, which surprised her, but she assumed that it was for the men scouring the forest nearby. A group of children had taken advantage of the situation and were currently trying to dare one another into seeing who could stray furthest from the wall. Despite the watchful eyes of the guards, none of little kids dared to go further than ten feet before running back to the safety of the Wall with mad giggles.
The sound of her horse's approach finally caught the attention of one of the guards that had been supervising the children. "You there! Stop!" He called authoritatively.
Breck pulled on the reigns, slowing Lugh to a stop, and turned her eyes upward to gaze at the guard that had addressed her. "I mean no harm," she called to him, showing her hands to prove that she had no weapons in them.
He blinked in surprise, obviously not expecting her to be a female. "You are a woman?" He asked, squinting at her curiously.
Breck reached up to lower the hood of her travelling cloak, releasing her long, curly, red hair from its confines and confirming to the guards that she was indeed a woman. "Aye," Breck answered, before saying in a no-nonsense tone, "And I have been travelling a very long road and am very tired, so you will understand when I say I do not wish to be hassled and would be grateful if you granted me passage."
The guard seemed rather taken aback by her directness as he shared a look with his comrade. "What business brings you to Hadrian's Wall?" He asked, eyeing her unsurely.
"I do not come to stir up trouble or anything of the sort. I merely come seeking shelter and supplies," Breck answered simply.
The guard shared another look with the other one and frowned before looking back down at her. "These are troubled times, miss," he said slowly, eyes full of suspicion, "Woads run freely on that side of the wall and they have spies everywhere. How are we to know you can be trusted?"
Breck smiled and put a steadying hand on Lugh's neck as he canted impatiently. "I am no Woad, nor am I a spy," she reassured them patiently, "I am a friend to Arthur Castus, the Lord of these lands. Inform him that Breck of Ireland has arrived – I have no doubt that he will vouch for me."
The guard straightened up, taking a moment to think her suggestion over. "Alright, then..." He reluctantly agreed. Then he turned around to address someone on the other side of the wall that she could not see from where she sat perched atop Lugh. "You! Go and inform Lord Arthur there is a Breck of Ireland calling on him. And make haste!" A moment later, a man popped into view, galloping quickly down the path that led to the heart of town. "Come just inside the wall, but no further," the guard instructed, turning his attention back to Breck. "We shall know soon enough if it is the truth you speak."
Breck nodded and clicked her tongue at Lugh, which had him slowly trotting forward until they were within the safety of the wall. She recognized her surroundings at once, knowing instantly that she had entered through one of the lesser used side gates. There wasn't much around except for shrubberies, a few stables, and the pond that she remembered swimming and bathing in as a child. Smiling fondly, Breck jumped off of Lugh, deciding to feed him while she waited. As she fed the horse a carrot, she watched as the men that had been in the forest finished their task and made their way back over to the safer side of the Wall. As the doors were closed and securely locked, she found herself relaxing and letting out a sigh of relief. At least she would be safe for the time being, regardless if Arthur remembered her or not.
She must have waited for over half and hour before the rider that had left returned. She straightened up as he approached and laid a hand on Lugh's neck, trying to gauge if his expression meant good news or bad. Once he had reached them he pulled his horse to a stop and glanced at her, before looking up to the guards. "Lord Arthur says that this woman is to be allowed passage with absolutely no conflict. She is a friend and he wishes to have council with her."
Relief flooded her, followed by a wave of excitement. Arthur remembered her! Smirking up at the guards as though to say, I told you so, Breck hopped back onto Lugh's back. The guard just grumbled in response and nodded his head. "Escort her to town, then," he begrudgingly instructed.
The rider moved like he was going to do so, but Breck quickly held up a dismissive hand. "That will not be necessary," she said, "I know precisely where I am going. I have lived here before."
And with that, she dug her heels into Lugh's flanks and galloped forward, leaving the men in her dust as she headed toward town and toward Arthur.
Review. Please? Pretty please?