Author’s note: I’m still trying to figure out how greying hair works. Uther’s mane will probably change a bit more. It’s fun, though. Anyway. Happy Valentines! All the wholesome. 😘
Disclaimer: Mildly NFW? In text only.
One of the advantages of being a knight as well as Crown Prince was that nobody questioned Arthur’s actions. Not when he walked around in formalwear, and not when he stepped out in his knight uniform. They all assumed that he was about to go out on patrol, or solve a dispute, or head towards the arena for training. The people in castle Camelot did not question it for even a second.
Heading for the tower ruins in the forest was almost too easy as a result.
It was the ideal place. Remote, but so close to Camelot that the ruin could easily be reached on foot. Protected. The surrounding woods had overtaken most of the structure after it was abandoned, and the two stone walls that remained flanked the center of the ruin in such a way that you couldn’t see the inside unless you walked directly in front of it.
It was perfect. Arthur and his men had spent many nights in here during their training, resting and listening to bad stories from Elyan.
As it turned out, the tower ruins were also perfect for something else.
“Is that for me?” Arthur smiled, looking down on Guinevere as she timidly held out the pastry to him. The maidservant gave him a shy nod.
“It smells delicious. Thank you, Guinevere.”
“You’re… you’re welcome,” she replied, looking away as her cheeks flushed pink for a second. The sight made Arthur’s smile widen.
“I have a gift for you, too.”
“A gift?” Guinevere replied, surprised. The Crown Prince turned away from her, fishing around in his pocket for a moment before pulling out a small package. It was no bigger than his palm. He carefully placed the gift in Guinevere’s hand.
“I like to carve in my free time,” he explained, scratching the back of his head as Guinevere looked down at the package. “It helps me relax. And we first met at the stables, so… I thought you might appreciate this.”
The maidservant blushed, timidly opening Arthur’s gift. What came out of the package was a small, delicate-looking figurine of a horse. The wood had been sanded down carefully and covered with a layer of varnish. The Crown Prince had improved considerably over the years. Arthur was proud of this one; it had cost him weeks to make, having to steal moments in between his growing pile of tasks to carve. The Crown Prince could feel a nervous flutter in the pit of his stomach as Guinevere looked down on the figurine. Then, her lips curled into a smile, and Arthur’s nerves instantly turned into relief.
“It’s beautiful,” she said softly. “Thank you.”
As she looked down at the figurine, Guinevere fell silent. The maidservant got a strange, faraway look on her face as her eyes clouded over. It made Arthur’s insides fall right back into nervousness. His eyes shot back and forth between her and Llamrei, who the figurine had been based on. For a moment, Arthur was in doubt. Then he straightened his shoulders, deciding to take a chance.
“So, I was thinking… would you like to learn how to ride?”
“W…what?” Guinevere stammered, her eyes shooting back up towards Arthur. The figurine in her hand was all but forgotten. The Crown Prince smiled at her in response.
“The horse. Llamrei. You didn’t know how to ride when we went to Scarborough, and I’ve seen you at the stables a number of times now. I figured you might like to learn. It’s a good skill to have.”
Guinevere broke eye contact, looking down hesitantly.
“Oh, I… I shouldn’t,” she muttered. “I’d love to, but… I don’t have anything to give back, milord.”
Arthur opened his mouth, about to tell her that she didn’t need to give him anything. That getting something in return was not what he was offering this for. But when he saw her expression, the Crown Prince stopped himself. Something in Guinevere’s eyes gave him pause. He had seen that look before, back in Scarborough. At the time, Arthur had ignored it, only to end up kicking himself when he realised that he had hurt her feelings. But what was it this time? The Crown Prince frowned. He remembered Gawain saying a similar thing to him, many years ago. He’d been even more baffled by it, then. But…
What was it, again…?
“I don’t really have anything to give in return. It still makes me feel bad, you know?”
At the time, Arthur hadn’t really understood it. But the Crown Prince had matured a lot since then. He had started to understand where Gawain had been coming from, along with a slew of other insights. As a result, Arthur could see Guinevere’s hesitance for what it was.
They were already unequal enough. Arthur did not need to go adding to that.
“Okay, in that case… can you show me how to make pastries?” the Crown Prince asked. Guinevere blinked, looking up at him in surprise.
“Yes,” Arthur nodded. “The sweet ones. I want to learn how to make jelly tarts. Or honey cakes. Or the one you just gave me.”
