A/N: Another oneshot and final one of the day (it's almost one am, but I had to write this). Arthur-centric after recalling the intro scene with Pelagius and when he sees all the boys arriving to the wall. This is just an overall study on his evolution alongside his knights; very general, I repeat, not going into anything in particular. Those things may come in longer oneshots. I hope you all guys like it^^
Disclaimer: ... you know the drill. I don't own this thing xD
Just like his father before him, Lucius Artorius Castus -or simply, Arthur- took command of his knights.
Some years before, when Pelagius had told him of what his duty as a Roman officer would be, Arthur had been left with doubts. How could a young boy like himself lead knights? You had to be a knight to lead one; how could he become a knight? Never mind if his father before him had led knights of his own, never mind if it was meant to be a family tradition; Arthur was doubtful of himself. Yet that day, by the lake, aside from those doubts that arose within him, enthusiasm had also come. Pelagius and his teachings had had great influence on Arthur and if he was to become their commander, he could probably teach those knights as Pelagius had taught him. Arthur was also aware that the Roman military was strict, even more so with those foreign boys, but if he was to lead them, some things would change. Arthur refused to take away their freedom of choice; he would not choose submission for them. He wouldn't want to see them forcefully kneel before him or begrudgingly obey his orders, nothing of the sort. Those boys, those soon-to-be knights, had the right to choose if they wanted to serve under him. That, of course, after proving themselves in training, Arthur himself included.
Arthur was a lonely boy, too, so he hoped, in a deep part of his mind, that those knights would become his friends.
When he was thirteen, Arthur met the youngsters face to face.
Most of them were reluctant to even look at him; why, Arthur did not know. What he did know was that some of those boys, just finished with the first part of their training, were intently staring at him with interest, curiousness and a few of them with defiance. After a long talk with them, Arthur found his companions: Lancelot, Tristan, Bors, Dagonet, Percival, Bedivere, Gawain, Galahad, Gaheris and many others joined his court. Again, enthusiasm filled Arthur: they were willing to serve under him. People like Tristan and Gaheris were a bit distrustful of Arthur and visibly did not like him; others, like Lancelot, were a bit more open. Arthur treated them fairly and equally, just like Pelagius had taught him to. With time, his knights -his friends- reciprocated the treatment.
None other like Lancelot, though. Arthur had grown immediately attached to the young boy, just fourteen years old -one year younger than Arthur himself- upon first meeting him. Lancelot was the first one to recover from his leaving his family behind and the first one to smile at Arthur like a friend. Within months, Lancelot and Arthur were inseparable. Though there were arguments and disagreements here and there -to which the rest of the knights often bore witness-, they could never stay angry at each other for more than two days. Lancelot's honesty and Arthur's sensitivity were the qualities that always brought them back together. Lancelot was a brother to Arthur, and the latter could only hope it was the same for his friend.
The others soon proved themselves to be worthy of Arthur's trust and friendship, just like he'd wished from the very beginning. They each had qualities that complimented Arthur, and he learned something from each of them: from Lancelot and Gawain, to have a better sense of humor; from Tristan and Dagonet -especially Tristan-, to be patient and observant; from Percival, to be positive; from Bors, to not hesitate to use your fists before reason... From everybody, to care for those around you. Well, Arthur already did that, but each of his friends had a special way to show care for one another. And when they cared for him, Arthur could only grin widely in return and give them the many thanks they deserved.
While he had in mind how his knights behaved towards him, Arthur also observed how they behaved amongst themselves.
It was at those times of observation that he would usually retreat and watch moments unfold before his eyes, and he would always watch with amusement. Sometimes, Lancelot would join him in his learning about the others. When seeing friendly brawls or casual conversations, even instances when nobody said anything but the atmosphere was not uncomfortable, Arthur allowed pride to make its way into his heart. Those were the knights and friends he had helped shape but of course, the merit wasn't all his. Arthur, though, knew he had done well. The doubts he had harbored when he was young had disappeared; at least most of them. Percival and Bors had once confronted Arthur about his attitude towards them all; Arthur was overflowing with joy when he was told they could not have landed with a better commander.
It wasn't always like this. Arthur wasn't the only one shaping the boys into soldiers; the Romans also had their influence. And from all of them, they made strong and determined men. Sometimes, indifference and even coldness had to be expressed, because not everybody could be saved. Not every innocent person could be saved from their death, not every enemy could be killed. The knights knew and accepted this; for some of them, it was nothing new. For Arthur, it shouldn't have been.
A few years into their contract and Arthur knew loss once more.
The first time, with Bedivere, it hurt more than a thousand arrows to his heart. Then Gaheris and Percival... At each of their funerals, Arthur openly mourned them. The image of strength and conviction he'd built over the years would shatter in those occasions, leaving the emotions of the young Arthur to burst forth and show themselves. Questions and more doubts arose within Arthur once more as the cloud of self-doubt loomed over him. He had failed to protect three of his knights and had failed the rest. As their commander, it was his duty to bring them home safely after each skirmish with the enemy, and yet he had made the same mistake three times already. It was unforgivable, and yet Arthur knew he could not mourn forever; nobody could, not even the rest of his companions. Some days after Gaheris' funeral, Gawain had approached Arthur; with one simple look, the young Castus had understood: nobody blamed him. In fact, nobody had stood up to him, nobody had confronted him after each of their friends' deaths. Arthur knew they understood as well.
"Ever since we were taken away from home, we've been marching towards Death's arms. Thankfully, it's being pleasant along the way."
That time, it had been Arthur whom Gawain had consoled.
It was a saying that 'death always brought the living closer together'. For Arthur and his knights, it wasn't just death, but all sorts of misfortune: from something as trivial as a storm during an assignment to the prospect of not setting foot in Sarmatia for several more years. But no matter what, they wouldn't give up. Sarmatia was their home but, as Lancelot had said in behalf of everybody, they had fortunately found a family in each other.
"It wasn't only you who was paying attention; we, as foreigners to Britain and Rome, were forever observant with the world around us; including you, Arthur. We've seen each other grow and may I point out how close we've all become? Those Romans only showed us that we were a world apart; thankfully, you've shown us otherwise. We're not just knights; we're brothers. We're family, Arthur, thanks to you."
Then, they became the Knights of the Round Table. And even to this day, no matter the vicissitudes of life, they are still together; even as men, as full-fledged warriors, they have kept on growing.
Arthur had thought his journey down the path of wisdom had ended; foolish him, it had only just begun.