Disclaimer: I do not own Quest for Camelot or the books on which it was (very) loosely based!
A/N: Hello everyone! After a request from a reader (lfassmann) who reviewed my story "You're Wrong" (which delved into the inner thoughts of Garett when he gets hurt), I decided that I would continue this, as I had once thought I might. It's over a year later I originally wrote and published this...but it didn't seem very popular, my real-life situation got quite busy, and-well, better late than never, right? In any case, this will likely be semi-AU and fairly emotion/thought-centric.
My idea with this is to adapt the story back for an older/more mature audience and spread it out to make it seem a little smoother and more believable from an emotional/psychological perspective. I do not know if I will succeed, given that I'll likely be writing this at crazy hours and on very little sleep due to the insanity of life and medical school. So far, I'm not particularly pleased with this first installment, for instance.
I'm doing this to relax and enjoy writing again-something that isn't really a focus in my current studies. You're welcome along for the ride, and I hope you'll share your thoughts, feelings, and other responses with me through comments or messages-feedback can only make me better!
Chapter 1: Prologue
It was a dark afternoon. Even just an hour past midday, the skies were already near black. The rain was falling, not hard and heavy, but persistent enough to soak anyone to the bone. And for two miserable travelers, this was exactly the case.
The unpaved roads were muddy, and the tired horses flicked their ears uncomfortably in the wet and snorted unhappily. It was one of their long days of riding, which they had tried to alternate to give the horses some rest on the long journey they had undertaken. The younger of the two companions patted his horse's neck with compassion.
"There, now, boy...we've almost arrived."
"Right you are, Arthur. Very close, now...are you ready to face your destiny?" The old man asked gravely, making the young boy shift uncomfortably in the saddle. When he answered, he didn't look up at his companion.
"Of course. Soon, we'll know, one way or another."
"I already know."
"How you can be so certain baffles me entirely."
"Have faith in an old man, Arthur. There is much to be said for life experience, and you should know to respect your elders." He sounded serious, but Arthur knew it was said as an affectionate tease, and smiled wryly down at his saddle.
"And a little magic?" Arthur asked, innocence obviously feigned.
"Perhaps. But not even magic can give me this answer. Some things, old men just know in their bones." Lightning struck in the distance, and Arthur's horse whinnied, starting slightly and skittering a few steps.
"Whoa, there!" Arthur pulled at the reins with a strong and practiced hand, patting the horse's neck, half to comfort the beast and half to be ready to grip in case of the worst.
Merlin just watched on, grave as ever. Not for the first time, Arthur suspected the old wizard had some arcane connection to or power over animals. Even just on this journey, Arthur had learned and noticed things that he had never seen before, where the old man was concerned. No matter how long he knew the wizard, there was always something new to take him just as much by surprise each and every day...
"Pacing there outside the door won't help a thing, now, you know. Come inside with Auntie before you catch cold and kill the lot of you with disease." An old woman insisted. Hair drenched, the miserable man hesitated, turning back when he heard another anguished cry from the door. He looked ready to break the door down, and hang propriety!
A hand touched his arm. Startled, he turned and looked down into the wrinkled face of the old woman who insisted on being called "Auntie" by all of the people in the small village. She looked compassionate, but firm.
"Come inside. What you need is a cup of tea! The midwife knows what she's doing. After all, I taught her everything I know." Auntie Aldith's daughter was the new midwife in the village, after the elderly widow found her old joints aching and poor back hunching too much to continue. Lionel didn't want to obey her, but knew better than to resist. He allowed himself to be led into her small home, but was harder to force into the one chair by the fire.
"Really, Auntie—you sit here. My nerves won't take it."
"You mean your pride won't take it, because you look at poor Auntie and think she's an old hag!" Lionel was shocked by this language, and denied any such thing, but was soon maneuvered into the chair with a hot cup of tea. And before he knew it, Auntie had worked her homespun magic on him, and time had escaped him. A knock came on the door, and Auntie's daughter appeared.
"Forgive the intrusion, Mother—but I thought your guest might want to see his wife and newborn babe." The words hardly left her mouth before Lionel was out the door and back to his own home, calling back a quick thanks for tea in a very improper way. Josoca, the young midwife, looked shocked, but Auntie Aldith cackled with mirth. When her daughter didn't look so happy, though, she turned to the younger woman.
"Well, then? Out with it, girl!"
"It's his wife..." Jocosa started, sounding sad.
"...oh, the poor dear." Aldith said, already knowing what was coming.
*~*~*~*~*~*A FEW HOURS LATER*~*~*~*~*~*
Lionel stood at the edge of a bed where a tired women lay, half-lidded eyes full of love and adoration, fixed on a swaddled bundle in his hands. She sighed, and Lionel looked to her with concern.
"I'm fine, Lionel. Truly. It's normal for a woman to be tired after these things!" She sounded so sure that he had to fall silent, a gentle finger stroking his infant daughter's cheek. "What will you name her?"
"I'm not sure. I was thinking something related to Katherine. It's a fitting name for a firstborn daughter, but it just isn't quite right." Suddenly, the woman choked back a sob. "Juliana!"
"I...I must tell you. I was going to tell you later, after I had some time to recover, but...there will be no more children."
"She was...certain?" He wasn't sure what else to say. His mind was reeling, the possible future he had imagined for their family and his future heirs dwindling before him.
"Almost entirely." Juliana muffled her tears with the bed-sheets covering her, waiting through the shocked silence.
"...then she will be all the more precious. Our Kayley." Suddenly, through the darkness of the rainy, late afternoon, a bright light washed over them through the window, causing his already-fragile wife to cry out in terror. From a new reflex he never knew he had, Lionel turned, back to the light, shielding his child from what seemed to be danger. But in a moment, it was gone, and he was standing back up, staring out the window.
Gently, he placed the infant into his wife's arms, and went to a standing wardrobe.
"Lionel...!" She sounded alarmed.
"Juliana...for your sake, and the sake of our daughter, I have to go see what that was. It is altogether too close for comfort." Calmly, he pulled on mail and buckled on his own sword. He came close and quickly kissed his wife, lingering momentarily. He then pulled back the fabric covering the baby's head and kissed her crown, gently, reverently.
"Come back to us, Lionel. Promise me it won't be a long parting." Juliana called out, anguished, as he left through the door to get his horse from the stables and food from their stores.
"Farewell, Juliana, and Kaylee, my daughter. Expect at least a letter within a fortnight. I will let you know where I ride, and my blessing is upon you!" The door swung closed with a solid sound.
"Be safe, my husband." Juliana whispered at the door, and wept to herself as she fed the babe.