“But… you have servants for that,” Guinevere replied, confused. Arthur let out a displeased huff in response.
“Well, yes, but they won’t give me any. Sarah instructed them all not to feed me sugar outside of desserts and tea time and now none of them want to bring me anything. I keep having to take them off Morgana. You would not believe the kind of things she demands in return.”
“Wait… Sarah put you on a diet?” Guinevere replied, baffled. “And you’re trying to sidestep it?”
“Yes! I am, because it’s ridiculous,” Arthur huffed. “I am perfectly capable of controlling myself. I don’t need to watch my sugar intake. Not that she listens to that, mind you. It’s like trying to wrestle a shiny coin from a magpie. You’d think that being told by the Crown Prince to bring extra jelly tarts for breakfast would mean something around here, but noooo-”
His sourpuss expression was enough to finally break the ice. The maidservant giggled, quickly covering her mouth to stifle the sound. Her laugh only lasted for a short second. But the sound was like music to Arthur’s ears.
He liked her laugh. He wanted to hear it more.
Eventually, Guinevere looked back up at him.
“I can… show you some things,” she smiled, with an expression that was somehow shy and amused at the same time. “I’m not a good cook, but I’m pretty decent a-at baking.”
“Perfect,” Arthur grinned. “I’d really appreciate that. We’ll figure out how to find a place for it later. And in return, I’ll teach you how to handle Llamrei. What do you say? Does that sound agreeable?”
The Crown Prince tried to stay composed, but part of him was genuinely excited at the idea of learning how to bake. He had suggested it as a way for them to stay even, but the longer he thought about it, the better the idea actually started to sound.
Unlimited pastries. I should have thought of this ages ago.
It probably wouldn’t work out that way. But Arthur could still give it a try. If he cleared up enough time, Arthur could make himself all the sugary treats he wanted… and as a bonus, he’d get to spend time with Guinevere, too. It was perfect. The thought made him feel almost giddy.
And despite his efforts, it showed on his face. This time, Guinevere’s amusement was unmistakable. The girl let out a chuckle as she gave him a single, entertained nod.
Separate from the rest of Albion, the Isle of Mora lay enveloped by a vast body of water. Once, it had been a refuge for all those who knew magick. But a century of warfare had reduced most of its structures to nothing but rubble. Temples had been slowly reclaimed by nature. Persistent winds and rain had brought down what had once been magnificent towers. On most of the island, only traces of Mora’s past glory remained.
But even now, some creatures of magick still found sanctuary within.
Lincoln had been watching his partner for a while. She’d been entertaining him by dancing on top of the ritual circle – but the arrival of a letter in a familiar handwriting had sent her mood spiraling down. The Faun’s brow furrowed when he saw Morgause’s face slowly cloud over. A shadow crossed her expression. By the end of the scroll, the witch was all-out scowling.
“Bad news?” Lincoln asked, approaching Morgause as she let out a huff. She quickly stuffed the scroll into her pocket before crossing her arms in annoyance.
“No. It’s nothing important. Don’t worry about it.”
“Uh-huh,” the Faun nodded. “‘Nothing important’ had Gorlois’s handwriting on it. That didn’t look like nothing, Morgause.”
His partner didn’t answer. Lincoln watched as Morgause broke eye contact, her jaw clenched and her shoulders tensing up as she looked away.
“I said it’s nothing,” the witch snapped. “You’re the one who told me to think about it tomorrow, remember? That’s exactly what I’m doing.”
Stubbornness was a trait that did not suit her well. But it was a part of her that would not fade away, no matter how many years she aged. It was also one area where Lincoln could not lose to her. The Faun mimicked her movements, crossing his arms in the exact same way as Morgause as his expression pulled into a disapproving frown.
“Tomorrow has passed, Morgause,” he replied. “Tomorrow is yesterday. You made a promise. You cannot ignore that forever.”
Morgause huffed at him in response. She leaned up against the pillar behind her, narrowing her eyes defiantly.
“Yes, I can. He never specified a date. I can keep pushing this ahead as long as I-”
But the Faun didn’t let her finish, cutting her off mid-sentence with a voice that was much sharper than normal.
“You would stay away from your father for months? Years?”
At that, Morgause faltered. Lincoln could see a flash of hesitation in her eyes. A brief moment of doubt, that she quickly covered up with an even bigger scowl.
“I’ve stayed away for months before. He knows what I’m like. He knows that I won’t be tied down.”
“Uh-huh. And what if he dies tomorrow?” Lincoln retorted sharply. “You humans are not immortal. And Gorlois is an old man. If he passes away before your debt is paid, then you will have broken your word. You’ll have betrayed him, Morgause.”
“That’s not… I don’t…”
This time, the witch could not cover up her feelings. Lincoln watched as her mask began to crack. The stubborn glimmer in her eyes faded, making way for an almost child-like doubt. The Faun could see the pain hiding underneath. Lincoln knew that his words had hurt. But he had to. In that moment, Morgause seemed to shrink, balling her fists in defiance as she hung her head.
“I don’t want to,” she muttered, the words stuck somewhere between a growl and a hopeless whisper. Lincoln placed an arm on her shoulder in response.
“I know,” he said, gently pressing his forehead against hers, “I know you want to run.”
“Then let me. Just for a bit longer.”
“Is that truly what you want? To escape?”
He could feel Morgause’s arm trail around his waist. The witch leaned into him, letting out a sigh as she settled against his chest. She had always fit his form perfectly. Lincoln watched as Morgause closed her eyes, an apologetic smile playing on her lips as she muttered:
“I want… to think about it tomorrow.”
Lincoln knew that she was hurting. The Faun could sense it. That darkness had started to fester inside of her again, lingering and growing as it was taken in from those around her. It always came back. No matter how many times he managed to drag it out of her. Twisting her up from the inside. She had somehow linked it to Gorlois. The Faun doubted if Morgause even realised what it was that she was really running away from.
But Lincoln knew. He had always known.
He would not allow it.
Lincoln could hear Morgause’s breath hitch in her throat as he grabbed her by the waist, pulling her against him. The Faun grounded himself, feeling the magick seep into him from below as he gazed deeply into her eyes. In a low, husky voice, he said:
“You could stop thinking.”
Morgause opened her mouth to respond, but the Faun didn’t let her. In a swift, fluent motion, he leaned forward and caught her in a kiss. Her surprised yelp quickly turned into soft sounds of pleasure as she leaned into the embrace. As he trailed his hands past her shoulders, he could feel her react to his touch. She had always been quick to jump on distractions.
Especially when that distraction was him.
“You don’t need to think,” he muttered into her ear, her skin shivering as his breath trailed past her neck. She didn’t resist when the Faun lifted her up and pushed her against the stone behind her.
She hadn’t noticed.
His hands began to dwell lower. The little noises slowly turned into moans. Morgause wrapped her arms around him, pulling the Faun close as she pressed her body against his. Lincoln could feel the energy slowly start to close around them.
“Come with me,” he whispered.
“Don’t think about anything. Just say yes, You won’t have to worry again. Just come with me—”
It was as if Morgause had been struck by a whip. In a swift, jerking motion, she pulled away from him, almost tripping over the nearest rock in her sudden effort to get away from his embrace. Lincoln only managed to stop her from hitting stone at the last second. But when he turned her around, what was displayed in her expression was not gratitude.
It was anger.
Lincoln blinked, looking at the woman in front of him in confusion. He didn’t understand. This would solve everything. Every problem that she had. Morgause would never have to experience negativity again. Lincoln refocused, attempting to try again- but Morgause placed a hand on his chest, gently but firmly pushing him away from her.
“I know. But you can’t keep me. You know that.”
He didn’t understand.
Lincoln deflated. She wouldn’t let him help her. Defeated, the Faun hung his head, looking at his love with an expression of confusion and hurt in his eyes.
“I love you,” Lincoln muttered. The hard lines in Morgause’s face immediately softened. She extended her arm towards him, gently grasping his hand between her fingers.
“I know,” she whispered. “I love you, too.”
“But you cannot love me the way the Fae do. Ever.”
Monoroe gasped, only barely managing to catch herself as her legs suddenly gave out from underneath her. Clumps of grass and dirt went flying through the air as her spear clattered to the ground. The sudden surge of spirit made her entire body tremble as all of the air was pushed out of her lungs.
She didn’t have to look behind her to know which creature was responsible.
The Huntress could sense it. The overwhelming amount of spirit that rapidly gathered inside of the nearest tree. Monoroe sun her weapon around, pointing it towards the large plant as she steeled herself for the worst.
She did not have to wait for long.
“Not a step closer,” Monoroe snarled. She turned sideways, raising the weapon until it pointed directly at the Dryad’s heart. Eurydice cocked her head curiously in response. Her eyes lingered on the steel-tipped point of the spear before trailing back to Monoroe as she raised a single eyebrow.
“You cannot kill me.”
“And you won’t kill me,” the Huntress replied. “Yet here we are. Again.”
“I have never hurt you-”
“Like hell you haven’t,” Monoroe growled, cutting her opponent off mid-sentence. With a suspicious glare, the Huntress narrowed her eyes at her.
“What do you want, Lesha?”
At the mention of her true name, Eurydice broke into a warm, gentle smile. The Dryad spread her arms wide, leaning in and inviting Monoroe in for a hug like a sundew spreading its leaves.
“I want my daughter by my side, where she belongs,” the Dryad sung. Eurydice took another step towards Monoroe, stepping through the grass without moving it as she beckoned the Huntress towards her.
“Ostara is nearly upon us. I want to celebrate with my family. It is time for you to come h-“
But the Huntress didn’t let her finish. For the second time in a row, Monoroe cut her mother off halfway through her sentence.
“Bugger off. I’m not going anywhere with you ever again.”
Monoroe took a step back, her knuckles turning white as the gripped the spear even tighter. She could feel a wave of anger overtake her as the memories of last Autumn welled up in her mind. The pain of being made to move against her will. The horror of what she’d been forced to do.
Monoroe remembered all of it.
“You made me almost kill Morgana.”
“I love you.”
“You don’t love me,” Monoroe snarled back in response. “You don’t know the meaning of the word.”
Eurydice cocked her head curiously. Her arms lowered back to her sides. The Fae took a step in Monoroe’s direction, a frown spreading across her face as the glowing butterflies began to fly towards her.
The Huntress reacted instantly. As soon as one reached her, she slashed at it without hesitation, cutting the tiny Fae in half. The wings immediately shrivelled up and fell to the ground. Eurydice let out a small sigh in response.
“Now that was just rude.”
“I don’t care,” the Huntress spoke in a low tone. “I don’t want to go with you. I don’t want to be anywhere near you.”
“I could make you.”
“Maybe,” Monoroe growled. “But you won’t get me without a fight. Not this time. You haven’t changed a bit, Lesha. If you actually cared, then you would have known better than to chase me all over the damn woods. That is not love. That is possessiveness.”
“I do care,” the Dryad smiled, slowly bridging the distance between them. “And they are the same thing.”
Monoroe let out an audible growl in response.
“They are not the same. I’ve learned that much. There is a difference – and whatever twisted desires you Fae have, it is not love.”
Her words were drenched with hostility as a wild rage shone out from behind her eyes. But the Dryad was unfazed by Monoroe’s aggression. Eurydice raised a single eyebrow, her smile morphing into a sinister grin.
“Oh?” she replied. “Do you not feel the same twisted desire towards that little witch of yours?”
Two-faced, carnivorous harpy.
“Shut up,” Monoroe snapped, raising her spear. “I would never shackle someone. Unlike you.”
This time, Monoroe’s words had a visible effect. The greenish glow around Eurydice flared up as her eyes flashed ominously. The moss on her legs darkened in colour as her nails morphed into long, wooden claws. In a low voice, the Dryad asked:
“Because you are human?”
“Because I’m not a monster.”
The Jacoban priest had not seen that reaction in over sixteen years.
Slowly, Agravaine approached his King. He stopped a few feet away from Uther, folding his arms behind him as he looked out the window.
“…Agravaine. What is it?”
The Jacoban priest chose his words carefully.
“Sire… you know that I am your loyal servant. I’ve stood by your side for almost two decades. I pride myself on having your best interests at heart, always.”
Agravaine knew how explosive Uther’s temper could be. He also knew that he could not overlook what he just witnessed. Not this time. When Agravaine opened his mouth, the adviser’s tone was drenched with caution.
“Uther… that is not Ygraine. You know that, right?”
The Jacoban priest could feel the temperature in the room drop to an icy, uncomfortable chill. Uther glanced over towards him from the corner of his eye; a cold, piercing stare that went right through him and chilled him to the core.
Eventually, Uther spoke.
“You’re right, Agravaine. You’ve served me loyally for many years.”
“If you speak of this again, I will have you dismembered. Slowly.”
“Yes, sire. Forgive me.”
“Go make yourself useful and prepare a scouting report. I want an update on my desk in thirty minutes.”
“Watcher help me.”